The Best Players from Each State (Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Pennsylvania)

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…

Ohio

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…

8726532586_f368143ff2_oMike 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).

Oklahoma

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.

5281039946_9fe5ac9b94_oThree 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).

Oregon

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. 4080234231_2b7d1dc968_oSome 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.

Pennsylvania

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. 434431277_6f580b6b86_oWith 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.

 

The Best Players From Each State (New Mexico, New York, North Carolina & North Dakota)

New Mexico

The Land of Enchantment has only produced 30 major league baseball players, only five of whom have appeared in an All-Star game, and only one of whom is in the Hall of Fame.  So sparse are the players from New Mexico, that the best hitter and best pitcher may eventually be from the current generation.  The argument could be made that the best pitcher from New Mexico already is Ken Giles.  Now that he seems to have found his mojo again in Toronto, he will only need another season or so to have more saves and strikeouts than any other pitcher from the state.  And, the career 2.71 ERA isn’t too bad either.

One day, we may also be talking about the best hitter from New Mexico being Alex Bregman.  With a couple All-Star games already under his belt, and looking like a consistent 30 HR, 100 RBI kind of player, the third baseman from Albuquerque is well on his way to an excellent career.  But, there’s one name already established in Cooperstown as an all-time great…

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Ralph Kiner – the 6-time All-Star was one of the most feared hitters of his generation.  He was the first player in baseball history to lead the league in HR for seven consecutive years (’46-’52 – averaging 42 HR per season).  It’s too bad he played on so many losing teams (only 2 winning records his whole career), because he definitely deserved more serious consideration for the MVP on multiple occasions. His career was also cut short because of back problems, which is why Bregman may very well surpass him in the years to come.

New York

What’s interesting to me about the players originally from New York is that, while there are some historically great players to come from The Empire State … recent generations are a bit lackluster.  Among current players, there are some that may have decent careers (Patrick Corbin, Nick Markakis, etc.), but none appear destined for greatness.  And, when you start scrolling back through time, it takes a while before you see really great players …

Alex Rodriguez was certainly spectacular, though it’s tough to know exactly how much his numbers are boosted by PED’s.  Going further back, you’ll find Craig Biggio, who retired 12 years ago (and doesn’t really belong in the HOF); Edgar Martinez, who retired 15 years ago (ditto on the HOF); and then you’ve got to really start going back to names like Bobby Bonilla, Orel Hershiser, and Lou Whitaker to even find guys that were consistent All-Star caliber players.  Obviously, the heyday for New York baseball players has passed.

That being said, some of the absolute best of the best have come from New York:  Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Hank Greenberg, Carl Yastrzemski, Warren Spahn, and the often underrated Eddie Collins.  But, fittingly, it’s the Bronx native that takes the prize here…

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Lou Gehrig – where do we begin?  Triple Crown in ’34; two MVP’s and two runner-ups; 6-time World Series champion.  How about this – his illness-shortened career amounted to essentially 14 seasons (only 31 games outside those years).  His average full season looked like this:  .340/.448/.634/1.082, 35 HR, 142 RBI, 193 hits, 38 2B, 12 3B, and … 56 K’s.

North Carolina

There are some pretty big names playing in the big leagues today that are from the Tar Heel State:  Ryan Zimmerman, Kyle Seager, Corey Seager, Chris Archer, and Madison Bumgarner.  That’s pretty good representation for a state that doesn’t have a history of producing a ton of great players.

There are over 400 players that have come from North Carolina (12th all-time), and 6 of them are in the Hall of Fame.  But, when you read through the list of players historically that have come from NC, it doesn’t exactly impress you.  For instance:  Corey Seager’s five years in the league already put him in the top 9% of all players from the state, based on career WAR.

Runner-up goes to Hall-of-Famer Luke Appling.  In 20 seasons with the White Sox, he had over 2,700 hits, won two batting titles, and was a 7-time All-Star.  He had more extra-base hits (587) in his career than strikeouts (528).  But, the obvious choice for the greatest is…

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Gaylord Perry – the Williamston native won over 300 games in his 22 years.  He also won 2 Cy Youngs (the first ever to win in both leagues), struck out more than 3,500 batters, and was on 5 All-Star teams.  He played for 8 different teams, but never seemed to play for many good ones.  His stellar career was limited to just one postseason appearance with the Giants in the NLCS in ’71.

