Hey, three of my favorite things – geography, baseball, and listicles!
One note about methodology … I tried to go with:
- Players who were actually born in that state (vs. played there, lived there, buried there …)
- Career WAR (though leading your state in traditional counting stats like homers, hits, wins, and strikeouts helps as well)
Okay, now let’s play ball!
Alabama – Hank Aaron
Willie Mays definitely gave Hammerin’ Hank a run for his money, but it’s pretty hard to argue with the most RBIs, total bases, and extra bases ever. Let’s throw in the most All Star selections, his 98% first-ballot All-Star vote, the fact that the best offensive player in each league gets an award named after Aaron, and I think we got ourselves a winner.
Aaron was born and grew up in Mobile, Alabama’s port and third-largest city. The house he grew up in was moved to the minor league stadium in town, called Hank Aaron Stadium, where the AA Bay Bears play.
Alaska – Curt Schilling
This one was a real run-away. Schilling’s WAR was 79.6, with no other native Alaskan even getting into double figures. Curt also just so happened to get into 6 All Star game and finished second in Cy Young voting 3 times. He also won over 200 games, including a super clutch win in the 2004 World Series with Boston (bloody sock,” anyone?).
Does Curt come from a long line of Inuit? Actually, he does not. So, what was his family doing in Alaska? Well, Curt was just your good old-fashioned military brat. His Dad, Cliff, was a master sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division and just so happened to be stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, right next to Anchorage, Alaska. Curt would subsequently move to Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arizona.
Arizona – Ian Kinsler
So, here’s our first player who’s currently active. His WAR is almost twice as good as the next candidate, pitcher John Denny. As for major awards, Kinsler’s got 4 All Star selections and 2 Golden Gloves. A speed and power threat, he’s got slightly more homers than stolen bases (248 to 241). Most tellingly, he leads all Arizonans in runs, hits, homers, RBIs, and stolen bases.
Kinsler is Arizona born and bred, with Tucson being his hometown. He would lead his high school, Oro Valley, to 2 state championships, then continue at Central Arizona College and then the University of Arizona. Not sticking around, he jumped ship to the University of Missouri, and now makes his home in Dallas (where he played for the Rangers for many years).
Arkansas – Brooks Robinson
I really wanted to put Lou Brock first, but Robinson has got 30-some more WAR points. Needless to say, a lot of that is defensive. The Human Vacuum Cleaner’s got 16 Gold Gloves, along with 15 All Star selections and one MVP. I actually got a chance to watch him in person. He was probably my first real baseball hero.
Robinson attended Little Rock Senior High, but did not play baseball there, as they did not have a program. Instead, he played football and basketball, getting his baseball licks in in American Legion. He’s in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame.
California – Ted Williams
Man, so many great stars to choose from – Joe DiMaggio, Tom Seaver, Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson … I’ll have to scratch Bonds (whose WAR is higher) for all those PDEs and go with the Splendid Splinter instead. The Hall of Famer’s got 2 MVPs (and 4 #2 finishes!); was the last guy to hit 400; has best OBP of all time, over 500 homers, and a 344 lifetime average; and was in 17 All Star games …
Teddy Ballgame was born in San Diego, grew up there, and played his first minor league ball in the city. His father was originally from New York, and his mother was Mexican.
Surprised this hasn’t been turned in to a museum
Colorado – Rich Gossage
Roy Halladay has a little better WAR, but the Goose is in the Hall (and is the only Coloradan there). I’ve also got him down for 9 All Star selections and 3 league leads in saves. Overall, he’s got over 300 of the latter.
Gossage is from Colorado Springs, home of the Air Force Academy and almost half a million people. Goose played high school ball in town, then left in the draft. He would return after retirement, opening a burger restaurant and getting involved in youth sports. The town named a sports complex after him.
Connecticut – Roger Connor
Who, you say? Roger Connor played in the 19th Century, being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1976. He was an early home run hitter, and held the record for career home runs for 20-some years – before it was broken by some guy named Ruth.
