Major League Baseball has a rich history, with hundreds of great or legendary players that hold a special place in the hearts and minds of fans. Whether it be pitchers that got a big out, batters that hit home runs, or a player that’s known for his defensive wizardry, certain types of players just simply aren’t forgotten. One type of player that’s impossible to forget is the kind that drives in a ton of runs, which is why we have the 25 players with the most RBI in major league history.
1. Cal Ripken Jr.
This shortstop — and later third baseman — is most well-known for his consecutive games played streak. But Cal Ripken Jr. is much more than just his longevity on the field, even if it played a big role in him making it onto this RBI list. In his 21-year career, Ripken only had four seasons in which he topped 100 RBI, with his career-high of 114 coming in 1991. Other career highlights include a Rookie of the Year award, two MVPs, and winning the World Series with the Baltimore Orioles in 1983.
2. Jim Thome
First baseman and designated hitter Jim Thome played for a multitude of teams over his long, 22-year career, including the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and Minnesota Twins. He had his best stretch from 1996-2006, in which he averaged 103 RBI per year over that 11-year span. He never won an MVP or a World Series, but he did lead the league in walks three times and had a career-high of 131 in RBI during the 2003 season with Philadelphia.
3. Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson, also known from his playoff heroics as “Mr. October,” was your prototypical No. 3 hitter throughout his career. Jackson led the American League in RBI one time, with his 117 runs driven in back in 1973 with the Oakland A’s. He also holds the major league record for most strikeouts by any one player, and has 18 home runs and 48 RBI in the postseason—where he won two World Series MVPs to go along with four rings.
4. Frank Thomas
Chicago White Sox first baseman and designated hitter Frank Thomas was one of the best of his era at a few things: getting on base, hitting homers, and driving in massive amounts of runs. The man went over 100 RBI 11 times in his 19-year career, and that’s even more impressive when you consider that he played more than 113 games only 14 times in his career. He won back-to-back American League MVPs in 1993 and ’94, led the league in walks four times, on-base percentage four times, and also won a World Series ring in 2005, which was his last season in Chicago.
5. David Ortiz
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is still finishing out his career, but as far as this list is concerned he’s done accumulating regular season RBI numbers. Ortiz began his career with the Minnesota Twins and moved to the Red Sox in 2003 after being released by Minnesota. In Boston, he would lead the league in RBI twice — including a career-high of 148 in 2005 — and win three World Series rings. He’s closing out his career with 541 home runs and a .931 OPS.
6. Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson is a Hall of Fame outfielder with quite a bit on his resume. He’s won two MVP awards, a World Series MVP, two championship rings, and has hit 586 career home runs. He led the league in RBI once when he had 122 for Baltimore in 1966. But that wasn’t even his best season, which came when he had 136 RBI in 1962 with the Cincinnati Reds. Robinson played 21 years in Major League Baseball, cementing himself as one of the best players of all time.
7. Albert Pujols
Current Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols began his career with 10 consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBI for the St. Louis Cardinals. During that period, he actually averaged 123 runs driven in — which is an insane number. He has won two World Series rings, a Rookie of the Year, and three MVP trophies. He’s played 16 years in Major League Baseball and will begin next year at 37 years old, but he still has plenty of time to build on his overall RBI totals. He had 31 home runs and 119 RBI last season with the Los Angeles Angels.
8. Al Simmons
Al Simmons isn’t a name that’s remembered by many modern baseball fans, but he was an RBI machine back in the 1920s and ’30s. Like Pujols, he led off his career with 11 consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBI, averaging 125 during that period. He never won an MVP award, but he did win two World Series and led the league in batting average in 1930 and ’31. Simmons finished his career with a .334 average, .915 OPS, and showing up on the RBI list despite totaling just 78 over his final five seasons from 1939-1944.
9. Manny Ramirez
Outfielder Manny Ramirez is best remembered for his time with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, where he was one of the very best hitters in the game. During a 14-year stretch from 1995-2008, Ramirez averaged 119 RBI per season. He won two World Series trophies with the Red Sox, led the league in RBI with a career-high 165 in 1999, and led the American League in on-base percentage three times.
10. Dave Winfield
Dave Winfield’s place on this list is heavily tied to longevity, as the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees outfielder played 22 seasons in the big leagues. That doesn’t even include 1990, when he didn’t play a single game. Winfield led the National League in RBI once, in 1979, when he knocked in a career-high 118 for the Padres. He never won an MVP award, but he hung on long enough to win a World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992, at the age of 40.
11. Rafael Palmeiro
Rafael Palmeiro spent his career with the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, and Chicago Cubs, hitting 569 home runs with a .885 OPS. He played primarily at first base, winning three Gold Gloves at that position. He also averaged 41 home runs and 121 RBI from age 30-38, which is an extremely unusual late uptick in performance. Palmeiro never won a World Series or an MVP, but he was one of the best hitters of his generation.
12. Ken Griffey Jr.
Speaking of the best hitters of that generation, Ken Griffey Jr. is in that conversation as well. Playing with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, Griffey averaged 113 RBI and 40 home runs per seasons from the age of 21 to the age of 30. Injuries stunted his career, limiting him to an average of 92 games per season from 2001-2006. But he still finished with incredible stats, including 630 home runs, 10 Gold Gloves, and one MVP award.
