As a baseball fan, you know that there are many different types of players on the field. Some are specialists, while others can do a little bit of everything. But what about the players who are the best at two things?
These players are rare and unique, and they can change the course of a game with their ability to both pitches and hit. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best two-way MLB players in history, and we’ll explore what makes them so special.
Are you ready to learn more? If yes, then keep reading this article. You’ll surely like it.
10 Best Two-Way MLB Players in the History
By having some research, we try to make a list of the best two-way MLB players. Check out this list and learn about those players.
1. Leon Day
Day was an incredible two-way player, dominating hitters as a pitcher and destroying home runs as a hitter. He was only 18 when he made the Negro National League All-Star team in 1935.
Seven years later, he had his best season, going 8-2 with a 1.73 ERA (225 ERA+), leading the league in WHIP (.912), strikeouts (86), K/BB (3.2), and H/9 (5.3).
He was an occasional two-way player from 1934 to 1937 and played regularly in the field, outfield and second from 1938 to 1946, compiling a .318/.365/.432 (122 OPS+) line over the plate.
In 1945, he led the league in both batting average and ERA, becoming one of the only players in history to do so. He is the first player to hit a home run in both games of a doubleheader.
When it came to playing defense, Day was just as impressive. Leon Day was known for his strong arm and quick reflexes, making him one of the best fielding pitchers of his time. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and is one of the most famous two-way players in MLB history.
|Born Place||Alexandria, Virginia, United States|
|Born Date||October 30, 1916|
|Playing Period||1934 – 1950|
|Team||Baltimore Black Sox (1934)Brooklyn / Newark Eagles (1935–1939, 1941–1943, 1946)Baltimore Elite Giants (1949–1950)|
|Achievements||9× All-Star (1935, 1937, 1939, 1939², 1942, 1942², 1943, 1946, 1946²Negro World Series champion (1946)|
2. Bob Smith
Smith’s career mirrored that of Walters, although he was not as prolific. He was an amazing pitcher and an even better hitter. But first he started as an infielder; Was the club’s primary shortstop in 1923 and 1924.
His poor batting saw him relegated to the bench in 1925. Smith was a league-average pitcher (100 ERA+) for the worst team (106-139 record) in 229 starts and 206 relief appearances but his hitting is described as good for a pitcher (career .242/.265/.309). Smith also became the first player to hit a home run in the World Series.
He was an incredible all-around player and is often considered one of the best two-way MLB players of all time.
|Born Place||Woodsville, New Hampshire|
|Born Date||February 1, 1931|
|Playing Period||April 29, 1955 – September 23, 1959|
|Team||Boston Red Sox (1955)St. Louis Cardinals (1957)Pittsburgh Pirates (1957–1959)Detroit Tigers (1959)|
3. Ted Radcliffe
Ted Radcliffe was one of the best two-way MLB players of his time. He was known as an excellent defensive player and had a career batting average of .283. He made the East-West games as a catcher in 1937, 1943, and 1944 and in 1938, 1939, and 1941.
He was an outfielder who also pitched for the Boston Red Sox, starting pitching in 1929. In his second year in the Negro Leagues and the following season, Negro led the National League with a 2.58 ERA (185 ERA+).
In his career, for which we have statistics of 41 starts and 47 relief appearances. What really set him apart, however, was his pitching. He had a career ERA of 3.30 and even led the league in strikeouts in one season. He was a true two-way player and helped his team win championships.
|Born Place||Mobile, Alabama|
|Born Date||July 7, 1902|
|Playing Period||1929 – 1946|
|Team||Detroit Stars (1928)Chicago American Giants (1929, 1934, 1942–1943)St. Louis Stars (1930), Homestead Grays (1931), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932), Columbus Blue Birds (1933), New York Black Yankees (1933), Bismarck Churchills (1935), Brooklyn Eagles (1935), Cincinnati Tigers (1937), Memphis Red Sox (1939, 1941)Birmingham Black Barons (1943–1944)Louisville BuckeyesKansas City Monarchs (1945)Homestead Grays (1946)|
|Achievements||6x East-West All-Star Game (1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1944)Negro American League pennant (1938)Illinois Department of Aging Hall of Fame (2002)|
4. Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani is currently the only MLB player to regularly serve as both a starting pitcher and an everyday position player. He was offered by 30 MLB teams and eventually signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2017.
After his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut in 2018, he established himself as the sport’s greatest two-way player in a century.
The Japanese superstar continues to wow fans and confounds opponents with his unique talent. By the time he was 17, his top speed had reached a remarkable 99 miles per hour (159 km).
Despite his insistence that he wanted to join MLB immediately, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters drafted him as the first overall pick in the 2012 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) draft. During one-on-one meetings with franchise officials, Ohtani was persuaded to sign.