North Dakota

Only 17 players have made it to the majors from the Peace Garden State (…the what???).  There is one playing today – Matt Strahm, a middle reliever for the Padres.  A couple have had decent careers.  Rick Helling pitched for 12 seasons, and won 20 games in 1998 (leading the league).  Travis Hafner played 12 years mostly with the Indians.  He led the league in OPS in ’06 with a 1.097 OPS, to go along with 42 HR’s and 117 RBI.

But, there’s only one player from North Dakota that has ever appeared in an All-Star game…

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Darin Erstad – one of the most important pieces of the 2002 World Series champion Angels, Erstad won one of his 3 Gold Gloves in center field that year.  He was a 2-time All-Star, and led the league in hits in 2000, with 240!  That’s a total only achieved by 11 other players in the history of the game.

The Best Players From Each State (Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, & New Jersey)

Nebraska

You might not find it surprising to learn that Nebraska has only produced 113 major league players.  But, what you might find shocking is just how many of them are in the Hall of Fame – six players from the Cornhusker State have plaques in Cooperstown.  Now, that might not sound like a lot, but it’s the highest percentage of any state.  By comparison, California has produced over 2300 major league players.  If the same percentage of players from California were in the HOF as Nebraskans, they’d have 122 … instead of 24.

The best player playing today from Nebraska is Alex Gordon, of the Kansas City Royals.  The Lincoln native has been in 3 All-Star Games, and was instrumental in their World Series win in 2015.  The best player I’ve ever seen from Nebraska has to be Wade Boggs.  The Omaha native was a 5-time batting champion, 12-time All-Star, and is a member of the exclusive 3,000-hit club.

Runner-up to the best ever, though, (and it was a tough choice) is Bob Gibson.  Gibson was absolutely dominant, winning 2 Cy Youngs, an MVP, striking out over 3,000, and winning 2 World Series MVP’s.  He was unquestionably the most feared pitcher of his era, and is the primary pitcher responsible for the lowering of the mound after the 1968 season, when his ERA was 1.12!  But, as impressive as that is, I have to give the nod to…

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Pete Alexander – this Elba native won the pitching triple crown (wins, ERA, & strikeouts) an impressive 4 times!  He is 3rd all-time in career wins with 373, and the only pitchers with more spent their entire careers pitching in the dead-ball era.  He used a variety of breaking pitches, multiple speeds, and drove batters crazy by forcing them to swing and make weak contact on balls barely in the strike zone.  Many considered him the most accurate pitcher the game had ever seen when he retired.

Nevada

The state of Nevada has only produced 47 major leaguers, and no Hall of Famers … yet. There’s really only one name of note from years past – Barry Zito, who was a 3-time All-Star, Cy Young winner in 2002, and World Series champion in 2012. But, the intriguing names to come out of the Silver State are all currently playing in the majors.

Brandon Kintzler is an All-Star pitcher who has had a decent career. Tommy Pham appears to be a bit of a late bloomer that is playing well in Tampa Bay. And, Joey Gallo made his first of what looks to be multiple All-Star appearances this year. But, for the second time in as many posts, I’m going to have to go with a tie at the top.

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Kris Bryant & Bryce Harper – Until you look at the numbers, you might not realize how similar these two are. Bryant is 3 seasons behind Harper in terms of major league experience. Which means Harper has the edge in the “counting” categories (total HR, RBI, etc.). But, they have nearly the exact same per-year HR, RBI, and hit outputs. And, believe it or not, Bryant actually has the slightly higher career SLG and OPS. It’s going to be pretty fun to watch these two friends and travel-ball teammates compete for the rest of their careers.

New Hampshire

The small New England state has only produced 54 major league players, and no active players are on that list. Even the most recent players from the Granite State didn’t have very memorable careers.

The vast majority of players with decent careers from New Hampshire are pitchers. Brian Wilson was a 3-time All-Star, and an important part of the Giants’ World Series championship in 2010, when he led the league in saves. Bob Tewksbury pitched for 13 years, and had an All-Star appearance. Stan Williams pitched for 14 years, was an All-Star in 1960, and won the World Series with the Dodgers in ’59. Mike Flanagan was an All-Star in 1978, won the Cy Young in ’79, and the World Series in ’83 – all with the Orioles. But, the pitcher that is also the best player from New Hampshire is…

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks

Chris Carpenter – the Exeter native has the best career win pct. of any New Hampshire pitcher (.605), and more strikeouts (1697). He is one of only three New Hampshire natives to appear in as many as three All-Star games, he was a 2-time World Series champ, and won the Cy Young in 2005.

