Oakland A’s baseball

Oakland A's baseball and logo (Photo by fifg on Shutterstock)

Quietly, the Oakland Athletics are one of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) oldest and winningest franchises. The Athletics, or A’s as they’re known, were founded in Philadelphia in 1901 and moved around before finally settling in Oakland in 1968. Overall, the A’s have a staggering nine World Series titles and the organization is right up there with the Cardinals and Yankees as one of the most successful franchises in MLB history. With such a legacy of excellence, fans love to go back and forth about the best A’s players of all time. 

Speaking of fans, a recent study found that attending live sporting events can be as beneficial for your mental health as getting a new job. Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University say that attending a live sporting event can improve your overall well-being and reduce feelings of loneliness. Watching a live baseball game with your fellow A’s fans is definitely a great way to get out and meet people with similar interests. Nothing brings people together quite like rallying around a baseball team and cheering for a victory.  

Fortunately, fans of the Oakland A’s have seen plenty of winning over the years. One reason for that was General Manager Billy Beane. Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane developed the famed ‘Moneyball’ strategy for building his Oakland A’s teams of the late ’90s and early 2000s. As successful as the A’s teams were, a recent study found that Moneyball could be played out in MLB. A study by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management claims that the analytics-heavy strategy lost some of its luster once it became adopted by most other teams. Beane was able to put together some amazing, championship-caliber teams during his time as the General Manager in Oakland. 

So, which Oakland A’s players are considered the greatest of all time? StudyFinds did the digging, consulting 10 sports and baseball-oriented websites in an effort to bring you the consensus best Oakland A’s players of all time. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed top five athletes from across the sites we visited. Think our sources missed one of your favorite A’s players? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

The List: Best Oakland A’s Players of All Time, According to Baseball Experts

1. Rickey Henderson (1979-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1995 & 1998)

Leading off the list of the best Oakland A’s players of all time is the living legend, Rickey Henderson. He is widely regarded as the best leadoff hitter in MLB history, and he’s easily one of the top A’s players ever. “Henderson is Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in both stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295), which he owes in large part to four stints in Oakland. Henderson led baseball in steals in eight separate seasons while with the A’s, including in 1990 when he was voted the AL MVP. Henderson was elected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2009, and his plaque features him wearing an Athletics cap with a big smile on his face. The ‘Man of Steal’ had his No. 24 retired by the A’s that same summer,” writes Audacy

Rickey Henderson of the A's
Rickey Henderson Day Saturday, Aug. 1” by bryce_edwards is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Rickey Henderson is considered the best base stealer and lead-off hitter in MLB history. Still, Henderson’s game was very well-rounded, and the all-star outfielder was capable of doing more than run the bases. 

“Outfielder Rickey Henderson enjoyed his time in Oakland so much that he just kept coming back… Henderson slashed .288/.409/.430 with 167 homers, 289 doubles, and most notably 867 stolen bases in just over 1,700 contests. The Chicago, IL native represented Oakland in six all-star games, won two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove, and was most impressively the MVP of the American League in 1990. While with the A’s he led the league in steals seven times, runs twice, and hits once and helped Oakland win the World Series in 1989. Henderson retired in 2003 as Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in both runs and stolen bases and was a shoe in for Cooperstown in 2009,” adds Yardbarker

Rickey Henderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, and rightfully so. Henderson is the all-time MLB leader in stolen bases and it’s not even close. Still, even when MLB teams felt Rickey Henderson was washed up, he kept proving the doubters wrong. 

“Henderson played for five teams in his last five years, got no serious offers to continue, and played three more years in independent leagues. When he was 45 and 46 years old, he stole 53 bags in 57 tries. He was still drawing walks, he was still touching home plate. Ultimately, in 30 professional baseball seasons, Rickey walked 2,688 times and scored 2,780 runs,” furthers Baseball Egg

2. Jimmie Foxx (1925-1935)

Next up on the list of the best Oakland A’s players of all time is none other than Jimmie Foxx. Jimmie Foxx played when the A’s were in Philadelphia, so his inclusion on expert lists was hit or miss, no pun intended. 