Connor was born, raised, lived, retired, died, and was buried in Waterbury. Largely forgotten, he was originally buried in an unmarked grave. The current one was added by subscription only in 2001.
Delaware – Paul Goldschmidt
Another current player. Interestingly, his WAR is better than anyone else’s – and he’s only played 8 years! A very solid first baseman, both offensively and defensively, he’s finished 2nd in MVP voting twice, been in 6 All Star games, and garnered 3 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Slugger awards.
Goldy was born in Wilmington, but grew up in Texas. Wilmington is, of course, the First State’s largest city and, because of some rather interesting laws, the headquarters of many major US corporations.
Otherwise, it was going to be this guy (Sadie McMahon, 19th Century pitcher)
DC – Maury Wills
Doc White (an early 20th Century pitcher) has the better WAR, but not many accomplishments beyond that. Wills, on the other hand, did all sorts of interesting things, mostly involving the stolen base. He’s got almost 600 of the things, was the first to steal 100 in the modern era, and led the league in steals 6 times. He’s also got an MVP to his credit, as well as a couple of Gold Gloves (at shortstop) and 5 All Star selections.
Wills was 3-sport standout at DC’s Cardozo High. Other alums include Marvin Gaye and J. Edgar Hoover. Their ball field was named after Maury in 2003. Interestingly, the Maury Wills Museum is in Fargo, ND, at the minor league ballpark there (Wills managed and was a broadcaster there).
Florida – Steve Carlton
Like in California, you can play baseball year round in the Sunshine State, so it’s not too surprising they’ve got their fair share of Hall of Famers. Steve Carlton, though, leads the bunch. And what that equates to is 4 Cy Young awards, a 24-year major league career, over 300 wins, and over 4000 strikeouts. He is, of course, a Hall of Famer.
Steve is from Miami, where he attended North Miami High, then Miami Dade College, before leaving in the draft. A real outdoorsman and a bit of a loner, Lefty would retire to Colorado instead of the Sunshine State. Somebody on Pinterest tells me this is Steve’s boyhood home:
Georgia – Ty Cobb
Like there was any debate. In addition to being a member of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, Ty Cobb won the batting title 12 times, finished with the best career average ever (366), stole not quite 900 bases, and even won a triple crown.
The Georgia Peach was born in northeast Georgia, near the South Carolina border, in the tiny town of Narrows. He would grow up in the slightly larger nearby town of Royston. After retirement, Cobb would move out west, returning to Georgia only in his last days. Royston includes his mausoleum, a fairly large museum, a large civic center and housing development named after him, and a state historical marker:
Hawaii – Charlie Hough
Sid Fernandez and Shane Victorino aren’t bad, but the old knuckleballer comes in first. In his 25 years in the majors, Hough won over 200 games and notched over 2000 strikeouts. Similar players include Mickey Lolich, Chuck Finley, and Tim Wakefield. After retirement, he would act as a pitching coach – for both major and minor leagues – for 16 seasons.
Charlie was born in Honolulu, at Tripler Army Medical Center. In other words, he was an Army brat. He would actually grow up in Florida.
Here’s a special callout to Henry “Prince” Oana, the first real native Hawaiian to make a name for himself in organized baseball. Oana got in a handful of games as a batter for the 1934 Phillies, then pitched for the Tigers for a couple of years during the 40s.
Idaho – Harmon Killebrew
It’s a little surprising such a small state (at least population-wise) should have a Hall of Famer. Harmon Killebrew, however, fits the bill to a tee. I’m talking 23 years in the bigs, almost 600 homers, and 1500-plus RBIs. He was also an All Star selection 13 times, a one-time MVP, and a league leader in homers 6 times and RBIs 3.
Killebrew was born in Payette, a small town right on the border with Oregon, not too far northwest of Boise. A super strong and very athletic farm boy, he would sign with the Senators after a tip from the US Senator for Idaho Herman Welker. After retiring to Scottsdale, AZ, Killebrew would return to Payette only after passing away from cancer in 2011.
