Scoring a game-winning home run might be the glory moment we always want to see on the highlight reel, but game by game, season after season, it is the constant stream of unassuming RBIs that keep teams on winning streaks and turn regular players into greats of the game.
In this article, we will discover the players with the most RBIs in a single baseball season. So, get ready to learn about some of baseball’s greatest hitters!
WHAT IS AN RBI
RBI stands for “runs batted in” and is when a player makes a hit that allows a run to be scored. For example, a batter hits the ball and runs to first base, but his teammate on third makes it home and scores. The stat is not generally as glorified by fans as home runs or batting average, but RBIs are one of the most important statistics for a winning team.
Check out our full rules for baseball for more on this fun sport!.
MOST RBIS IN A BASEBALL SEASON
Now, let’s take a look at 15 times in baseball history when players have impressed the masses with their RBIs! While several players have tied RBI records, we have ranked them by not only their RBIs but also the number of games they played. So, if 2 players had the same number of RBIs in a baseball season, the player who played fewer games ranks higher.
15. MANNY RAMIREZ: 165 RBIS, 1999, CLEVELAND INDIANS, 147 GAMES PLAYED
Our top 15 begins with arguably the most notable on the whole list; the performance of Manny Ramirez for the Cleveland Indians in 1999. Despite ranking only 15 on this list, the Dominican outfielder’s season is the only one from the modern era to make the list, and indeed the only one post-World War II!
This statistic is even more impressive by the fact he missed 15 games that season. However, unfortunately, his form did not continue into the playoffs, as the Indians were defeated in the divisional series.
Honorable mentions go to Babe Ruth and Al Simmons, who also made 165 in 1927 and 1930, respectively, but played more games than Ramirez.
14. SAM THOMPSON: 165 RBIS, 1895, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES, 119 GAMES PLAYED
Edging Ramirez, Ruth, and Simmons into the 14th spot is Sam Thompson, who also made 165 RBIs in 1895 for the Philadelphia Phillies and is the second-highest RBI total of the 19th century. He played just 119 of 131 games that season, far fewer than anyone else on this list, giving him the highest RBI per game average of our top 15!
Had he been available for a few more, the Phillies may have finished higher than third that National League season.
13. LOU GEHRIG: 166 RBIS, 1934, NEW YORK YANKEES, 155 GAMES PLAYED
Spoiler alert: we will be hearing a lot about Lou Gehrig on this list! Born in Manhattan, Gehrig spent his entire 16-year career with his hometown team, the New York Yankees, winning six World Series titles.
In 1934, the Yankees could only manage second in the American League (these were the days when teams finishing first went straight to the World Series), but Gehrig led the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs, with 166.
12. SAM THOMPSON: 166 RBIS, 1887, DETROIT WOLVERINES, 127 GAMES PLAYED
The second-highest RBI total of the 19th century by Sam Thompson was bettered only by Sam Thompson himself!
In 1887, Thompson had his breakout season with the Detroit Wolverines, with whom he won his, and the club’s, only World Series title. He led the National League in batting average and recorded 166 RBIs, 28 games quicker than Gehrig would in 1934.
Thompson passed away in 1922, only a year after Babe Ruth broke his record, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
11. JOE DIMAGGIO: 167 RBIS, 1937, NEW YORK YANKEES, 155 GAMES PLAYED
Such was the dominance of the New York Yankees in the first half of the 20th century that it is not surprising that they have three players from that era with at least one entry on this list.
Joe DiMaggio took the top spot in the 1937 season, just his second with the franchise, hitting 167 RBIs as the Yankees won a sixth World Series and a second for the Californian center fielder. “Joltin’ Joe” won nine titles in his 13-year Yankees career and hit over 100 RBIs in nine of them. But throughout his career, he never had as many RBIs as he did at 22 years old in 1937.
=9. BABE RUTH: 168 RBIS, 1921, NEW YORK YANKEES, 152 GAMES PLAYED
We reach the top 10 and the only tie on our list, with Babe Ruth and Hank Greenburg equal on 168 RBIs in 152 games.
It would take something special to beat Sam Thompson’s record, or perhaps someone special, and that someone was arguably the greatest baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth, who beat the 34-year-old record by just two in 1921.
Seven times a champion in his illustrious career, it was the second season after his shockwave-sending move to the New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox in which “the Bambino” scored his most RBIs in a season.
=9. HANK GREENBURG: 168 RBIS, 1935, DETROIT TIGERS, 152 GAMES PLAYED
Tied with Ruth is a man who won two World Series titles with the Detroit Tigers, ten years apart, Hank Greenburg. The first of which, 1935, coincided with his 168 RBIs, the best of his career.
The Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs in that year’s World Series and would do the same again a decade later, still with Greenburg as their first baseman.
8. JIMMIE FOXX: 169 RBIS, 1932, PHILADELPHIA ATHLETICS, 155 GAMES PLAYED
“Double X” spent the first half of his 20-year MLB career with the Philadelphia Athletics, who these days ply their trade in Oakland.
The Athletics won the 1930 World Series thanks in part to Al Simmons’ 165 RBIs. And though they did not win another title before relocating, Simmons’ club record was surpassed by Jimmie Foxx just two years later, in a truly outstanding year for the first baseman, in which he received 75 of a possible 80 votes to be named the season’s AL MVP.
7. CHUCK KLEIN: 170 RBIS, 1930, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES, 156 GAMES PLAYED
The 1930 season was extraordinary, simply for the number of RBIs. While Chuck Klein comfortably makes the top 10 all-time, his 170 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies was only the third-best of the 1930 season!
Right fielder, Klein scored exactly 300 home runs in a career spanning from 1928 to 1944, in which he had three spells as a Phillies player. He never won the World Series, but he was named NL MVP in 1932 and was awarded the 1933 Triple Crown.
6. LOU GEHRIG: 173 RBIS, 1927, NEW YORK YANKEES, 155 GAMES PLAYED
And yet again, we have Lou Gehrig! Gehrig signed with the New York Yankees in 1923 and began playing regularly for the team in 1925. In 1926 he got into three figures in RBIs for the first time, with 109. But these were rookie numbers compared to his later seasons. In 1927, Gehrig broke the record for RBIs in a baseball season with 173.
That year he also hit 47 home runs, more than in his four previous seasons combined, and helped the Yankees win their second World Series in franchise history.
5. LOU GEHRIG: 173 RBIS, 1930, NEW YORK YANKEES, 154 GAMES PLAYED
Remember how we mentioned that 1930 was a big year for RBIs? With a record six players scoring more than 150 RBIs in the 1930 season, there was no way Gehrig was not going to be one of them! He equaled his 1927 total of 173, but this one gets fifth as he achieved it in one fewer game!
As the Yankees only finished third in the American League and everybody was breaking RBI records, this was just an average season for the star first baseman.
4. JIMMIE FOXX: 175 RBIS, 1938, BOSTON RED SOX, 149 GAMES PLAYED
After his decade with the Athletics, Jimmie Foxx moved to the Boston Red Sox, and despite not being able to break the “curse of the Bambino”, in 1938, he was named MVP for the third time in his career. In his 1938 season, he racked up 175 RBIs – the most recent entrant in this list apart from Manny Ramirez in 1999.
He went on to have short spells with the Chicago Cubs and back in Philadelphia with the Phillies before retiring in 1945 with 534 home runs to his name, second only at the time to Babe Ruth.
3. HANK GREENBURG: 184 RBIS, 1937, DETROIT TIGERS, 154 GAMES PLAYED
Two years on from his 168, Hank Greenburg smashed his personal best with 184 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers. There was no World Series title to go with it this time, but if he were still alive, he would surely be shocked to know he is still on the podium for most RBIs in a season!
Greenburg served in the US Army and Air Force during World War II – as did many of his fellow professionals – and is considered the first Jewish megastar of team sports in the USA. Returning from the war to win the 1945 World Series, he retired in 1947 after a year with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2. LOU GEHRIG: 185 RBIS, 1931, NEW YORK YANKEES, 155 GAMES PLAYED
The closest anyone has come to the RBI record was just a year after it was set, and who better to give it a shot than Lou Gehrig, the player with 4 entries on this list! Gehrig hit 185 for the New York Yankees in 1931, which stands as the American League record and the most by a left-hander. Gehrig may have won six World Series titles as a Yankee, but his best RBI season was not one of them, as they finished second to the Philadelphia Athletics in the AL.
Just ten years later, Lou Gehrig passed away at the tragically young age of 37 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which to this day is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The disease forced him to retire two years earlier, where, amidst his suffering, he gave his famous “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech at Yankee Stadium.
1. HACK WILSON: 191 RBIS, 1930, CHICAGO CUBS, 155 GAMES PLAYED
Naturally, the record was also set in 1930! Hack Wilson’s total of 191 RBIs in a single season is approaching a century without being beaten. And many experts doubt it will ever be beaten. The fact that there is no 21st century entrant on this list suggests that it will reach its 100th birthday and probably many more!
