The Best Fielders of the 1970s

This article was written by Jerry Gregory - Ed Winkler

This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal


Mark Belanger, winner of eight Gold Gloves in the last ten years, received more votes than any other player in SABR’s recent survey to determine the best fielders of the 1970s. The Baltimore shortstop received more than 90% of the nearly 400 votes cast for American League shortstop. Johnny Bench led all National League players. The Reds catcher polled 314 of the 396 ballots cast for his position.

The most interesting race was National League third base where Ken Reitz and Mike Schmidt finished in a dead heat. Each player captured 148 votes. The 1970s’ best fielding team also had three players from the 1960s’ best fielding team – pitchers Jim Kaat and Bob Gibson and the smooth fielding Brooks Robinson.

SABR members were invited to vote on defensive stars who had played at least six seasons of the 1970-79 period, including five in one league. Three outfielders were to be selected with no reference to a specific position.

Not surprisingly, the teams with the best records had the greatest number of all star fielders. Baltimore, with the American League’s best record for the seventies, placed four players – Grich, Robinson, Belanger, and Blair. The Reds, who won more games than any other National League team between 1970 and 1979, placed three players – Morgan, Geronimo, and Bench. The Phillies placed Schmidt, Bowa, and Maddox from their current team and Jim Kaat who spent three plus years in Philadelphia.

Here are the results of the SABR survey by league and by position.

 

American League

lB

George Scott

205

OF

Paul Blair

301

 

Jim Spencer

159

 

Dwight Evans

196

 

Chris Chambliss

11

 

Fred Lynn

185

 

John Mayberry

6

 

Carl Yastrzemski

147

 

Others

15

 

Joe Rudi

105

       

Mickey Stanley

100

2B

Bobby Grich

225

 

Amos Otis

69

 

Frank White

117

 

Ken Berry

65

 

Duane Kuiper

14

 

Rick Miller

6

 

Dick Green

11

 

Others

21

 

Cookie Rojas

10

     
 

Others

12

C

Jim Sundberg

237

       

Thurman Munson

94

3B

Brooks Robinson

260

 

Carlton Fisk

58

 

Graig Nettles

100

 

Others

8

 

Aurelio Rodriguez

33

     
 

Don Money

6

P

Jim Kaat

224

       

Jim Palmer

148

SS

Mark Belanger

359

 

Jim Hunter

6

 

Ed Brinkman

23

 

Others

17

 

Rick Burleson

12

     
 

Others

5

     

 

National League

lB

Steve Garvey

258

OF

Garry Maddox

233

 

Keith Hernandez

62

 

Cesar Geronimo

229

 

Willie Montanez

44

 

Dave Parker

197

 

Tony Perez

6

 

Cesar Cedeno

178

 

Wes Parker

4

 

Dave Winfield

129

 

Others

18

 

Willie Davis

86

       

Bobby Bonds

60

2B

Joe Morgan

263

 

Rick Monday

13

 

Manny Trillo

60

 

Pete Rose

12

 

Tommy Helms

46

 

George Foster

6

 

Dave Cash

8

 

Others

33

 

Others

16

     
     

C

Johnny Bench

314

3B

Ken Reitz

148

 

Ted Simmons

34

 

Mike Schmidt

148

 

Steve Yeager

21

 

Doug Rader

84

 

Bob Boone

15

 

Ron Cey

4

 

Jerry Grote

8

 

Others

6

 

Others

4

           

SS

Larry Bowa

203

P

Bob Gibson

191

 

Dave Concepcion

148

 

Phil Niekro

156

 

Roger Metzger

12

 

Tom Seaver

12

 

Bud Harrelson

21

 

Andy Messersmith

9

 

Don Kessinger

6

 

Woody Fryman

6

 

Others

4

 

Others

15

This survey of the best fielders of the 1970s continues a survey made by the Society in late 1972 when the best fielders for each position were selected for each decade since 1900. That selection, made by a much smaller group, still holds up pretty well. Little additional research has been conducted in the interim regarding the defensive skills of players of the early decades of this century.

