Over the long history of baseball, thousands of players have toiled in the “bush leagues,” but only the greatest of them made our list of the 10 best minor league players ever. Some made it big in the majors, others never got a chance to wear a big league uniform, but all of the men listed here excelled at the minor league level.
- Smead Jolley. One would think Smead Jolley’s spectacular minor league numbers back in the ‘20s and ‘30s would have earned him more than just four big league seasons. In sixteen years, he totaled 336 home runs, more than 3,000 hits, and a .367 batting average making him one of the best minor league baseball players of all time.
- Jigger Statz. When you add his 737 major league hits to his minor league total of 3,356, Jigger Statz ranks right up there on the list of most hits by a professional baseball player. With ten 200-plus hit seasons, he also ranks right up there among the best minor league players in baseball history.
- Frank Shellenback. He won 316 games as one of the greatest minor league pitchers of all time. As a member of the 1919 “Black Sox,” however, Frank Shellenback won just one game and totaled a mere ten victories in his big league career.
- Lee Riley. This left-handed hitter played 22 years in the minors and totaled 2,418 hits and a .314 batting average. Add in more than 900 extra base hits, and Lee Riley makes our list of the ten best minor league baseball players ever.
- Joe Hauser. With 63 home runs in 1930 and 69 in 1933, Joe Hauser amassed a total of 399 career round-trippers securing a place on our list of the best minor leaguers of all time. He also hit 80 homers in six big league seasons, including 27 in 1924.
- Joe Bauman. He smashed 72 home runs in one season 47 years before Barry Bonds did it. Unfortunately for Joe Bauman, his feat was accomplished in the minor leagues, where in just nine seasons he hit 337 homers, earning a spot on our list of the best minor leaguers of all time.
- Ike Boone. His .321 major league batting average is impressive, but it pales in comparison to his minor league average of .370. With four .400 plus seasons and 217 home runs, Ike Boone earns a spot on our list of the best minor league players of all time.
- Lefty Grove. This Hall-of-Famer won 300 games in the majors, but before that he posted a minor league record of 111-39 with a 2.90 ERA in just five seasons. His pitching dominance from 1920-24 earns Lefty Grove a spot on our list of best minor league players of all time.
- Joe DiMaggio. It makes sense that one of the greatest major league hitters of all time would have been one of the ten best minor league baseball players of all time. In just four minor league seasons, Joe DiMaggio batted .361 and put together a 61-game hitting streak—a harbinger of things to come.
- Steve Bilko. As one of the best minor league players of all time, he belted more than 50 home runs in back-to-back seasons (1956 and ’57) on his way to 313 career homers. The majors were a different story where in ten seasons Steve Bilko hit just 76 home runs.