His skills in both pitching and hitting make him a true two-way player, and he quickly became one of the most popular players in the game. Due to his popularity, he was voted into the All-Star Game, and had a .238 batting average and a 4.23 earned-run average [ERA] that season. Playing and pitching in the outfield, Ohtani improved over the years as he added muscle to his previously thin frame and began hitting the mammoth home runs that would become his signature.
|Born Place||Ōshū, Iwate, Japan|
|Born Date||July 5, 1994|
|Playing Period||March 29, 2018 (Continue)|
|Team||Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2013–2017)Los Angeles Angels (2018–present)|
|Achievements||2× All-Star (2021, 2022)[a]AL MVP (2021)All-MLB First Team (2021[b])All-MLB Second Team (2021[c])AL Rookie of the Year (2018)Silver Slugger Award (2021)Edgar Martínez Award (2021)AL triples leader (2021)Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (2021)Hit for the cycle on June 13, 2019AP Athlete of the Year (2021)|
|Position||Pitcher / Designated hitter / Outfielder|
5. Rick Ankiel
Although Rick Ankiel was better known as an outfielder in his time, he had a brief stint as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Ankiel finished second in league with a 4.65 ERA over 30 ERAs after going 11-7 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2000.
But he lost command of the strike zone in the postseason (4 IP, 11 BB, 9 WP) and pitching was done in 2004. He became an outfielder and hit .242/.304/.427 (92 OPS+) in 598 games. In 2001, he made his MLB debut as a pitcher and threw five shutout innings.
In 2002, Ankiel had a breakout year, posting an 11-7 record with a 3.50 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 200 innings pitched. He was named to the All-Star team and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.
However, Ankiel’s career was quickly derailed by injuries and losing the ability to consistently throw strikes. He eventually switched to the outfield, where he had some success before retiring in 2013.
|Born Place||Fort Pierce, Florida|
|Born Date||July 19, 1979|
|Playing Period||August 23, 1999 – June 8, 2013|
|Team||St. Louis Cardinals (1999–2001, 2004, 2007–2009)Kansas City Royals (2010)Atlanta Braves (2010)Washington Nationals (2011–2012)Houston Astros (2013)New York Mets (2013)|
|Achievements||Medals, Men’s baseball world, Junior Baseball Championship, Bronze medal – third place|
|Position||Center fielder / Pitcher|
6. Babe Ruth
There have been many great baseball players over the years, but only a select few have been able to make a name for themselves in both the major and minor leagues. Babe Ruth was one of those players.
He began his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1914 and quickly became one of their best players. He helped them win the World Series in 1916 and 1918. In 1918, he pitched 166 1/3 innings—with a 2.22 ERA that was 22 percent better than average. In 1919, (133 ⅓ innings) and pitched less effectively (2.97 ERA, 102 ERA+).In 1919, he pitched even fewer (133 ⅓ innings) and less effectively (2.97 ERA, 102 ERA+). He was a solid hitter both years.
Ruth quickly became the face of the Yankees and helped them win several championships. He is also credited with helping popularize baseball as the national sport. In his later years, he played for other teams, but is best remembered for his time with the Yankees.
|Born Place||Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.|
|Born Date||February 6, 1895|
|Playing Period||July 11, 1914 – May 30, 1935|
|Team||Boston Red Sox (1914–1919), New York Yankees (1920–1934), Boston Braves (1935)|
|Achievements||2× All-Star (1933, 1934)7× World Series champion (1915, 1916, 1918, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932)AL MVP (1923)AL batting champion (1924)12× AL home run leader (1918–1921, 1923, 1924, 1926–1931)5× AL RBI leader (1919–1921, 1923, 1926)AL ERA leader (1916)New York Yankees No. 3 retiredMonument Park honor Boston Red Sox Hall of FameMajor League Baseball All-Century TeamMajor League Baseball All-Time Team|
|Position||Outfielder / Pitcher|
7. Bullet Rogan
The second way you should know about the MLB player is Bullet Rogan. He was known as a power hitter and the most feared batter in the game. He was one of the first players to use a batting helmet and he was one of the first players to use a batting glove.
Bullet Rogan excelled at both. His career ERA is 61 percent above the 2.70 average. In his best year on the mound, 1925, he went 15-2 over 16 starts and six relief appearances, with a 1.74 ERA and a league-leading 15 complete games, four shutouts and 96 strikeouts. He hit .338/.413/.521 in his career, with a 152 OPS+.
Rogan paved the way for future generations of MLB players and helped change the way the game was played. He is a true pioneer in the sport, and his contribution will never be forgotten.
|Born Place||Oklahoma City, Indian Territory|
|Born Date||July 28, 1893|
|Playing Period||1917 – 1938|
|Team||25th Infantry Wreckers (1914–1920)All Nations (1917)Kansas City Monarchs (1920–1938)|
|Achievements||Negro World Series champion (1924)4× Negro National League pennant (1923, 1924, 1925, 1929)Negro American League pennant (1937)All-Star (1936)On August 6, 1923, combined with José Méndez on a no-hitter against the Milwaukee BearsPlayed in a first night game in baseball history, April 29, 1930Toured the Philippines, Japan, and China in 1933–34 with the Philadelphia Royal Giants|
|Position||Pitcher and Outfielder|
8. Bucky Walters
There have been many great two-way MLB players over the years. But one of the best has to be Bucky Walters.
