Updated October 2017
Some of the greatest Indians players of all time have been first basemen, including the team’s first MVP and current home run king. The position has changed much over the years with the oldest players on the list being defense first speedsters and the later players being big bashers, focusing on home runs and runs batted in.
10. Tony Horton – Years Starting 1B – 1967-1970
Horton took over for Whitfield and brought the Indians into the 1970’s, before being replaced himself by Rookie of the Year Chris Chambliss. Horton holds a tenuous place on this list with no outstanding numbers or feats to speak of.
9. Pat Tabler – 1983-1986
Tabler was never much of a power hitter, but he still managed to accrue some nice stats during his six years with the Tribe. His near .300 average ranks fourth among players listed and he had more than 600 combined runs and RBI.
8. George Stovall – 1904-05, 1907-11
Stovall was the Indians first long term first basemen and had the best speed numbers, stealing 110 bases and 40 triples during his time with the team.
7. Frank Whitfield – 1963, 1965-66
Whitfield is just one of four Indians first basemen to hit more than 90 home runs in his career, but had awful rate stats compared to the other three. He was one of the top offensive players on a particularly bad Indians team, leading the offense along with Leon Wagner and Rocky Colavito.
6. Luke Easter – 1950-1952
Easter was part of the powerful Indians teams of the early 1950’s and contributed heavily, despite a relatively short time with the Tribe. Easter hit over 90 home runs and 340 RBI in just six years with the team. His three years as a starting first baseman rank among the best ever in Indians history.
5. Ed Morgan – 1928, 1930-32
Morgan directly preceded Trosky and put up some impressive numbers of his own during his time. His best year was 1930 when he hit safely more than 200 times and knocked in 136 runs, a number that remains in the top ten best Indians seasons. In his career among third basemen, Morgan ranks second in average, third in walks and fourth in RBI.
4. George Burns – 1924-1927
Burns was the first Indians MVP and put up some impressive numbers despite a short time with the team. Burns career numbers are on the same level as Morgan’s, but far below those of the top two members of this list. Most impressive was his .327 career batting average, leading all Indians first basemen.
3. Carlos Santana – 2014-2017
Hate him or love him, the underdog is on top. It’s possible that no hitter in Indians history has ever been treated with as much vitriol compared to his talent level than Santana. To start his qualifications, he has the cumulative stats to sit at three, coming in third in home runs, and RBI while leading first basemen in doubles and coming in second in walks. While some of this is due to the fact that he played over 1,000 games in Cleveland, he was consistently great throughout that period, hitting at least 25 doubles and 18 home runs every year from 2011 through 2017, leading the team in home runs every year except 2013 from 2011 through 2015. A final point to Santana falls with his defense as he converted from catcher to first base and eventually became the best defensive first baseman in the league. This is certainly not a claim anyone else on this list could make.
2. Hal Trosky – 1934-1941
The Indians have had two first basemen that stand heads above the rest and Trosky is the first. The original home run king for the Tribe, Trosky held the single season home run record from 1936 to 1953 (when it was broken by MVP Al Rosen) and was second in career home runs from the time he retired until Albert Belle broke the team record during the mid 1990s. Among all first basemen ever, Trosky ranks first in doubles and second in games, runs, home runs, RBI and walks, proof of both his long career and extreme talent.
1. Jim Thome – 1997-2002
Thome spent the first half of his career as the Indians third baseman, but had his best seasons playing first base during the last half of his time with the Tribe. He currently holds team records for home runs and strike outs, with more than 1,000 more of the latter than the next worst first baseman. Thome returned to the Indians in 2011 and pushed his walk total over 1,000 as well, placing him far in front of every other Indian in that stat as well. Not only is Thome the best first baseman in team history, but there is a strong argument that he is the best offensive player in the history of Cleveland baseball.