Before the NFL and the NBA became as popular as they are today, baseball stood alone as America’s pastime. Fans would flock to stadiums and huddle around black and white TVs to watch icons like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle play ball.
The American and National League each grants its own Cy Young Award for the top pitcher and an MVP to the top player overall. However, in each season, only one player stood out as the very best in baseball.
To determine the greatest baseball player the year you were born, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the players with the highest wins above replacement each season since the Integration Era began in 1947, using data from Baseball Reference.
Some of the players on this list are now hailed as some of the greatest in history. Others were flashes in the pan and were mediocre outside of their one great season. Several of these players had incredible careers that would normally earn them a spot in the Hall of Fame, but cheating allegations and other untoward behavior has kept them out of Cooperstown. These are the scandals that rocked the sports world.
Every position except catcher is represented on the list. Pitchers are more likely than any other players to rank as the greatest player in a given year, followed by center fielders.
Many of the players included won an MVP or a Cy Young for the season (or seasons) in which they ranked as the MLB’s best. However, very few won the World Series in the year they were baseball’s top player, and many never won a World Series at all. These are the greatest players that never won a championship.
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