Centerfielder Hack Wilson played for four teams in 12-year career, and whereas others on this list had terrific longevity at the top of the sport, 1930 was very much Wilson’s peak, with August that year being the peak within the peak, as he hit 53 RBIs and 13 home runs that month alone, with the Cubs finished second in the National League. His record stood at 190 until 1999, when a corrected box score mistake added one more to his tally!
Sadly, alcohol problems caused a decline in his career soon after and led to his death at the age of just 48.
|1||Hack Wilson||191||1930||Chicago Cubs||155|
|2||Lou Gehrig||185||1931||New York Yankees||155|
|3||Hank Greenburg||184||1937||Detroit Tigers||154|
|4||Jimmie Foxx||175||1938||Boston Red Sox||149|
|5||Lou Gehrig||173||1930||New York Yankees||154|
|6||Lou Gehrig||173||1927||New York Yankees||155|
|7||Chuck Klein||170||1930||Philadelphia Phillies||156|
|8||Jimmy Foxx||169||1932||Philadelphia Athletics||154|
|9||Hank Greenburg||168||1935||Detroit Tigers||152|
|9||Babe Ruth||168||1921||New York Yankees||152|
|11||Joe DiMaggio||167||1937||New York Yankees||151|
|12||Sam Thompson||166||1887||Detroit Tigers||127|
|13||Lou Gehrig||166||1934||New York Yankees||154|
|14||Sam Thompson||165||1895||Philadelphia Philies||119|
|15||Manny Ramirez||165||1999||Cleveland Indians||147|
MOST CAREER RBIS
Form is temporary; class is permanent! While scoring 191 “ribs” in a single season is one thing, it is another to continually keep your team’s scoreboard moving over your whole career! That is exactly what these guys did, earning the most career RBIs.
|RANK||PLAYER||RBIS||YEARS PLAYED||TEAM(S)||GAMES PLAYED|
Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers
|2||Albert Pujols||2,218||2001-22||St Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers||3,080|
|3||Babe Ruth||2,214||1914-35||Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Boston Braves||2,503|
|4||Alex Rodriguez||2,086||1994-2016||Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees||2,784|
|5||Cap Anson||1,879||1871-97||Rockford Forest Citys, Philadelphia Athletics, Chicago White Stockings/Colts||2,524|
|6||Barry Bonds||1,996||1986-2007||Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants||2,986|
|7||Lou Gehrig||1,995||1923-39||New York Yankees||2,164|
|8||Stan Musial||1,951||1941-63||St Louis Cardinals||3,026|
|9||Ty Cobb||1,944||1905-28||Detroit Tigers,Philadelphia Athletics||3,034|
|10||Jimmie Foxx||1,922||1925-45||Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies||2,317|
|11||Eddie Murray||1,917||1977-97||Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Anaheim Angels||3,026|
|12||Willie Mays||1,903||1951-73||New York/San Francisco Giants, New York Mets||3,005|
|13||Miguel Cabrera||1,864||2003-present||Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers||2,765|
|14||Mel Ott||1,860||1926-47||New York Giants||2,730|
|15||Carl Yastrzemski||1,844||1961-83||Boston Red Sox||3,308|
MOST RBIS IN A BASEBALL GAME
Two players are tied for the most RBIs in a single baseball game, while only 16 times in MLB history has a player reached 10 RBIs in one game. Expanding on the game and the feat of hitting that many RBIs.
JIM BOTTOMLEY: 12 RBIS, SEPTEMBER 16, 1924, ST LOUIS CARDINALS vs. Brooklyn Robins
Jim Bottomley played from 1922 to 1937, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals for most of his career. In 1924, Bottomley managed to make 12 RBIs in a single game, a feat that has never been broken and has only been done one other time in baseball history nearly 70 years later! Bottomley was 6-6 in at-bats during this game.
MARK WHITEN: 12 RBIS, SEPTEMBER 7, 1993, ST LOUIS CARDINALS vs. Cincinnati Reds
In 1993, Mark Whiten tied the single-game RBI record when he hit 4 home runs against the Cincinnati Reds. This was very much Whiten’s career highlight, as he played for 9 teams during his 10-year career and only retired with 424 RBIs, meaning that he made nearly 3% of his entire career RBIs in a single game!
Though the 1990s did produce one standout season and game, they are clearly an anomaly in baseball stats dominated by the pre-World War II era, when hitters dominated.
Therefore, in the modern era, when strikeout rates are going up every season, it seems increasingly unlikely that Hack Wilson’s record will ever be broken. RBIs might not be the most respected stats in the game, but they are an incredibly important metric that gives teams their game-winning power!