Jim Thome and Frank Thomas have 1,133 career home runs, a staggering amount between just two players, even ones that are both in the Hall of Fame.
Still, neither made this list.
Thomas was relatively easy to save for a future list, since he actually had 1,193 more at-bats in his career as a DH than a first basemen. "The Big Hurt" was a DH that also played some first base, not the other way around.
Thome was more difficult, as he had 1,000 more at-bats in his career as a first baseman. That said, he finished his career with a -16.4 defensive WAR, with the overwhelming majority of his starts in the field coming at first base. Even though he's eighth in MLB history in home runs, he was on the bubble for graining entry to this list. Given that he hit over 200 career home runs as a DH and his entire campaign is based around his offensive output, we'll save him for a future list as well.
With Thomas and Thome not on the list, who cracked the RADIO.COM Sports list of the nine greatest first basemen ever? Prepare for something of a history lesson:
9. Johnny Mize - St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants & New York Yankees (1936-1942; 1946-1953)
Best Season: 1939 - .349/.444/.626 with 28 home runs, 108 RBIs, 92 walks, 1.070 OPS, 7.8 offensive WAR, -0.8 defensive WAR and 7.7 bWAR
Career Summary: .312/.397/.562 with 359 home runs, 1,337 RBIs, 2,011 hits, .856 OPS, 158 OPS+, 69.7 offensive WAR, -6.5 defensive WAR and 71.3 bWAR
If not for losing his age-30-32 seasons to military service, Mize likely would have been even higher on this list. As is, the 10-time All-Star's resume is pretty damn impressive. Mize was so dominant at his peak that he has a 48.8 WAR 7 - a measure that shows the accumulation of your top seven single season WAR totals - which is good for fourth among all first basemen in MLB history.
8. Miguel Cabrera - Florida Marlins & Detroit Tigers (2003-Present)
Best Season (as a first basemen): 2011 - .344/.448/.586 with 30 home runs, 105 RBIs, 108 walks, 1.033 OPS, 7.9 offensive WAR, -1.2 defensive WAR and 7.6 bWAR
Career Summary: .314/.392/.543 with 481 home runs, 1,701 RBIs, 2,824 hits, 1,140 walks, .934 OPS, 148 OPS+, 79.0 offensive WAR, -17.3 defensive WAR and 69.7 bWAR (stats current as of August 2020)
There's no debate about whether Cabrera will be viewed as a first basemen when his career ends, but his absolute peak actually came with him playing as a third baseman. Cabrera won the Triple Crown 2013, which earned him his second consecutive American League MVP. In both MVP seasons, though, the bulk of his action came at third base, as he shifted back across the diamond to accommodate the Tigers' signing of Prince Fielder. Still, Cabrera has more than 1,600 at-bats in his career at first base than he does at DH, and even though the 11-time All-Star is under contract through the 2023 season, it's safe to assume he's made his final start at the hot corner. Cabrera is a first basemen, and one of the very best that we've ever seen.
7. Dan Brouthers - Troy Trojans, Buffalo Bisons, Detroit Wolverines, Boston Beaneaters, Brooklyn Grooms, Baltimore Orioles, Louisville Colonels, Philadelphia Phillies & New York Giants (1879-1896; 1904)
Best Season: 1892 - .335/.432/.480 with five home runs, 124 RBIs, 84 walks, .911 OPS, 7.8 offensive WAR, 1.1 defensive WAR and 8.8 bWAR
Career Summary: .342/.423/.520 with 107 home runs, 1,301 RBIs, 2,303 hits, 840 walks, .943 OPS, 171 OPS+, 82.4 offensive WAR, -1.7 defensive WAR and 79.8 bWAR
Brouthers didn't play in an era where hitting home runs was prioritized, but that almost makes the output that he had in terms of getting on base and driving runs in that much more impressive. Brouthers finished his 19-year career with a .342 batting average, which is comfortably the highest mark on this list. Even without the threat of him hitting home runs, he has the third highest on-base percentage among those on this list. Considering he debuted in 1879, Brouthers was literally one of the first stars in baseball history, one whose legacy still stands tall over 115 years since he last played in the league. The list of teams he played for is perhaps our favorite part about his legacy.
6. Cap Anson - Rockford Forest Citys, Philadelphia Athletics & Chicago Cubs (1871-1897)
Best Season: .371/.443/.544 with 10 home runs, 147 RBIs, 55 walks, .977 OPS, 6.9 offensive WAR, 0.4 defensive WAR and 7.0 bWAR
Career Summary: .334/.394/.447 with 97 home runs, 2,075 RBIs, 3,435 hits, 984 walks, .841 OPS, 142 OPS+, 91.6 offensive WAR, 5.0 defensive WAR and 94.4 bWAR
Having played 27 seasons in the majors, Anson is tied with Nolan Ryan for the longest career in the history of the sport. It would be unfair, though, to simply view him as someone who earned entry onto this list because he hung around long enough to accumulate Hall of Fame totals. Anson won four batting titles, and led baseball in RBIs eight times throughout the course of his career. Did he have the sixth best peak of anyone to ever play the position? No. But there's something to be said for his unfathomable longevity, and the fact that he was able to maintain a batting average of .334 over a career that spanned over two-and-a-half decades.