New Jersey

Considering the population of the state (11th in the US), I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that New Jersey has produced quite a few major league players (437 – 10th most). I was a little surprised, however, by the lack of overall quality. Only 3 Hall of Famers (so far), and once you get past some of the biggest names, there really aren’t a lot of names you would recognize.

Current players include the likes of Jason Heyward, Todd Frazier, and Charlie Morton – all All-Stars, but not exactly “greats” of their generation. The same could be said for many of the names of previous generations of players from the Garden State. Some of the best players they have to offer include Andy Messersmith, Al Leiter, and Don Newcombe. Granted, Newcombe was very good, but his career was very short.

But, while the depth certainly isn’t there, when you consider the best New Jersey has to offer, there are some excellent players. Joe Medwick was a 10-time All-Star, MVP, and Triple Crown winner with the Cardinals and Dodgers. Goose Goslin was one of the best position players the Washington Senators ever had – helping them win their only World Series title in 1924. And, then, there’s the Captain. Derek Jeter, a Pequannock native, was a 5-time World Series champion, 14-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, and World Series MVP. And, his 3,465 career hits rank him 6th all-time. But, as great as Jeter was, a boy who idolized Jeter as a kid is the best ever from New Jersey.

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Mike Trout – yes, he has only played 9 seasons. But, yes, he is already better than anyone else from the state. He’s the youngest player ever to reach 200 HR and 200 stolen bases. By the end of his age 27 season (this year), he will have more hits than Yasztrzemski did at the same point in his career, more HR than Mays did, more RBI than Ruth, more stolen bases than Molitor, and more walks than Rickey Henderson. 2 MVP’s already (and a 3rd one all but guaranteed this year), the only full season Trout didn’t finish 1st or 2nd in the voting was 2017, when he only played 114 games, due to injury, and he still led the league in OBP, SLG, and OPS, finishing 4th in MVP voting. There is no room for argument when it comes to who the greatest player is from New Jersey, because it’s clearly the greatest player of this generation.

The Best Players From Each State (Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, & Montana)

Minnesota

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.

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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.

Mississippi

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…

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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).

Missouri

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…

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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.

Montana

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.

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Dave McNallythis 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)

The Best Players from Each State (Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan)

Maine

Saying that Maine hasn’t produced much baseball talent is quite the understatement.  Of the 78 players to come from The Pine Tree State, only two have a career WAR above 25.  By comparison, Jake Arrieta, who is in his 10th season, has won a Cy Young, but only has one All-Star appearance … currently has a WAR of 25.8.  And, to make it even less impressive, the two guys with the highest WAR played in the deadball era.

The lone All-Star from Maine is a pitcher named Bob Stanley.  Bob had an ok career with the Red Sox, primarily in the ’80’s.  He was a starter when he first broke into the league, but spent most of his career coming out of the bullpen.  He did save 33 games in ’83 (one of his All-Star seasons), and finished 7th in Cy Young voting in ’82.

But, the best player from Maine is (and it looks like it’s a title he’ll hold for a while since no one in the league currently is from Maine) …

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George Gore – he has more runs, hits, and RBI than anyone from the state. He played from 1879-1892, as the centerfielder primarily for the National League team located in Chicago – which is today the Cubs, but was then called the White Stockings – and the New York Giants.  He won a batting title in 1880, hitting .360 with an .862 OPS.

Maryland

While the state of Maryland hasn’t produced a large number of major leaguers (312 – 17th in the US), only 8 states have produced more Hall of Famers.  Well, that is, if you’re willing to count the most undeserving HOF election in history, which occurred a few months ago when a bunch of Harold Baines‘ friends got together and decided to put him in.  You know, in spite of the fact that he only appeared in 6 All-Star games spread across 22 seasons, only led the league in anything once (SLG in ’84), and never finished higher than 9th in MVP voting (only receiving votes of any kind in 4 seasons).

But, I digress.  The Old Line State (whatever that means), has produced some very talented players.  Even several non-HOF worthy players (like Baines) had quality careers. Men like Mark Teixeira, Brady Anderson, Brian Jordan, and Charlie Keller.  But, the Hall of Famers from Maryland (with one glaring exception), are some big-time names.

