There isn’t exactly a ton of major league talent that has come from the state of Minnesota (170 players in total). But, some of the guys that have come from the North Star State have had very respectable careers, and made a decent name for themselves in the majors. Names like Aaron Sele, Kent Hrbek, Terry Steinbach, and Jerry Koosman.
There are actually some surprisingly big names on the list from Minnesota, as well. Roger Maris is from Hibbing, Jack Morris is from St. Paul, and Chief Bender (the HOF pitcher credited with inventing the slider) is from Crow Wing County. Then, of course, there’s hometown hero Joe Mauer, who was born and raised in St. Paul, and drafted #1 overall by the Twins in 2001. Mauer is a very interesting case, when it comes to his Hall-of-Fame potential. He was dominant for about 8 years. Was it long enough? That remains to be seen.
The choice for the best player from Minnesota, though, came down to two guys who played in essentially the same era of the game (’70’s to ’90’s), both are from St. Paul, both attended the University of Minnesota, both were drafted in the first round out of college (both in the top 4 overall picks!), both are in the 3,000-hit club, both played more than 20 years in the majors, both were in several All-Star games, and … here’s a weird one … both won their only World Series ring late in their careers playing for the Toronto Blue Jays (but, in different seasons!). But, for all their similarities, they were very different types of players – which has turned out to make this the most difficult choice since I started writing these posts.
In fact … I can’t do it. I can’t choose between the two. So, I’m not going to.
Dave Winfield & Paul Molitor – they debuted in the majors about 5 years apart. Molitor played in 7 All-Star games, and Winfield in 12. Winfield was obviously the better power-hitter, as he hit 465 HR’s, compared to Molitor’s 234. But, Molitor had more hits in fewer at-bats, and stole more than twice as many bases (504-223). While Winfield won 7 Gold Gloves in right field, Molitor technically has the higher career WAR (by more than 10 points, in spite of playing in nearly 300 fewer games). This was an impossible choice, so I just decided there was no sense in splitting hairs.
208 major league players have come from Mississippi, and there are some All-Star level players in the game today from this state – Brian Dozier, Corey Dickerson, Mitch Moreland, and Brandon Woodruff (though, each of these have only appeared in 1 ASG each). But, that’s about as good as it gets for the Magnolia State. No Hall of Fame players, and only 13 have appeared in multiple All-Star games.
However, there are some names you’ll recognize from Mississippi – Frank White and George Scott are both from Greenville, Ellis Burks is from Vicksburg, Roy Oswalt is from Kosciusko, and Chet Lemon is from Jackson. But, this is one of those times when I can’t quite figure out how WAR is calculated. Because, bWAR (from Baseball Reference) ranks Chet Lemon as the best player from Mississippi. But, none of his numbers stack up against…
Dave Parker – this Grenada native appeared in 7 All-Star games, more than anyone else from the state. He has more hits, doubles, and RBI than anyone else. And, he’s 2nd in HR and OPS (behind the thin-air-aided Ellis Burks in both). He won 2 batting titles, 3 Gold Gloves, and was the MVP in ’78. He was also an integral part of two World Series champions, a decade apart (Pittsburgh in ’79 and Oakland in ’89).
More than 600 players have come from Missouri, and many of them have plaques in Cooperstown. In fact, beyond the players, there are 3 managers and 1 pioneer of the game that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame – Casey Stengel, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams, and Clark Griffith. Those are some big-time names in the history of the game.
But, since we are focused on players in these posts, let’s recognize a few of them. Max Scherzer already has the 6th highest WAR among pitchers from Missouri, so who knows where he might end up. Mark Buerhle had a fine career. David Cone was an All-Star and Cy Young winner. Ken Boyer went to multiple All-Star games and won an MVP in his oft-overlooked career.
Many of the members of the Hall of Fame from the Show Me State are from the dead-ball era, which is an incredibly difficult era to compare to modern times. So, I’ll give honorable mention here to Carl Hubbell, the pitcher for the New York Giants from 1928-1943. In an era when players had most certainly begun to hit the ball far, Hubbell had a career ERA of 2.98. He went to 9 All-Star games, and won 2 MVP awards. But, I think the title of “greatest” from Missouri has to go to one of the biggest characters the game has ever seen…
Yogi Berra – the catcher for 10 World Series champions, and appeared in 4 more. A 3-time MVP, and 18-time All-Star, Berra is one of the best ever. He trails only Ryan Howard in OPS & HR from the state of Missouri. He’s also 2nd in RBI and 5th in the state in hits, behind only dead-ball era players who saw pretty much just fastballs.
This may be the easiest choice I’ll have to make on these posts. Only 24 players have ever played in the majors that have hailed from the Treasure State. And, to be completely honest, I hadn’t ever heard of any of them. The last time a player from Montana played in the majors was in May of this year, when a guy named Caleb Frare pitched to one batter for the White Sox – walking him on 4 pitches. Only one player from the state ever appeared in an All-Star game, and that also happens to be the only player with a career WAR in double-digits.
Dave McNally – this Billings native appeared in 3 All-Star games, won 2 World Series with the Orioles (’66 & ’70), and is a part of the answer to the question – “which teams have had four 20-game winners in a season?” (By the way, it’s the 1920 White Sox, and the 1971 Orioles – McNally, Palmer, Cueller, and Dobson)