There are, of course, drawbacks in selecting standouts from a specific 10-year period. Players with moderately short careers may split their time in two different decades. This is what happened, for example, with Billy Cox, a premier infielder who broke in with the Dodgers in the 1940s as a shortstop. He later switched to third base but his NL career just barely stretched to 1954. With that one exception, the really outstanding defensive players are included in the following tabulation of the leading fielders by position for each decade since 1900.

HISTORICAL SURVEY OF BEST FIELDERS BY POSITION

AL

1900-1909

NL

AL

1910-1919

NL

Hal Chase

lB

Fred Tenney

 

John McInnis

lB

Jake Daubert

Nap Lajoie

2B

Claude Ritchey

 

Eddie Collins

2B

Geo. Cutshaw

Jim Collins

3B

Leach-Devlin

 

Frank Baker

3B

Henry Groh

Bobby Wallace

SS

Honus Wagner

 

Donie Bush

SS

R. Maranville

Fielder Jones

OF

Fred Clarke

 

Tris Speaker

OF

Max Carey

Sam Crawford

OF

Jim Sheckard

 

Harry Hooper

OF

Dode Paskert

Elmer Flick

OF

Roy Thomas

 

Milan-Lewis

OF

Zack Wheat

Billy Sullivan

C

John Kling

 

Ray Schalk

C

Jim Archer

Nick Altrock

P

C. Mathewson

 

W. Johnson

P

Slim Sallee

             

AL

1920-1929

NL

AL

1930-1939

NL

George Sisler

lB

Charlie Grimm

 

Joe Kuhel

lB

Bill Terry

Eddie Collins

2B

Frank Frisch

 

C. Gehringer

2B

Bill Herman

Willie Kamm

3B

Pie Traynor

 

Ossie Bluege

3B

Stan Hack

Everett Scott

SS

Dave Bancroft

 

Luke Appling

SS

Leo Durocher

John Mostil

OF

Edd Roush

 

Roger Cramer

OF

Lloyd Waner

Sam Rice

OF

Ross Youngs

 

Al Simmons

OF

Mel Ott

Tris Speaker

OF

Taylor Douthit

 

Sam West

OF

Hazen Cuyler

Mick. Cochrane

C

Gabby Hartnett

 

Bill Dickey

C

Gabby Hartnett

Herb Pennock

P

F. Fitzsimmons

 

Ted Lyons

P

Bucky Walters

             

AL

1940-1949

NL

AL

1950-1959

NL

Geo. McQuinn

lB

Fr. McCormick

 

Mickey Vernon

lB

Gil Hodges

Joe Gordon

2B

Eddie Stanky

 

Nellie Fox

2B

R. Schoendienst

Ken Keitner

3B

Stan Hack

 

George Kell

3B

Willie Jones

Lou Boudreau

SS

Matty Marion

 

Phil Rizzuto

SS

Roy McMillan

Joe DiMagglo

OF

Enos Slaughter

 

Jim Piersall

OF

Richie Ashburn

Dom DiMaggio

OF

Terry Moore

 

Al Kaline

OF

Willie Mays

Sam Chapman

OF

Vince DiMaggio

 

Minnie Minoso

OF

Carl Furillo

Warren Rosar

C

Al Lopez

 

Jim Hegan

C

Del Crandall

Hal Newhouser

P

Harry Brecheen

 

Bob Shantz

P

Harvey Haddix

             

AL

1960-1969

NL

AL

1970-1979

NL

Vic Power

lB

Bill White

 

George Scott

lB

Steve Garvey

R. Richardson

2B

Bill Mazeroski

 

Bobby Grich

2B

Joe Morgan

Br. Robinson

3B

Ron Santo

 

Br. Robinson

3B

Reitz-Schmidt

Luis Aparicio

SS

Maury Wills

 

Mark Belanger

SS

Larry Bowa

Al Kaline

OF

Rob. Clemente

 

Paul Blair

OF

Garry Maddox

C. Yastrzemski

OF

Willie Mays

 

Dwight Evans

OF

Cesar Geronimo

Jim Landis

OF

Curt Flood

 

Fred Lynn

OF

Dave Parker

Bill Freehan

C

John Edwards

 

Jim Sundberg

C

Johnny Bench

Jim Kaat

P

Bob Gibson

 

Jim Kaat

P

Bob Gibson

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