Illinois – Rickey Henderson
Though Illinois includes its fair share of Hall of Famers, none comes close to Rickey Henderson. This perfect lead-off man is the all-time leader in runs and SBs, has a career OBP over 400, and finished 3 homers short of 400. He’s also garnered one MVP and 10 All Star selections.
Rickey was born in Chicago, in the back seat of an Oldsmobile, on the way to the hospital. He would move away at age 2, growing up in Oakland, CA. And that’s why this cute shot from there will have to do.
Just in case you can't tell, he's the one in the middle
Indiana – Amos Rusie
He only played 10 years, but boy did Amos Rusie dominate. At the turn of the 19th Century, and playing all but a handful of games for the New York Giants, the “Hoosier Thunderbolt” won 30 or more games 4 years in a row, led the league in strikeouts 6 times, and won the pitching triple crown in 1894. And that’s why he leads 7 fellow Hoosier Hall of Famers (including Max Carey, Sam Thompson, and Chuck Klein) in WAR.
Rusie was born in Mooresville, just southwest of Indianapolis (where his family would relocate while Amos was still young). While in the capital, Rusie would drop out of school, do factory work, and play on semi-pro teams before being discovered by the then-National-League Indianapolis Hoosiers.
Iowa – Cap Anson
With apologies to a guy named Bob Feller, Cap Anson is actually one of the greatest ballplayers ever. In his record 27 consecutive years in the bigs, “Pop” garnered 3435 hits, over 2000 RBIs, and a career average of 344, and was just one shy of 2000 runs.
Anson was born in Marshalltown, which his family settled in 1851, and was the first white child born there (he’s sometimes called Marshalltown’s “first son”). Largely led by the Anson family (3 of them played on a team that won the Iowa state championship), the town would become something of a baseball hot bed. In fact, a minor league team that played in the early 20th Century was nicknamed the Ansons.
Dad gets a statue, but not Cap
Kansas – Walter Johnson
I was talking baseball the other day with some of my millennial co-workers, and was quite amazed that these big baseball fans had never heard of Walter Johnson. I mean, he only pitched for 21 years, notching over 400 wins, 3500 strikeouts, a lifetime ERA of 2.17, and 2 MVP awards. Johnson also holds the all-time record for shutouts, won the triple crown 3 times, was a 30-game winner twice, and led his league in strikeouts 12 times (and wins and ERA 6 times). And all for the lowly Washington Senators of the first half of the 20th Century!
Finally, “Barney” was one of the original inductees in the Hall of Fame.
Johnson was born on a farm a few miles outside of tiny Humboldt, a little more than 100 miles southwest of Kansas City. He would move with his family to Orange County CA when he turned 14. Though the “Big Train” would later retire in the DC area (where he is buried), Humboldt would acknowledge his birthplace with a stone and plaque.
Louisiana – Mel Ott
Mel Ott was in 11 consecutive All Star game and was the first National Leaguer to hit over 500 home runs (he led the league in homers 6 times). Ott manned right field for the New York Giants for 22 years in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. He was elected to the Hall in 1951. He also led all Louisianans in runs, RBIs, hits, and homers.
Ott was born in Gretna, a suburb of New Orleans. He would return to the New Orleans area after retirement, dying in nearby Bay St. Louis, MS in an automobile accident at age 49.
Gretna honored its high-stepping native son with a sculpture
Maine – George Gore
You know, it’s just too dahn cold up theyuh to be producin’ many bahlplayuhs. And that’s why you’ve probably never heard of George “Piano Legs” Gore.
Gore manned the outfield for 14 years at the end of the 19th Century, mostly for the Cubs and Giants. He finished with an average over 300, 1300-some runs, and a WAR of 40. Some single-game exploits include 7 steals, 5 outfield assists, and 5 extra base hits. Hard to believe, but – though tied – those have never best bested. Finally, Gore also leads all Mainers in runs, hits, and RBIs.
