Quiz time, sports fans: What did the New York Yankees of the '50s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s have in common? (And exactly how can this help you with your portfolio?)

It wasn't just that they had some of the best individual players of the time -- Yogi Berra, Michael Jordan, and Emmitt Smith, respectively -- although that certainly helped. And it wasn't just that they were able to bring home world championship trophies on a regular basis. It was simply that their organizations and performances were consistently excellent.

Consistent excellence is rare anywhere, but imagine seeing it in your portfolio. Impossible? No way! Because that's what carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks can offer.

Build the next investing dynasty
Finding these long-haul outperformers can help you build your fortune, as studies from investing gurus such as Jeremy Siegel have shown time and time again. Finding them for you is precisely what we do at our Motley Fool Income Investor service.

Windstream (NYSE:WIN), for example, is up 64% since February 2004, and it is currently rewarding investors with a 7.2% yield. Then there's AGL Resources (NYSE:ATG), which has returned 46% since April 2004 on top of a current 4.3% yield. And while these stocks happen to be Income Investor recommendations, you don't need to be a subscriber to get these great gains.

Identify new talent
With that last thought in mind, I'd like to introduce you to our new community intelligence database, Motley Fool CAPS. There, savvy investors help one another identify stocks that can create consistent and substantial growth for any type of investor. That means whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you are welcome to strut your stuff. And, just as in professional sports, the cream inevitably rises to (and stays at) the top.

So what are the best dividend-paying stocks around, according to CAPS? Here are a few dividend picks with five-star ratings:

Company

Yield

Chunghwa Telecom (NYSE:CHT)

5.0%

Excel Maritime Carriers (NYSE:EXM)

2.1%

Huang Power International (NYSE:HNP)

5.7%

Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL)

2.1%

Turkcell (NYSE:TKC)

2.6%

Sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of July 26.

Stake your claim
I encourage you to join CAPS to learn more about why investors are so bullish on these companies, and perhaps to add your own thoughts to the system. I'll get you started with some thoughts about one company here that may be worth checking out: Colgate-Palmolive.

If you got that stomach-rising-into-your-throat feeling on Thursday, you weren't alone. Investors everywhere, from those super-savvy hedge fund captains all the way down to the average-Joe investors, watched as the Dow plunged more than 300 points. Ouch!

Seeing as The Motley Fool is staffed by a bunch of Foolish investors (imagine that!), there was plenty to read on the Fool.com site if you needed a reminder that panicking is not the recommended response. There's no reason to jump out a window, and there's certainly no reason to cash out your portfolio.

At times like these, though, it's nice to have a few stocks in your portfolio that you can count on through thick and thin. Dividend payers in general are great, since most of the time you can rely on that dividend even when share prices are falling. Even better is a dividend payer in a business that chugs along even when people aren't buying $300 jeans and third homes.

Motley Fool Inside Value pick Colgate-Palmolive is just that kind of company. The company owns a gaggle of well-known brands such as Colgate, Palmolive, Speed Stick, Irish Spring, and AJAX. And when's the last time that you heard somebody say, "The economy is bad, I have to stop buying deodorant"? To boot, the company's sales are broadly diversified geographically, so soft sales in one country can easily be balanced out by strength on the other side of the globe.

Colgate-Palmolive has a strong fan base among the Foolish community on CAPS. Among the CAPS players ranked in the top 20%, the stock has a 96-0 record for being fingered as an outperformer. One of CAPS' top players, DatabaseBob, thinks that this is a "rock-solid" company with good dividend growth that is a great choice for investors nearing retirement. He asks his fellow investors, "Are you going to wait for everyone else to get in before you, or are you going to buy this stock now?"

You can check out more of what others have to say about Colgate-Palmolive, as well as chime in with your own thoughts, by heading over to CAPS. You may also want to check out a few of the other top-rated dividend payers above while you're there.

And looping back around to conclude my (very) extended sports metaphor, allow me to suggest that dividend stocks will help you turn your portfolio into the dependable New York Yankees, rather than the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins. And if you hate the Yankees, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More CAPS Coverage:

Windstream, AGL Resources, and Chunghwa Telecom are Income Investor recommendations. Huang Power International is a Rule Breakers selection. Colgate-Palmolive is an Inside Value pick. Turkcell has been recommended by the Global Gains newsletter team. You can check out any (or all!) of these newsletters with a 30-day free trial.

Yankees fan and Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer hopes the Yanks can continue (regain?) their legendary excellence, and has his fingers crossed that the Cowboys will never get back to the top again. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is a true investing dynasty.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.