This is the second article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Baltimore Orioles. In this installment, first and third basemen.
Whether in St. Louis or Baltimore, the Orioles franchise has featured some of the greatest corner infielders in the game’s history. The players on this list feature a variety of skills, from a switch-hitting power hitter to the ultimate contact hitter, to baseball’s “Iron Man” to arguably the greatest defender at his position.
The Best First and Third Basemen in Baltimore Orioles History
5. George McQuinn – A five-time All-Star, McQuinn played in 1,138 games in eight seasons with the Browns from 1938-45. He totaled 1,220 hits, 108 home runs, and 625 runs batted in while hitting .283. A solid performer, McQuinn reached double-digit homers and 70 RBIs in his first seven seasons in St. Louis. During the 1944 World Series, he hit .438 with a home run and five RBIs.
4. Rafael Palmeiro – He played exactly 1,000 games over seven seasons in two stints with the Orioles. The two-time gold glove winner hit .284 with 1,071 hits, 223 home runs (seventh in franchise history), and 701 runs batted in. Palmeiro’s best season was in 1998 when he earned his only All-Star and silver slugger honors with Baltimore after posting a .296-43-121 stat line.
Although he had more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his 20-year career, Palmeiro may never get into the Hall of Fame after becoming the first star player to fail an official drug test for steroids (and wagging a finger at Congress during the hearing on steroids in 2005.
3. Boog Powell – A steady presence on those top-notch Orioles teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Originally an outfielder, John “Boog” Powell spent 14 seasons in Baltimore, reaching 20 home runs and 80 RBIs eight times each. The four-time All-Star finished in the top three of the MVP voting in the American League three times, winning the award in 1970 after posting a .297-35-114 line.
Powell was a part of four Baltimore pennants in six seasons, and he hit six home runs and drove in 18 runs in 33 playoff games. Powell played 1,763 games (fifth in team history), and he also ranks high on the franchise list with 303 home runs (third), 1,063 RBIs (fourth), 1,574 hits (seventh), and 796 runs (ninth). He is one of the fans’ favorite legends and he operates the “Boog’s Corner” barbecue stand at Camden Yards.
2. George Sisler – Picking the top spot at first base in franchise history comes down to whether you value power or contact more. However, there is no denying that Sisler was one of the greatest to ever play the game. He hit over .400 in a season TWICE, led the league in stolen bases three times and drove in more than 100 runs four times.
“Gorgeous George” also set the record for hits in a season with 257 in 1920, a record that stood for 84 years. He won the American League MVP award in 1922 after leading the league with a .420 average, 134 runs, 246 hits, 18 triples, and 51 stolen bases while adding eight home runs and 105 RBIs for good measure. In 1,647 games over 12 seasons, Sisler put up numbers that would make just about any player jealous.
He holds the all-time franchise record in triples (145) and stolen bases (351), ranks second in average (.344), third in runs (1,091) and hits (2,295), and fifth in doubles (343) and RBIs (962). Sisler did all this despite missing the 1923 season due to an extremely bad case of the flu that left him with vision issues for the rest of his career. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
1. Eddie Murray – A solid contributor who won three gold gloves and two silver sluggers as a member of the Orioles. “Steady Eddie” hit at least 20 home runs in 11 seasons and drove in at least 75 runs 12 times. Murray was the third player in baseball history to record 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (now there are seven in that exclusive club). The switch-hitter was a seven-time All-Star who won three gold gloves and three silver sluggers. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1977 after hitting 27 home runs and driving in 88 runs.
In 13 seasons over two stints in Baltimore (1977-88 and 1996), Murray ranked second in home runs (343), third in doubles (363) and RBIs (1,224), and fourth in games (1,884), runs (1,084) and hits (2,080). He made three playoff appearances and was part of the Orioles team that won the World Series in 1983. Murray added six home runs and 16 home runs in 29 postseason games. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Honorable Mention – Jimmy Austin – An ageless wonder who did not start his Major League career until 1909 as a 29-year-old rookie with the New York Highlanders (which became the Yankees soon after). Two years later, Austin joined the Browns and spent the next ten years as a regular contributor. He was used sparingly the next two years and appeared in one game in the 1923, ’25, ’26, and ’29 seasons, with his last at-bat coming at age 49. Overall, Austin played 1,311 games in 16 seasons with St. Louis, ranking sixth in franchise history with 192 stolen bases, eighth with 67 triples, and totaling 315 runs batted in.
5. Manny Machado – Long before signing his huge contract with the Padres this past offseason, Machado became a star with the Orioles. He was a four-time All-Star and two-time gold glove recipient before getting traded to the Dodgers in July 2018. In seven seasons with Baltimore, Machado played 860 games, totaling 977 hits, 162 home runs, and 471 runs batted in. He hit one home run in seven postseason games with the Orioles.
4. Cal Ripken Jr. – Despite the “Iron Man” being on the downside of his career when the Orioles moved him to third base in 1997, he was selected to the All-Star team in each of his final five seasons (including a move back to shortstop in his final Midsummer Classic in 2001). While the majority of his career will be chronicled in the shortstop rankings, Ripken had 635 hits, 78 home runs, and 326 RBIs in 620 games at the hot corner.
3. Melvin Mora – He started as a shortstop and played all three outfield positions before settling in at third base with the Orioles in the mid-2000s. During his 10 seasons in Baltimore (2000-09), Mora earned a pair of All-Star selections and was named a silver slugger in 2004 after posting career highs with a .340 average, 27 home runs, and 104 RBIs. Overall, he played 1,256 games and totaled 1,323 hits, 158 homers, and 662 runs batted in.
2. Harlond Clift – Despite being an obscure name due to his playing for some bad Browns teams in the 1930s, he was a solid defender and an even better hitter. Clift earned his only All-Star selection in 1937 after setting a record at the position with 29 home runs to go along with 118 runs batted in. The following year, he matched the RBI total and hit 34 home runs, becoming the first third baseman in Major League history to reach the 30-homer mark. In ten seasons with the Browns (1934-43), Clift played 1,443 games, hit 170 home runs and drove in 769 runs (eighth in team history. He also ranks high on the franchise list with 1,013 runs (sixth), 294 doubles (ninth), and 1,463 hits (tenth).
1. Brooks Robinson – Even with all the gifted hitters on these Orioles lists, the franchise’s top third baseman is arguably the greatest fielder at the position in baseball history. Robinson was known for his range, winning a record-tying 16 gold gloves and earning the nickname “The Human Vaccuum Cleaner.”
He was pretty good as a hitter as well, earning 18 All-Star selections in his 23-year career. Robinson also earned MVP awards in the regular season (in 1964, when he posted career highs with a .317 average, 28 home runs, and a league-leading 118 RBIs), the All-Star Game (in 1966, when he went 3-for-4 with a triple and a run scored in a 2-1 NL win in 10 innings), and the World Series (in 1970, when he hit .429 with two home runs and six runs batted in).
The two-time champion finished second in franchise history in games (2,896), runs (1,232), hits (2,848), doubles (482), and runs batted in (1,357), fourth in home runs (268) and tied for sixth in triples (68). He hit .303 with 44 hits, five homers, and 22 RBIs in 39 postseason games. Robinson retired in 1977 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983, his first year of eligibility.
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops – Coming soon
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters – Coming soon
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers – Coming soon
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