The best baseball players born on Dec. 26

January 12th, 2022

Who are the best players born on each day of the year? We have a list for every day on the calendar.

Here’s a subjective ranking of the top five for Dec. 26:

1) Ozzie Smith (1954)
Smith, a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2002, is widely considered to be the greatest defensive shortstop of all time. At least one metric says he’s the greatest defensive player at any position. His defensive bWAR of 44.2 is No. 1, well ahead of closest challengers Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson. Smith, who spent four years with the Padres and 15 with the Cardinals, won 13 National League Gold Glove Awards and was an All-Star 15 times. Not an offensive threat when he broke in, he came around with the bat in St. Louis and even posted a .303 batting average in 1987. He was the NL Championship Series MVP in ’85, the year his “Go crazy, folks” home run gave the Cardinals a 3-2 series lead. Smith’s final numbers include 2,460 base hits and 580 stolen bases. He earned a World Series ring in 1982, his first season with the Cardinals.

2) Carlton Fisk (1947)
Fisk was an exceptional big league catcher for 24 seasons, putting on the gear for 2,226 games en route to the Hall of Fame. For all that durability, he’s equally remembered for one iconic moment, waving his home run fair down over the Green Monster in Fenway Park to win the classic Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. An intense competitor with the Red Sox and White Sox, Fisk was the 1972 American League Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove winner, a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner and an 11-time All-Star. When he retired in 1993, he had caught more games and hit more homers as a catcher (351) than any player in AL and NL history. (Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, respectively, have since surpassed Fisk.)

3) Judy Johnson (1899)
Johnson’s Hall of Fame career is intertwined with the history of the Negro Leagues. The third baseman played in leagues that folded, starred in winter ball, displayed his talents against white Major Leaguers in barnstorming exhibition games and mentored the great slugger Josh Gibson with the mighty Pittsburgh Crawfords during the heyday of the Negro National League. Johnson was considered the top defensive third baseman of his era and also was a reliable contact hitter and a savvy player. Done as a player a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Johnson had a long second career in baseball as a scout for the Athletics, Braves, Phillies and Dodgers. He died in 1989 at age 89.

4) Chris Chambliss (1948)
Chambliss cemented his place in Yankees lore with his walk-off home run to win the 1976 ALCS against the Royals, punctuated with the lasting image of him fighting his way through a crowd of delirious fans to complete his journey around the bases. The Yankees ran into Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the World Series that fall, but Chambliss earned championship rings the next two seasons as the Bronx Bombers’ starting first baseman. His 17-year MLB career began with Cleveland in 1971, when he was the AL Rookie of the Year. Consistently productive, Chambliss posted an OPS+ of 100 or better in 12 of his first 13 seasons. He was an All-Star in ’76.

5) Stu Miller (1927)
Miller is best known for a moment that became legend, thanks to poetic license and outright exaggeration. The 165-pound right-hander was called for a balk in the 1961 All-Star Game at Candlestick Park when a gust of wind knocked him off-balance while he was on the pitching rubber. Almost immediately, a legend was born: “Little Stu Miller blown off the mound.” It’s worth remembering that Miller got the win in that All-Star Game. He pitched 16 MLB seasons and was the closer for two World Series teams, the 1962 Giants and the ’66 Orioles, earning a ring with the latter squad. Miller excelled in relief by changing speeds – “slow, slower and reverse,” columnist Jim Murray wrote – and using a deceptive delivery that included an unusual jerk of his head. Saves weren’t an official stat until 1969, but Miller was the de facto NL leader in 1961 with 19 and MLB leader in ’63 with 27. He died at age 87 in 2015.

Others of note:
Ray Sadecki (1940)
The left-hander played 18 seasons and was a 20-game winner for the Cardinals in 1964, starting two games in their World Series victory over the Yankees. Sadecki was traded straight up for Giants slugger Orlando Cepeda in 1966. He found his way back to the World Series in 1973 as a reliever with the Mets. Sadecki died at age 73 in 2014.

Mike Minor (1987)
The left-hander entered 2022 with a 79-78 record and a 4.11 ERA across 10 MLB seasons. Minor was an All-Star for the Rangers in 2019, when he went 14-10 with a 3.59 ERA and 200 strikeouts.

Omar Infante (1981)
The infielder had 1,427 hits across 15 seasons with four teams. Infante was an All-Star for the Braves in 2010, when he batted .321.

Jeff King (1964)
The corner infielder was most productive toward the end of his 11-year career. From 1996-98 with the Pirates and Royals, he averaged 27 homers and 105 RBIs a year. He retired after only 21 games played in ’99.

Storm Davis (1961)
The right-hander reached double digits in wins in five of his 13 MLB seasons. Davis was in the rotation of two World Series champions, the 1983 Orioles and the 1989 Athletics, though he did not appear in the Fall Classic in ’89. He was scheduled to start Game 4 before that Series was interrupted by an earthquake. The A’s instead used only Dave Stewart and Mike Moore as starters in their sweep of the Giants.

Al Milnar (1913)
The left-hander pitched for eight seasons and lost two other years to military service during World War II. He was an All-Star in 1940, when he was 18-10 with a 3.27 ERA for Cleveland. Milnar died at age 91 in 2005.

Want to see more baseball birthdays for Dec. 26? Find the complete list on Baseball Reference.