5. Roger Connor - Troy Trojans, New York Gothams/Giants, Philadelphia Phillies & St. Louis Browns (1880-1897)
Best Season: 1885 - .371/.435/.495 with one home run, 65 RBIs, 51 walks, .929 OPS, 6.9 offensive WAR, 1.4 defensive WAR and 8.2 bWAR
Career Summary: .316/.397/.486 with 138 home runs, 1,323 RBIs, 2,467 hits, 1,002 walks, .883 OPS, 153 OPS+, 79.4 offensive WAR, 6.3 defensive WAR and 84.3 bWAR
Connor is in the top five among all first basemen in MLB history in terms of bWAR and JAWS, and his peak wasn't half bad either, as his 47.0 WAR 7 is tied for seventh among all first basemen ever. During his 18-year career, Connor led baseball in games played, hits, total bases, doubles, triples, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+ at least once. When he retired, he was considered one of the greatest overall players that had ever stepped on a diamond.
4. Jeff Bagwell - Houston Astros (1991-2005)
Best Season: 1994 - .368/.451/.750 with 39 home runs, 116 RBIs, 65 walks, 1.201 OPS, 7.7 offensive WAR, -0.1 defensive WAR and 8.2 bWAR
Career Summary: .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs, 2,314 hits, 1,401 walks, .948 OPS, 149 OPS+, 74.7 offensive WAR, -7.2 defensive WAR and 79.9 bWAR
Bagwell is one of the most unappreciated players in MLB history. Though much is made of the effects that the shortened 1994 season had on Tony Gwynn's chase of hitting .400 and the Montreal Expos' chances to win their first World Series, Bagwell had such ridiculous production in his MVP season of 1994, that you almost feel like he put up a complete statline for an MVP, even though he only got to play 110 games that season. Bagwell is one of the most well-rounded offensive players to play any position in the sport over the last 40 years.
3. Jimmie Foxx - Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs & Philadelphia Phillies (1925-1942; 1994-1945)
Best Season: 1932 - .364/.469/.749 with 58 home runs, 169 RBIs, 116 walks, 1.218 OPS, 10.1 offensive WAR, -0.1 defensive WAR and 10.4 bWAR
Career Summary: .325/.428/.609 with 534 home runs, 1,922 RBIs, 2,646 hits, 1,452 walks, 1.038 OPS, 163 OPS+, 91.6 offensive WAR, -5.9 defensive WAR and 93.1 bWAR
At his peak, Foxx was an unconscious offensive player, one capable of leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. With 534 home runs on his resume, Foxx led baseball in home runs four times, RBIs three times, and batting average twice. Never mind that he also led the sport in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases multiple times. Foxx was capable of putting up Manny Ramirez-type power numbers, while hitting for an average on par with Wade Boggs.
2. Albert Pujols - St. Louis Cardinals & Los Angeles Angels (2001-Present)
Best Season: 2009 - .327/.443/.658 with 47 home runs, 135 RBIs, 115 walks, 1.101 OPS, 8.0 offensive WAR, 0.8 defensive WAR and 9.7 bWAR
Career Summary: .299/.378/.548 with 659 home runs, 2,082 RBIs, 3,210 hits, 1,326 walks, .926 OPS, 147 OPS+, 86.0 offensive WAR, -2.3 defensive WAR and 100.7 bWAR (stats current as of August 2020)
Between 2001 and 2010, the first 10 seasons of his career, Pujols graded out as the most valuable offensive player in the entire sport, topping Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran and Chipper Jones, among others. Don't let what's been a disappointing stint in Los Angeles detract from his peak dominance - Pujols will finish in the top five in home runs in major league history and is one of the greatest right-handed hitters in MLB history.
1. Lou Gehrig - New York Yankees (1923-1939)
Best Season: 1927: .373/.474/.765 with 47 home runs, 173 RBIs, 109 walks, a 1.240 OPS, 11.3 offensive WAR, -0.2 defensive WAR and 11.8 bWAR
Career Summary: .340/.447/.632 with 493 home runs, 1,995 RBIs, 2,721 hits, 1,508 walks, 1.080 OPS, 179 OPS+, 114.1 offensive WAR, -9.0 defensive WAR and 114.1 bWAR
There was a debate had about who should check in at No. 2 on this list. No such banter existed for the top slot. Gehrig leads all first basemen in MLB history in bWAR, WAR 7, JAWS and offensive WAR. Even on a list littered with Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers, Gehrig is the best, and it's not especially close.