Frank Howard, Mark McGwire, Dave Kingman and Dave Winfield. Mention those names, and baseball fans all know they were big home-run hitters. Make that “tall” home-run hitters. Tall guys with power.
In 2017, one of the best players in the American League is also a giant of sorts. That would be Aaron Judge, the 6'8" Yankees outfielder who belted 52 home runs as a rookie, an MLB record.
Judge, however, is in the running for AL MVP with a player on the opposite end of the height chart—Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros.
All 5'6" inches of him.
A little bit of power.
In case you missed it, Altuve helped lead the Houston Astros to their first-ever World Series Championship. That was the culmination of yet another fantastic year at the plate for number 27.
• He led the entire Major Leagues in 2017 with a .346 average
• He is a candidate for the 2017 AL MVP (along with Judge)
• 2017 marked his third batting title in the last four seasons
• He’s a five-time All-Star and has won three Silver Slugger Awards
Not only can he hit for average—he can hit for power. Altuve hit three home runs in Game 1 of this season’s ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. He’s hit 24 home runs each of the past two seasons.
If he continues to play at this level (and especially if he wins MVP), he’ll join an exclusive list of MLB stars who have won MVP and shown us that great players come in all shapes and sizes.
Little big men in MLB history.
Here is a review of the top players who were short for their size—and by short, we’ll keep it to 5'8" and under.
• By the way, the average height for an MLB baseball player is a little over 6'1"
• By the way Part 2, second basemen tend to be the shortest guys on the field
These lean powerhouse players listed below were all named MVP at least once and all are in the Hall of Fame.
“Wee Willie” Keeler, 5'4", Right Fielder, New York Yankees
Keeler was one of the best players of his time and is considered by many to be the greatest right fielder ever. According to baseballhall.org, Keeler, who was just 5'4", used heavy bats that could weigh up to 46 ounces. Keeler is the player who said the secret to hitting was to “keep your eye on the ball and hit ’em where they ain’t.” (He likely would have easily beaten today’s shift.) He hit over .300 16 of his 19 seasons, had a lifetime .341 average and had eight straight seasons of at least 200 hits—an achievement eventually broken by Ichiro Suzuki.
Phil Rizzuto, 5'6", Shortstop, New York Yankees—“The Scooter”
Phil Rizzuto was the Yankees’ shortstop from 1941 to
“Hack” Wilson, 5'6", Center Fielder, Chicago Cubs
Hack Wilson stands tall on the list of superb short players. During his 12-year MLB career, Wilson was a National League star. Standing just 5'6", he had a 56-home-run season in 1930. Amazingly, that was the NL record until Sammy Sosa broke it in 1998. But his greatest achievement was setting the all-time record for most RBIs in 1930 when he drove in 190 runs—that is STILL the Major League record. Giancarlo Stanton led the Majors this year with 130.
“Yogi” Berra, 5'8", Catcher, New York Yankees
Yogi Berra proves that little guys can be tough as nails. In his 19-year career (18 as a Yankee), he caught both ends of a doubleheader 117 times. Berra was in 14 World Series, winning 10. Few people know he was a three-time MVP and a 15-time All-Star. Berra led American League catchers in home runs and RBI for nine straight seasons at one point, and at the time of his retirement was the MLB career leader in home runs by a catcher.
Joe Morgan, 5'7", Second Base, Cincinnati Reds—“Little Joe”
Morgan played on several teams in his 22 seasons and was a two-time MVP. A patient hitter with a great eye, Morgan drew 1,856 walks at the plate, the fifth most in baseball. He also ranks 11th all-time in career stolen bases, with 689. He won two World Series rings (with the Reds), won five Gold Glove Awards and was a 10-time All-Star.
Kirby Puckett, 5'8", Center Fielder, Minnesota Twins—“Puck”
The late, great Kirby Puckett was on two World Series-winning teams with the Minnesota Twins over his 12-year MLB career. A center fielder, Puckett was a 10-time All-Star, a six-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of six Silver Slugger Awards. He was also named 1991 ALCS MVP. He was placed 86th on the Sporting News list of the Top 100 Greatest Players.
Roy Campanella, 5'8", Brooklyn Dodgers—“Campy”
Campanella joined Brooklyn in 1948 at the age of 26, one year after Jackie Robinson. Making up for lost time, Campanella was fast out of the gate, hitting 22 home runs and driving in 82 in 1949, his first full season. He made the All-Star team that year and the next seven straight seasons. In ’51 he hit .325 with 108 RBIs and 33 home runs, earning his first of three MVP awards. In 1955 (an MVP year) he helped lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first World Series win over the Yankees. Sadly, a car accident in early 1958 paralyzed Campanella and ended his playing career.