Walters was a pitcher and outfielder who played for the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Braves. He was a six-time All-Star, and in 1939 he won both the MVP and the Cy Young Awards. He’s also the only player in history to have won the MVP and the World Series MVP Awards.
Walters was an incredible pitcher, but what made him really stand out was his ability to hit. He had a .271 batting average during his career, with 83 home runs and 522 RBIs. He was so good at hitting that he even started batting leadoff for the Reds in 1941.
He was a true two-way player, and he paved the way for future players like Babe Ruth and Bullet Rogan.
|Born Place||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Born Date||April 19, 1909|
|Playing Period||September 17, 1931 – July 23, 1950|
|Team||Boston Braves (1931–1932)Boston Red Sox (1933–1934)Philadelphia Phillies (1934–1938)Cincinnati Reds (1938–1948)Boston Braves (1950)|
|Achievements||6× All-Star (1937, 1939–1942, 1944)World Series champion (1940)NL MVP (1939)Triple Crown (1939)3× NL wins leader (1939, 1940, 1944)2× MLB ERA leader (1939, 1940)NL strikeout leader (1939)Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame|
|Position||Pitcher / Third baseman|
9. Joe Wood
You may not have heard of Joe Wood, but he was one of the greatest pitchers of his era. Wood was an American right-handed pitcher who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1908 to 1915.
What makes wood so great? One reason was his amazing control. He could throw a fastball with pinpoint accuracy and had a devastating curveball that was nearly impossible to hit.
In 1912, Wood had one of the best seasons ever by a pitcher, winning 34 games and losing only 5. He pitched an incredible 393 innings that year, far more than pitchers pitch today. And after a short and ineffective season in 1917 he announced his intention to convert to the outfield.
With an opening created by depleted World War I rosters in 1918, he played 419 games in the outfield over the next five years, hitting .298/.376/.433 (116 OPS+). He pitched only two games during those years, both in relief.
Sadly, Wood’s career was cut short by an arm injury. But there is no doubt that he was one of the best pitchers of his time and one of the best two-way MLB players of all time.
|Born Place||Shohola, Pennsylvania|
|Born Date||October 25, 1889|
|Playing Period||August 24, 1908 – September 24, 1922|
|Team||Boston Red Sox (1908–1915)Cleveland Indians (1917–1922)|
|Achievements||3× World Series champion (1912, 1915, 1920)MLB wins leader (1912)AL ERA leader (1915)Pitched a no-hitter on July 29, 1911Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame|
|Position||Pitcher / Outfielder|
10. Martin Dihigo
Martin Dihigo Born in Cuba, Dihigo played both infield and outfield and was an ace pitcher. He is considered one of the best two-way players in MLB history. He was so good that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977 – the first Cuban player to receive the honor.
As a pitcher, he was credited with a 3.34 ERA (141 ERA+) over 402 innings. He is best remembered as a hitter, though, hitting .307/.389/.528 (138 OPS+) and averaging 118 runs, 126 RBI, 28 homers and 19 stolen bases in 162 games.
And in 1926, at age 21, he led the Eastern Colored League with a .375 average, .737 slugging, 1.212 OPS and 14 homers, and was ninth in the league in pitcher WAR, posting a 4.3 total WAR in just 43 games. In his career, DeHigo had a .313 batting average and an ERA of 3.47. He also hit 42 home runs and stole 62 bases. Pretty impressive, right?
What makes Dihigo special is his ability to play any position on the field. He was truly a jack-of-all-trades and master of them all. If you’re looking for a true two-way player, Dihigo is your man.
|Born Place||Matanzas, Cuba|
|Born Date||May 25, 1906|
|Playing Period||1922 – 1950|
|Team||Cuban Stars (East) (1923–1927, 1930)Homestead Grays (1927–28)Hilldale Giants (1929, 1930–31)New York Cubans (1935–36, 1945)|
|Achievements||2× Negro League All-Star (1935, 1945)4× Cuban League MVP (1927/28, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1941/42)Eastern Colored League batting champion (1926)Only player in History to be elected to 5 different Hall of FamesElected to Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame (1951)Elected to Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame (1964)Elected to Venezuelan Hall of FameElected to Dominican Hall of Fame|
The best two-way MLB players are those who have the ability to not only play one position well but also excel at another. It allows them to be versatile and contribute to their team in a variety of ways.
These players are rare and are often the most valuable players on a team. They can help a team win games both offensively and defensively.
In this article, we try to share about those players and their career stats. Hopefully, it will be helpful for all of you to get an overall idea. Thank you all.
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