Fielding is the aspect of baseball that has improved most over this century. You could look it up. Better field maintenance and advances in glovemaking—not to mention the lowering of standards by official scorers—best explain the statistical progress. The slick-fielding Chicago Cubs of 1906, for instance, a team that won a major league record 116 games, committed 194 errors. Since 1950, only five teams have made that many.
Comparing top glovemen of different eras is, therefore, trickier than catching a bad hop bare-handed. It's safe to say that the Mets' infield of first baseman John Olerud, second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, shortstop Rey Ordo�ez and third baseman Robin Ventura is the best unit today. Even general manager Jim Bowden of the Cincinnati Reds, whose shortstop Barry Larkin and second baseman Pokey Reese have unsurpassed range, concedes, "There's no doubt that the Mets have the best defensive infield in our league." With little imagination, it's no stretch to place the 1999 Mets on this list of the premier fielding infields in history.
Joe Tinker to Johnny Evers to Frank Chance was as good a double play combo as it was mellifluous. Third baseman Harry Steinfeldt, like shortstop Tinker, led National Leaguers at his position in fielding percentage. Chicago had 34 fewer errors than any other club in the league.
Three of the legendary Brooklyn infielders led the league in fielding percentage at their positions: first baseman Gil Hodges, second baseman Jackie Robinson and third baseman Billy Cox. Pee Wee Reese had been tops among shortstops the previous season.
The club that set a record for home runs also made the fewest errors in the American League, thanks mainly to first baseman Moose Skowron, second baseman Bobby Richardson, shortstop Tony Kubek and third baseman Clete Boyer.
Second baseman Glenn Beckert and third baseman Ron Santo won Gold Gloves. Shortstop Don Kessinger would earn one the next season, the same year Ernie Banks, a former shortstop, led National League first basemen in fielding percentage.
The high-water mark in the longest run of superior infield defense (1964 through '75). It was the first year of five in which three Baltimore infielders won Gold Gloves: Davey Johnson at second, Mark Belanger at short and Brooks Robinson at third. Boog Powell provided soft hands at first.
Third baseman Mike Schmidt (10), second baseman Manny Trillo (three) and shortstop Larry Bowa (two) were multiple Gold Glove winners, though only Schmidt took home the gold this championship season. Pete Rose had the best fielding percentage among National League first basemen.
The only full season shortstop Ozzie Smith and first baseman Keith Hernandez, two of the best glovemen in history, played together. Ken Oberkfell led National League third basemen in fielding percentage. Tommy Herr provided reliability and range at second.
Only 35 combined errors from first baseman Rafael Palmeiro (nine), second baseman Roberto Alomar (11), shortstop Mike Bordick (seven) and third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. (eight).