Gore was born in the wonderfully named Saccarappa, now a suburb of Portland. A poor farm boy, he went to his first tryout in bare feet.
Maryland – Babe Ruth
Now, that was an easy one. Just in case you’ve forgotten though, we’re talking about 714 homers, 2200-plus RBIs, and . He still holds the record for career slugging average and OPS. The “Sultan of Swat” is arguably the best baseball layer ever.
Ruth was born in Baltimore, in a room above his father’s bar. It’s pretty close to Camden Yards, and definitely worth a visit if you’re in town for a ballgame.
The “Bambino” would actually spend most of his youth in Baltimore at a reform school, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. They would spot and nourish his talent, then get him signed to the local Orioles, then a minor league team.
Massachusetts – Connie Mack
I’m going to deviate a little here and combine some decent player stats with an incredible managerial record. Not much with the bat, Connie Mack was an excellent catcher. In his 10 years in the majors, he led his league numerous times in stats like putouts, assists, fielding, caught stealing, and double plays.
Needless to say, it was his manager record that got him to Cooperstown. He’s the all-time leader in wins by not quite 1,000. Managing for a record 50 years undoubtedly helped there. He’s also got 9 pennants and 5 World Series titles. He was inducted into the Hall in 1937, right after the inaugural 5, while he was still managing.
Mack was born in East Brookfield, a tiny town in the middle of the state, and not too far west of Worcester
Another potential museum
Michigan – Charlie Gehringer
I’m a little surprised Charlie Gehringer had the best WAR of all Michigan’s native sons. Truth be told, though, the man was so unassuming, that he could be easily overshadowed. That said, the Hall of Famer certainly was a real rock (and became known as the “Mechanical Man” for his consistency). A 6-time All Star, he also won the MVP award in 1937. It was at second, though, where he really shone. There, he led the league in putouts (3 times), double plays (4), assists (7) and fielding percentage (7 as well). He leads all Michiganders in runs, hits, and RBIs.
Gehringer was born on a farm near the tiny town of Fowlerville, about halfway between Detroit and Lansing. Except for for some minor league seasoning, Gehringer would never leave the Wolverine State.
Interestingly, fellow Michigan native and Hall of Famer John Schmoltz is actually a cousin of Gehringer’s.
Birthplace and boyhood home
Minnesota – Paul Molitor
Boy, this was a hard one. I thought about calling it a tie between Molitor and Dave Winfield, but Molitor does happen to a slightly better WAR. He also led the league in hits 3 times, runs 3 times, and was a 7-time All Star. He also leads all Minnesotans in runs, hots, and stolen bases.
Molitor was born in St. Paul, and attended high school there and then the University of Minnesota. Playing most of his career with Milwaukee, he would head north to play his last few years and then manage.
That M is not for Milwaukee
Mississippi – Dave Parker
Hard to believe, but Mississippi does not have a Hall of Famer. Now, Dave Parker is not the highest in WAR, but those offensive numbers of his are just too glossy. In fact, he leads all Mississippians in RBIs, runs, and hits. He’s also got an MVP award, 3 Golden Gloves, and 7 All Star selections. Add to that two batting titles, and I think we’re good.
The “Cobra” was born in Grenada, in the north central part of the state, and pretty far from anything. Parker grew up, though, in Cincinnati, where his family lived close enough to old Crosley Field that he played pickup games in the stadium’s parking lots.
Sadly, Grenada makes no mention of Parker, even on their Wikipedia page
Missouri – Carl Hubbell
This one was neck-and-neck between Hubbell and 19th-Century hurler Pud Galvin. Hubbell comes ahead by leading his league in wins 3 times, ERA 3, and WHIP 6. The “Meal Ticket” was also a 2-time MVP and 9-time All Star. Over his career, he finished with 253 wins and an ERA under 3.00, at 2.98. Finally, he once set the record by winning 24 straight.
“King Carl” was born in Carthage, in the Ozarks, but would grow up in Meeker OK. And it’s Meeker you’ll have to go to if you want to see the Carl Hubbell Museum