For these players, excellence came with a catch.
There are many reasons why the quality of the pitching in the 1960s was so consistently high. Defense in the field was one of those reasons, and the players who made this list necessarily made their pitchers better, day in and day out.
Here’s my rundown of the top 10 defensive players of the 1960s.
1. Bill Mazeroski – Bill Mazeroski was the gold standard for Gold Glove players. He won 8 Gold Gloves and holds more defensive records than any other player in major league history, including being the only second baseman ever to record more than 1,700 double plays. A 7-time All-Star, Mazeroski was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.
2. Brooks Robinson – Brooks Robinson was the premier third baseman during the 1960s, and probably the best of all time. He had a Gold Glove for every year in the 1960s – 16 in all during his career. When Robinson retired, he held practically every career fielding record for a third baseman, including most career putouts (2,697), most career assists (6,205), most career double plays (618), and the highest fielding average (.971).
3. Jim Kaat – Jim Kaat pitched in the majors for 25 years, was quite possibly the best fielding pitcher ever to play the game, and was one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers throughout his career. As a fielder, Kaat had no peers among pitchers, and few major leaguers at any position fielded as well as he did. He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves (matched only by Brooks Robinson). He also happened to win 283 games (#30 all time).
4. Vic Power – This first baseman was a 7-time Gold Glove winner. He led all American League first basemen in assists 6 years in a row. Power also tied a major league record with 2 unassisted double plays in a single game. A 6-time All Star, Power batted .284 over a 12-year major league career.
5. Roberto Clemente – The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Hall of Fame right fielder could do it all in the field. Roberto Clemente won a Gold Glove every year from 1961 to 1972 – 12 in all. He was also a 12-time All-Star (and 4-time National League batting champion). His arm was strong and his throws extremely accurate. His 266 career assists as an outfielder remain unmatched in the modern era.
6. Willie Mays – Great catches were commonplace in the career of Willie Mays. He was also as consistent as he was on occasion spectacular. Mays won 12 Gold Gloves, the last at age 38, making him the oldest outfielder to claim that honor.
7. Bobby Richardson – The Yankees’ steady second baseman through the first half of the 1960s, Bobby Richardson won 5 Gold Gloves as the defensive anchor for the Yankees’ infield. He was also a great clutch hitter, as demonstrated by his World Series performances.
8. Luis Aparicio – The American League’s premier shortstop during the 1960s, Luis Aparicio was like money in the bank in the field. Playing in the 1960s for the Chicago White Sox and then for the Baltimore Orioles, Aparicio won 9 Gold Gloves in his career (in addition to leading the American League in stolen bases for 9 straight seasons). An 11-time All-Star, Aparicio played more games at shortstop than any other player in major league history (2,581) and retired with more assists (8,016) than any shortstop before him.
9. Bobby Shantz – An 8-time Gold Glove winner, Bobby Shantz took 5 of those awards in the first 5 years of the 1960s. Originally a starter (and American League MVP in 1952 when he won 24 games for the Philadelphia Athletics), Shantz had become a reliable and versatile reliever with the arrival of the 1960s, and never hurt himself in the field. He finished his 16-year career with 119 victories.
10. Al Kaline – From 1961 through 1967, the American League’s Gold Glove right fielder was Al Kaline. Altogether, Kaline won 10 Gold Gloves during his 22-year career with the Detroit Tigers. Though not as spectacular as most of the players who precede him on this list, none was more consistent.