“In 1929, Foxx would turn heads with a 33 Home Run year with a league leading .463 On Base Percentage. This year, he would lead the offensive attack that would take Philadelphia to a World Series Championship. Foxx and the Athletics repeated their World Series accolade in 1930 and would appear in the 1931 Fall Classic again, though this time, Philadelphia would lose to the St. Louis Cardinals.  In the three World Series that Foxx appeared in, he would bat .344 with four Home Runs,” explains Not in Hall of Fame

Although Jimmie Foxx did not play for the A’s in Oakland, he has to be considered one of the best A’s players of all time. Foxx is easily one of the best first basemen in MLB history, so it would be silly to omit this legend based on the city in which the A’s franchise was located. 

“The man they called ‘Double-X’ was very strong, probably the strongest man in baseball prior to the Second World War (outside of maybe Josh Gibson). Jimmie Foxx once hit a home run over the roof and out of the original Comiskey Park. He hit a ball out of Shibe Park straight down the left line. He reportedly hit a ball deep into the upper deck(!) in left field at old Yankee Stadium,” writes Baseball Egg

Jimmie Foxx started playing professional baseball at the young age of 17 years old. Jimmie Foxx is also considered one of the best first basemen of all time as well as one of the best hitters in the history of baseball. 

“Right-handed slugger Jimmie Foxx debuted for the Philadelphia Athletics as a 17-year-old in 1925, and would go on to become one of the greatest offensive players of his generation… He was an all-star for the Athletics three times in a row from ’33-’35–though it should be noted there was no all-star game prior to 1933. Foxx won two MVP awards while with Philadelphia, earned a batting title, and was the Triple Crown winner in 1933. He helped the A’s win back-to-back World Series titles in 1929 and 1930 and was an automatic selection to Cooperstown in 1951,” furthers Yardbarker

3. Dennis Eckersley (1987-1995)

The third spot on the list of the best A’s players of all time belongs to one of the best pitchers in franchise history – Dennis Eckersley. If you grew up watching professional baseball in the late ‘80s and early ’90s, then you surely know Dennis Eckersley

“Initially a starter, Eckersley became the A’s closer when their all-star Jay Howell was sidelined with an injury in 1987. For the next five seasons, he established himself as the top closer in baseball. In 1992 he won the AL Cy Young and MVP. He was selected as a member of the all-star team four times between 1988-1992. He ranks 1st on the A’s list in saves (320) and 7th in ERA (2.74). He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 2004,” explains Bleacher Report

Oakland A's legend Dennis Eckersley smiling in a parade
Dennis Eckersley” by Rubenstein is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Today, Eckersley is ninth all-time in ERA in Oakland Athletics history. The A’s have had some amazing pitchers come through the organization, but Eckersley might just be the most entertaining.  

“Eckersley owns the top career marks among Oakland pitchers in ERA (2.74), FIP (2.44) and saves (320). He finished sixth or better in AL Cy Young Award voting on four occasions while with the Athletics, winning the award and the AL MVP in an iconic 1992 season. ‘Eck’ was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, and dons the iconic ‘A’s’ cap on his plaque. A year later, the franchise retired his No. 43,” furthers Audacy

Hitters knew they were in trouble when Eckersley was called out of the bullpen by manager Tony LaRussa. With his long black hair, long slender build, and epic mustache, Eckersley was an incredibly intimidating presence on the mound for the A’s of the late ‘80s and early ’90s. 

“Out of all the pitchers the Athletics have ever had, Eckersley ranks first in games pitched (525), first in saves (320), first in walks per nine innings (1.3), second in strikeouts per nine innings (9.297), and ninth in career ERA (2.74). In the 1989 World Series that he helped lead the team…. Eckersley finished two games while recording one save and retiring all five batters he faced,” adds Rookie Road

4. Reggie Jackson (1968-1975)

Speaking of World Series victories, the fourth spot on the list of the best A’s players of all time belongs to Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. Reggie Jackson won three World Series titles during his time with the A’s, and although he’s mostly remembered for his time with the Yankees, he propelled the A’s of the early ’70s to MLB glory

