After a lengthy hiatus, the pandemic (and resulting increase in time spent at home) has given me time to work on finishing this series. So, here we go…
For a relatively small state, as it pertains to land mass, the state of Ohio has produced quite a few major league players – 1,039 to date, which is 5th most. I guess that makes a little more sense when you consider that, while 34th in land area, Ohio ranks 7th in the nation in population.
Among those 1,000+ major leaguers, the Buckeye State has seen 15 of them inducted into the Hall of Fame. Included on that list are 3 who were inducted for their managerial or front office skills. Of those three, the most well known is Branch Rickey, whose innovations have had long-lasting impacts on the game. It was Branch who developed the minor league farm system for the Cardinals and Dodgers, which is now used by every team in the league. And, of course, everyone knows of how he brought the first African-American player into the league when Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers.
Some impressive on-field talent, too, was born in Ohio. George Sisler, Rollie Fingers, Barry Larkin, and Phil Niekro were all born there. And, even though most everyone only remembers him coming out of Texas, Roger Clemens was actually born in Dayton, OH. Roger won’t be considered for this, because his totals are highly questionable, and there are some absolute greats that deserve our attention.
It was a really hard decision to choose the best here, because the two at the top are from completely different eras, and played completely different positions. But, with much angst, I decided to make the runner-up … Cy Young. I just think the game is so much harder today than it was in the dead-ball era that even Young’s amazing stats are probably a little bloated because of the lack of competition. And, while his 511 wins will never be matched, neither will his 315 losses (all-time record) or 815 career starts (also the record). Cy Young was an incredible pitcher in his era. But, I have to give the best Ohioan award to…
Mike Schmidt. The man is arguably the greatest third baseman of all time. 3 MVP’s, 10 Gold Gloves, 548 HR’s, and a career .908 OPS. His combination of great offense and defense at the hot corner is unmatched. He and Eddie Matthews are right at the top, offensively, among third baseman, with Schmidt’s career OPS over 20 points higher. And, Schmidt is one of the 5 or 6 best defensive third basemen to ever play the game (behind Robinson, Beltre – yeah that’s right – Nettles, and maybe Scott Rolen).
The Sooner State has produced 266 major league players, some of which have been of note in recent years – Matt Kemp, Dallas Keuchel, J.T. Realmuto, etc. One of the most famous World Series home runs was hit by Oklahoma City native, Joe Carter. When it comes to all-time greatness, though, the state has produced just six Hall of Famers.
One is manager Bobby Cox, whose accomplishments with the ‘90’s Braves teams have been well documented. And, while you will recognize names like Johnny Bench and Willie Stargell, choosing the greatest from this state was actually rather easy.
Three MVP’s, seven World Series rings, a Triple Crown, 20 All-Star games, and 536 career home runs. And he probably would have hit 600 if his body hadn’t broken down prematurely due to the abuse it took. Mickey Mantle is the greatest switch-hitter to ever play the game. And, many who saw him play will still say he’s the best player ever (though, I think a man named Trout is on his way to claiming that title).
With only 135 players from the Beaver State to even make it to the majors, this wasn’t a terribly difficult choice. No players have made it into the Hall of Fame, and only 6 have appeared in multiple All-Star games. There are some names you may know – Harold Reynolds, Richie Sexson, Johnny Pesky, and Dave Kingman (the poster child for power hitters who do basically nothing else). The best pitcher from the state is Mickey Lolich, who won over 200 games in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. He was also the MVP of the 1968 World Series.
But, the best player from Oregon is Portland native, Dale Murphy. Some would argue that Murphy belongs in the Hall of Fame – and, based on how watered down the HOF standards are getting (Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Craig Biggio, Harold Baines, etc. etc.), I guess an argument could be made for Murphy. Seven ASG appearances, 2 MVP’s, and 5 Gold Gloves while playing for some lackluster Braves teams is pretty impressive.
With more than 1,400 major leaguers, and 19 Hall of Famers, trying to choose the best from Pennsylvania was not easy. In addition to some great players, some of the best managers in history have also hailed from the Keystone State – like Joe McCarthy and Tommy Lasorda. More recent names include Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon.
The problem with choosing the best from Pennsylvania is that some of the absolute best of the best ever were born here. Some names that would have likely been the best from many other states include Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Christy Mathewson (part of the original HOF class).
Runner up for this state goes to Stan “The Man” Musial. A career .331 average led to 7 batting titles and 3,630 hits (4th all time). He also hit 475 HR, won three MVP’s, and played in an incredible 24 All-Star games (though, this number is boosted by the fact that this includes four years in which they played two All-Star games). Musial was truly a prolific hitter. But, I have to give the edge to a player that was more than just a great batter.
The best ever from Pennsylvania was another member of the inaugural Cooperstown class – Honus Wagner. With a rare combination of speed and power, this Chartiers Township native was one of the first true 5-tool players. He could change the entire game with a bat in his hands (8 batting titles, 3,420 hits), running the base paths (723 stolen bases), or while playing the premium position of shortstop. Though, he actually played every position on the field, other than catcher. Plus, he has the most iconic baseball card in history. But, that’s really a topic for a different kind of post.