Home Run Baker (who actually only hit 96 HR’s), was legendary for his power, and led the Philadelphia A’s to 3 World Series championships.  Vic Willis won 249 games in spite of only pitching for 13 seasons (that’s an average of 19 per year!). Al Kaline was an 18-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, and had over 3,000 hits.  Cal Ripken, Jr. won Rookie of the Year in ’82, and MVP in ’83, on his way to 3,184 hits, and of course 2,632 consecutive games. Jimmie Foxx had 534 HR’s, won 3 MVP’s, and ranks 5th all-time with a career 1.038 OPS.  And, Lefty Grove won 300 games, won an MVP, and led the league in ERA nine times.  But, the best player from Maryland was head and shoulders above the rest…

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Babe Ruth not sure what I could say that you haven’t already heard about this Baltimore native.  He still owns the career SLG (.690!) and OPS (1.164) records.  He also had a career .342 batting average, was a 20-game winner twice as a pitcher, and led the league in ERA in 1916.

Massachusetts

Can you believe this little New England state has produced the 7th most major leaguers in America (664)?  And, the 6th most Hall of Famers (14 – 11 players, 3 managers)?  That being said, however, 8 of those Hall of Fame players played most or all of their careers during the deadball era, around the turn of the 20th century.  And, when it comes to more modern players, the better ones from The Bay State are the likes of Mark Belanger, Greg Gagne, and Richie Hebner.  Not exactly household names even among avid baseball fans.

But, there are two names that rose to the top as I was looking for the best of the best from this state.  And, runner-up goes to Jeff Bagwell.  In spite of several injuries, and a career cut to just 15 seasons, he averaged 30 HR and 102 RBI for his career.  He finished with a .948 OPS, and won ROY and MVP awards.

The best from the state of Massachusetts, however, is a pitcher…

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Tom Glavine – 305 career wins, 2 Cy Young awards, 10-time All-Star, and World Series MVP in ’95.  Born in Concord, Glavine is only the 5th left-handed pitcher to win 300 games in his career.

Michigan

The Great Lakes State has produced some names you know:  Frank Tanana, Jim Kaat, Milt Pappas, Bob Welch, Kirk Gibson.  Respectable names … but, not exactly great names. In fact, despite the production of 434 players from Michigan, only 26 appeared in more than one All-Star Game, and only 4 have plaques in Cooperstown.

Of those 4, two were great hitters. Kiki Cuyler had a career .322 batting average in the 15 full seasons he played.  He also led the league in stolen bases 4 times, helping his team to the World Series 3 times (’25, ’29, and ’32).  Charlie Gehringer has a career .320 average, and had over 200 hits in 7 different seasons.  He won the batting title in ’37, as well as the MVP (though, it’s a bit of a strange win, since he wasn’t even the best player on his own team – Greenberg clearly was).

But, the best to come from Michigan are two pitchers.  Hal Newhouser had an outstanding career with his hometown Tigers that was cut short by arm injury – winning just 18 games after his 30th birthday.  But, he was a force to be reckoned with prior to that – winning back-to-back MVP’s, leading the league in wins 4 times, and ERA twice.

Another injury-plagued pitcher is, in my opinion, the best to come from the state…

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John Smoltz – despite multiple injuries, surgeries, and numerous games missed due to being on the disabled list, this Detroit native won over 200 games, saved over 150, struck out more than 3,000 batters, and owns the NL record for most saves in a season (55).  He was an 8-time All-Star, and won the Cy Young in ’96.

The Best Players from Each State (Kansas, Kentucky, & Louisiana)

As we are going in alphabetical order, it just so happens that we have come upon two states that are heavily invested … in college basketball.  Not exactly baseball-rich states.  And, to be totally honest, it shows.

Kansas

Only two professional players from The Sunflower State have appeared in as many as three All-Star Games:  Darren Daulton and Bill Russell (no, not that Bill Russell).  Outside of these two, there are really only three players of note.

Johnny Damon is actually 2nd in career WAR (according to Baseball Reference).  He certainly deserves some credit for being an integral part of two World Series championship teams.  He was a 2-time All-Star, and a clubhouse leader.  The other name of note is the only other Hall-of-Famer, aside from the one chosen as the best.  His name was Joe Tinker.  He played shortstop for the Chicago Cubs during the early days of the 20th century.  He was a part of the fabled Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combo.

But, far and away, the best from the state of Kansas is…

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Walter Johnson – some regard this Humboldt native as the greatest pitcher to ever play the game.  He holds the career record for shutouts with 110, he’s second on the all-time wins list with 417, is 12th in career ERA (2.17), and he won two MVP awards, while playing for a lot of less-than-exciting Washington Senators teams.

Kentucky

The state of Kentucky has produced marginally better talent at the major league level when it comes to total volume.  Paul Derringer appeared in 6 All-Star Games; Travis Fryman appeared in five.  There’s also the likes of Bobby Veach and Carl Mays who played before there was an All-Star game, and had reasonably respectable careers.

