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 60% since February 2004, and it is currently rewarding investors with a 7.2% yield. Then there's AGL Resources (NYSE:ATG), which has returned 45% since April 2004 on top of a current 4.2% 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:



Cleco Corp. (NYSE:CNL)


Republic Services (NYSE:RSG)


William Wrigley Jr. Co. (NYSE:WWY)


Teekay LNG Partners (NYSE:TGP)


Telefonos de Mexico (NYSE:TMX)


Sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of Aug. 2.

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: Income Investor pick William Wrigley Jr.

"While we can't avoid life's little stresses, like commuting, traveling or waiting in line, chewing gum may offer a relaxing antidote. One hypothesis is that the act of chewing may help release nervous energy."

So says the section of Wrigley's website dealing with the benefits of gum-chewing. Maybe market watchers should have been chewing more gum last week?

But seriously, when it comes to gum, who knows the business better than Wrigley? The company is behind most of the all-star brands of the gum-chewing world, including Doublemint, Big Red, Extra, Juicy Fruit, Orbit, and Eclipse. According to outside sources, Wrigley believes that it supplied 63% of the total chewing gum in the United States in 2006.

While being the U.S. market-share leader in a mature industry like chewing gum may not sound that juicy on the face of it, Wrigley keeps it interesting for its investors. Besides continuing to dominate the U.S. gum market, the company is selling its products in more than 180 countries. At the end of 2006, Wrigley was the market leader for gum in both China and Russia, and it is focusing on growing its base in India as well.

Wrigley has also made some acquisitions over the past few years to help boost growth. U.S. shoppers might be interested to know that Altoids, Life Savers, and Creme Savers are all Wrigley brands now. Sugus, another recent acquisition, makes candy for the Asian market, and it's helped Wrigley become the No. 1 overall confectionary player in China.

This has paid off for investors over the past year; the stock is up 27% on top of the dividend. On CAPS, All-Star yippiekiyeh picked the stock to outperform last November, saying:

What country doesn't like chewing gum?? Put your hand down, Singapore. With 3 billion in sales, an expansion process in the Asian markets, I think that this stock is definitely undervalued.

You can check out more of what others have to say about Wrigley, 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.

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:

Salivating at the thought of all these great dividends? You can check out Income Investor absolutely free for 30 days.

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.