“One of the greatest players in MLB history, Jackson spent nine seasons in Oakland, making six All-Star Game appearances and peaking by winning the AL MVP in 1973. While he’s most remembered for his postseason heroics as a member of the New York Yankees, Jackson became ‘Mr. October’ while with the A’s, winning three titles with Oakland, and taking home World Series MVP in 1973. Jackson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993, and, rather controversially, is wearing a Yankees cap on his plaque. Nonetheless, the A’s retired Jackson’s No. 9 in 2004,” explains Audacy

Reggie Jackson is at bat for the Oakland A's
Reggie Jackson (1946-Present)” by Ken Mattison is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Unfortunately, Reggie Jackson’s Hall of Fame plaque features him wearing a Yankees cap. However, Jackson made a name for himself as an A’s player and fans agree that it was great to see Reggie return to the franchise in 1987. 

“Left-handed slugger Reggie Jackson is one of the most dynamic offensive players to ever wear an Athletics uniform, and it was really cool to see him return to Oakland for a final season at the end of his career in 1987. In 1,346 total games with the club that made him the 2nd overall pick in the 1966 draft, Jackson slashed .262/.355/.496 with 269 homers, 776 RBI, 234 doubles, 27 triples, and 145 stolen bases. He led the American League in home runs twice with the A’s, and drove in over 100 runs for the club three different times,” writes Yardbarker

Reggie Jackson helped the Kansas City Athletics move to Oakland and make a name for themselves as an Oakland-based professional sports team. Reggie Jackson’s productivity, especially early in his career, was very much feast or famine. Reggie was either going to hit home runs or strike out, but his willingness to swing away made him beloved by fans. 

“Reggie Jackson came up with the A’s when they were still in Kansas City (1967), and he would become a starter the following year when the franchise relocated to Oakland. That year would show precisely what everyone should forever expect from Jackson. He went deep 29 times and led the AL in Strikeouts, but he was always a must-watch at bat,” writes Not in Hall of Fame

5. Mark McGwire (1986-1997)

Rounding out the list of the best A’s players of all time is one half of the heralded ‘Bash Brothers’ that took Oakland by storm – Mark McGwire. Mark McGwire is probably best known for his epic home run battle with Sammy Sosa during the late ’90s, but before McGwire was chasing Roger Maris’s record, he was hitting dingers all over the yard in Oakland. 

“The height of McGwire’s powers, quite literally, came with the St. Louis Cardinals in the late 1990s. But the bulk of McGwire’s career — parts of 12 seasons — came with the A’s. McGwire won the 1987 AL Rookie of the Year, two seasons before he would help the franchise to win a World Series over the San Francisco Giants. Dating back to when they were founded in Philadelphia in 1901, McGwire is the all-time leader among A’s players in home runs with 363. In terms of players who have played for the Oakland iteration of the A’s, McGwire has the most career RBIs as well, at 941,” notes Audacy

Steroid allegations aside, Mark McGwire was a great hitter and a pretty decent first baseman. McGwire hit a staggering 49 home runs his rookie year in Oakland, and the superstar never looked back. 

“Big Mac broke out as a superstar in 1987 and would win the American League Rookie of the Year Award with a 49 Home Run Season that would lead the American League.  That was the second best power-season he would have with Oakland, but there was still a lot of wattage for McGwire in the Bay Area.  He maintained substantial numbers and would blast over 30 in the next three years, and would have a 42 Home Run year in 1992.  McGwire was a significant part of Oakland’s three straight American League Pennants and the 1989 World Series win,” adds Not in Hall of Fame. 

Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were nicknamed the ‘Bash Brothers’ due to their ability to hit home runs. Together they helped transform the way teams play baseball and strategize against power threats in the lineup. And, as the experts explain, there aren’t steroids capable of making you a great hitter

“Along with the other ‘Bash Brother’ on the list, McGwire’s career has been tainted in many fans eyes through his use of PED’s (performance-enhancing drugs). And while I don’t condone the use of such substances, I also don’t believe they can magically make you a great hitter. McGwire is ranked 1st on the all-time A’s list in home runs (363), 4th in RBI’s (941), 4th in walks (847), and 10th in runs (773),” explains Bleacher Report

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