Every season, one Major League Baseball team achieves the glory of claiming a World Series title. Very few of those teams, however, are recognized decades later for putting together such a noteworthy performance all season long.
The teams that do are considered some of the greatest teams ever assembled. These teams span the course of the last century.
While they are each from different time periods, one common threads holds these teams together; they were beyond glorious. They were untouchable.
7. 1984 Detroit Tigers (104-58)
With an impressive 104 wins and only 58 losses, the Tigers cruised right through the post-season. They walloped the Royals in three games to win the American League Championship Series and only lost a single game to the Padres in the World Series. Their success was a perfect balance of A-list hitters and pitchers.
Lance Parrish and the speedy Kirk Gibson led the Tigers offensively, while Jack Morris and Dan Petry combined for 37 wins from the mound. It was Petry’s best season of his career.
The real star of the Tiger’s pitching staff, however, was closer Willie Hernandez. The AL MVP and CY Young award winner provided pitching relief in 80 games that year. He achieved a 9-3 record with 32 saves and a 1.92 ERA that froze the opponents’ bats.
Also worth noting is the defensive prowess of Lou Whittaker and Alan Trammel, who patrolled the middle infield (second base and shortstop, respectively) for the Tigers.
6. 1961 New York Yankees (109-53)
This was a great year to be a Yankees fan. All season long, spectators watched Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle slug homeruns in the hopes of beating Babe Ruth’s single season home run record.
Maris would ultimately pull ahead, and break the record, with a season total 61 long balls. Mantle was not far behind and ended the season with 54 homeruns.
The slugging did not stop there; three other members of the ’61 Yanks (Elston Howard, Bill Skowron and Yogi Berra) hit at least 20 homers.
With these impressive homerun totals, the Yankees offensive dominance was unmatched.
Whitey Ford conquered hitters from the mound that year. He stacked 25 wins on the season and only lost four times.
His hurling brilliance continued through to the World Series, where he won two games through 14 scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds (Yankees took the series in 5 games).
Ford did have some help from the rest of the pitching staff. Together, the 1961 Yankees’ pitchers had a combined ERA of only 3.46.
5. 1970 Baltimore Orioles (108-54)
Most teams are happy if they have one 20-game pitcher. The 1970 O’s roster featured three: lefties Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally and ace Jim Palmer. The club’s combined ERA was 3.15.
Backing this incredible pitching staff up was third baseman Brooks Robinson and center fielder Paul Blair.
Robinson was an absolute brick wall at third base and barely let a ball trickle past his leather, while Blair caught just about every pop-fly and line drive hit in the vicinity of his domain out in center field.
Offensively, the ’70 birds had it made too. Despite being sometimes overlooked (considering how efficient the pitching staff was), the Orioles had a good mix of power hitters, in right fielder Frank Robinson and first baseman Boog Powell , supported by a lineup full of mid-to-high .200 batting averages.
The last key to the puzzle was the management of Earl Weaver. The Hall of Fame manager would skipper five different 100-win squads. The 1970 Orioles were his finest.
4. 1939 New York Yankees (106-45)
The 1939 Bronx Bombers seemed to have the season from the get go. They finished the year a staggering 17 games ahead of the other American League teams. When it came time for the World Series, they made quick work of the Cincinnati Reds in a sweep.
The team was made up of four future Hall of Famers (five if you count Lou Gehrig who removed himself from the lineup and was later diagnosed with ALS), including Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing and Joe Gordon. The manager, Joe McCarthy was also voted into the hall of fame.
At the plate, they outscored their opponents by 411 runs, which to this day is the largest run differential. Eight of their hitters hit in the double digits for homeruns and six swung their way to a batting average over .300.
Defensively, it was a similar story. Nearly every pitcher on the team contributed and, by the end of the season, seven of them had at least ten or more wins.
Statistics alone paint a perfect picture for how dominating this team was.
3. 1975 Cincinnati Reds (108-54)
The 1975 “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds was easily one of the most entertaining ball clubs to watch.
The team was primarily built around their offense, which included the likes of Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and George Foster, just to name the highlights. What made the ’75 Reds so fun to watch was their scrappy and aggressive style of play.
Even though they had the third most homeruns in the National League, the Reds manufactured most of their 840 runs (first in the MLB that year) by swiping bases (Morgan and Dave Concepcion had 100 stolen bases just between the two of them) and tearing up the base paths whenever opportunity struck.
The Big Red Machine was a dominant force for many years. Some fans consider the 1976 Reds superior to their ’75 predecessors because they did not drop a single game in the post-season, whereas the 75 Reds needed the full seven games to trump the Red Sox in the World Series.
Others argue that, that 7-game series against the Red Sox was one of the best ever and only adds to the appeal of the 1975 Reds.
2. 1927 New York Yankees (110-44)
Many baseball fans argue that the “Murderer’s Row” lineup of the 1927 New York Yankees was the best ever (as many of the teams on this list have, at one point or another, been called).
It was a tremendous year for the team, which was almost entirely thanks to Babe Ruth. This was the year that the Sultan of Swat clubbed a record shattering 60 homeruns. Babe Ruth single handedly hit more homeruns than some entire teams did in 1927.
Follow that up with Lou Gehrig’s respectable 47 homers (who would also win the MVP honors) and the 83 doubles that Bob Meusel and Earl Combes would combined to hit and the result is a run differential of 376 on the season.
In pitching, the ’27 Yankees were led by Waite Hoyt (22-7 with a 2.63 ERA) and supported by the closing work of Wilcy Moore (19 wins, 2.28 ERA).
With the Babe’s explosive slugging, the run support by the other key members of the lineup and a comparable pitching staff, the Yankees had little trouble in the World Series.
They swept the Pittsburgh Pirates (Ruth had a .400 average in the World Series and helped supply two homeruns and seven RBIs).
They are called Murderer’s Row with good reason.
1. 1998 New York Yankees (114-48)
At the time, the 1998 New York Yankees’ 114 regular season wins was a new American League record.
Many baseball experts argue that the ’98 Yankees are far from the most talented team ever assembled. However, what makes their season so noteworthy is their completeness.
Under skipper Joe Torre, the ’98 Yankees masterfully worked their entire 25-man roster. Every player served an individual purpose and performed that role perfectly.
The team consisted of several notable players, many of whom were in their prime, including David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neil and several others.
While the ’98 Yankees lacked the raw power that many teams featured (this was the same year that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire both broke Roger Maris’ single season homerun record), they made up for it by having a lineup full of well-rounded players, both hitters and pitchers alike.
What made the 1998 New York Yankees’ record-setting year even more epic was their crushing post-season loss to the Cleveland Indians the year before.
The Yanks entered the ’98 season with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Mission accomplished.
Not only are each of these “greatest teams of all time” from different time periods, but they each possessed a unique flair that allowed them to achieve their prized season.
For some teams, it was their dominating pitching, others, like the Big Red Machine, leveraged their speed and aggressiveness, and others simply slugged their way to victory.
Whatever the case was, these teams, and the players that made their success possible, will never be forgotten —even when Major League Baseball’s next greatest team makes its season debut.