13. Ted Williams
Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams spent his entire career leading the American League in a ton of offensive categories. Williams finished with a .344 lifetime batting average, with the best on-base percentage in history at .482. He also led the American League in RBI four times, with his career-best coming with 159 in 1949. He also drilled 521 home runs, and his totals get even more impressive when you consider that he sat out three whole seasons due to military service in World War II.
14. Carl Yastrzemski
Yet another Red Sox great, Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski was an outfielder and first baseman in the 1960s and ‘70s that played in 23 seasons in the big leagues. His best season, as far as RBI is concerned, was 1967 when he led the American League with a career-high 121. That season, he also drilled 44 home runs and won the American League MVP award. He finished his career with 452 home runs, a .841 OPS, and 18 All-Star game appearances — including in his final season at 43 years old.
15. Mel Ott
Mel Ott, an outfielder for the New York Giants, played the best years of his career in the 1930s. He came up to the big leagues at just 17 years old and had his prime years from 20-29, averaging 121 RBI per season during that stretch. His best season came when he was just 20, when he hit 42 home runs and drove in 151. Ott never won an MVP award, but he did win the World Series with the Giants in 1933. Overall, he finished his career with 511 home runs and a .947 OPS.
16. Willie Mays
Outfielder Willie Mays, like Ott, also played for the Giants — both in New York and in San Francisco. Like Williams, he also took time off for military service, missing a big chunk of the 1952 season and the entire ’53 season. From the age of 23-35, Mays averaged 109 RBI with 40 home runs per year, winning the MVP award twice to go along with 12 career Gold Gloves and a World Series trophy in 1954.
17. Eddie Murray
Eddie Murray, a first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles (among several teams he made an appearance for) wasn’t ever the greatest RBI-man in the game. He only had six seasons out of his 21-year career where he crossed the 100 RBI barrier, but he managed to average 96 RBI from 1977-1995. He was a big part of the Orioles’ World Series team in 1983, and despite never winning an MVP award found himself in the Hall of Fame and in the top 10 on this list.
18. Jimmie Foxx
First baseman Jimmie Foxx played the bulk of his career with the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox, leading the league in RBI three times and averaging an absurd 134 per season from 1929-1941. The best year of Foxx’s career came when he drove in 175 runs while hitting 50 homers in 1938, leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and winning the third of his three career MVP awards. Foxx also won two World Series trophies with the A’s, back in 1929 and 1930.
19. Ty Cobb
Detroit Tigers center fielder Ty Cobb was amazingly consistent in his career, never seeing his OPS dip below .800 at any time from the age of 20 until his retirement at 41 years old. During that time, Cobb led the league in RBI four times and averaged 86 per season. He also finished with the best batting average in major league history at .366, 897 stolen bases, 117 home runs, and an MVP award in 1911. He also appeared in the World Series three times, losing in 1907, ’08, and ’09.
20. Stan Musial
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial is one of the most well-rounded hitters to ever play the game. After returning from his military service in 1946, Musial averaged 110 RBI over the next 12 seasons. He hit 475 career home runs and 177 career triples, leading the league in the latter category five times in his career. Musial also won three National League MVPs and three World Series trophies, while finishing his career with a cool .330 batting average.
21. Lou Gehrig
New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig put up what would be more commonly referred to in modern days as “video game numbers.” From 1927-1937, Gehrig averaged 154 RBI and 39 home runs per season. During that period, he led the American League in RBI five times, on-base percentage five times, and home runs three times. Gehrig won MVP awards in 1927 and 1936, and was a huge part of six Yankees teams that won the World Series.
22. Barry Bonds
Outfielder Barry Bonds played his entire career between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, hitting a record 762 home runs for a career, a record 73 home runs for a single season in 2001, and walking a record 2,558 times. He led the major leagues in walks 12 times in his 22 years in baseball, led the league in RBI one time, and averaged 110 RBI over the course of 13 years from 1990-2002. Bonds was truly one of the most talented players to ever play the game, winning seven MVP awards and taking his team to the World Series in 2002.
23. Alex Rodriguez
Shortstop and third baseman Alex Rodriguez came up to the big leagues at just 18 years old back in 1994, and played for the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and New York Yankees in his career. From 1996-2010, A-Rod posted a .966 OPS with an average of 121 RBI and 41 home runs per season. He led the American League in homers five times and hit over 50 three times in his career, while leading the league in RBI twice. He’s a three-time MVP award winner and won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009.
24. Babe Ruth
One of the most iconic names in all of sports, Babe Ruth was an outfielder — and pitcher, believe it or not — for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the bulk of his career. Ruth averaged 136 RBI and 45 home runs from 1919-1932, winning an MVP award and seven total World Series rings in his career. He held the all-time home run record at 714 until it was broken by Hank Aaron. Ruth also led the league in home runs 12 times, RBI five times, and has the all-time best slugging percentage at .690.
25. Hank Aaron
Speaking of Hank Aaron, this slugging outfielder for the Milwaukee (and later Atlanta) Braves takes the cake. He played 23 years in the major leagues, averaging 113 RBI and 38 home runs per season during his prime from 1957-1971. He held the all-time home run record with his 755 until it was broken by Bonds, and won a single MVP award in 1957. He also won the World Series that year, playing in the postseason just three times — 1957, 1958, and 1969.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.