But, Kentucky can’t lay claim to one of the game’s elites, the way Kansas can.  There are three Hall-of-Famers from the state, though.  Earle Combs was the lead-off hitter and centerfielder for the “Murderers Row” Yankees.  Jim Bunning retired with the 2nd most career strikeouts (2nd only to Walter Johnson), and is one of only two pitchers to win 100 games and strike out over 1,000 in both leagues – leading to 9 All-Star game appearances.

But, the best player from The Bluegrass State can do one better than that…

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Pee Wee Reese – born and raised in Louisville, Reese was a shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He appeared in 10 All-Star games, and likely would have appeared in more, had he not lost 3 prime years to WWII.  While he never won it, Reese finished in the top 10 in MVP voting an impressive eight times.

Louisiana

In spite of the fact that Louisiana sits right in between Kansas and Kentucky, when it comes to the quantity of major league players produced, the quality of players to come from Louisiana far outshines either of the two basketball states.  Before we even get to the Hall of Fame caliber players, we have names on the list like Andy Pettitte, Will Clark, Ron Guidry, Rusty Staub, and Vida Blue.

The Pelican State has also produced 5 Hall of Fame players.  Lee Smith, who was the career saves leader when he retired.  Bill Dickey was an 11-time All-Star as a catcher for the Yankees team that won 7 rings with him behind the plate.  Ted Lyons pitched for 21 seasons with the White Sox and won 260 games.  There’s also Willard Brown, who only played one season with the St. Louis Browns in 1947.  But, he was a force as the centerfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.  He was also the first African American to hit a HR in the AL.

But, despite all of these great players, when it came down to the absolute best from Louisiana, the choice was clear.

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Mel Ott – the Gretna native was a power-hitting force for the New York Giants in the ’30’s and ’40’s.  Amassing 511 career HR, Ott led the league in HR six times, was a 12-time All-Star, and helped lead the Giants to 3 NL pennants, and one World Series Championship in 1933.

The Best Players From Each State (Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, & Iowa)

Idaho

The state of Idaho has only produced 30 major league players – tied for 5th fewest in the nation. But, compared to other states with similar representation in the majors, The Gem State has had significantly better representation in the All-Star Game.

Jason Schmidt pitched most of his career for the Giants and Pirates. He appeared in three All-Star games, and had two seasons in which he finished in the top 4 in Cy Young voting (including a runner-up finish in 2003). Larry Jackson pitched primarily for the Cardinals and Cubs in the ’50’s and ’60’s. He appeared in 5 All-Star games, and finished runner-up for the Cy Young in ’64.

But, the obvious choice here is the man whose All-Star appearances represent more than half the total for the entire state…

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Harmon Killebrew – the Payette, Idaho native appeared in 13 All-Star games, won an MVP in ’69, and had five more top-5 finishes in MVP voting. Killebrew led the league in HR’s six times, leading to a career total of 573.

Illinois

If I were to suggest you rank the states based on the total number of major leaguers they have produced, how high would you expect the state of Illinois to rank? I don’t know about you, but it surprised me that The Prairie State has produced the 4th most major leaguers in the country, with 1,060.

With all that production, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the state has produced some very good players. Before we even get to the Hall of Famers, there are names like Bret Saberhagen, Fred Lynn, Curtis Granderson, Ben Zobrist, and Gary Gaetti.

Now take a look at some of the all-time greats from Illinois… Red Schoendienst, Kirby Puckett (one of my all time favorites), Lou Boudreau, Jim Thome, Robin Yount, and Robin Roberts. But, once again, even with all of these excellent players, the choice for the greatest from the state was actually quite easy.

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Rickey Henderson – how great of a base stealer was Rickey? He led the league with 66 stolen bases in 1998 … at the age of 39! That was just one of 12 seasons in which he led the league. He’s also the all-time leader in career runs scored, was a 10-time All-Star, and won an MVP in 1990.

Indiana

While the state of Indiana has produced 8 Hall of Famers … every one of them at least started – if not finished – their career prior to WWII. Lots of dead-ball era guys from Indiana – Max Carey, Sam Thompson, Sam Rice, Ed Roush, and Amos Rusie.

But, there are some other very recognizable names from the “Crossroads of America.” Don Mattingly, Kenny Lofton, Scott Rolen, Gil Hodges, and Tommy John are among the names of players that were very good – just not quite Hall of Fame material. And, it was tough not to consider picking either Lofton or Rolen, since their career WAR is at the top of the list even ahead of all the HOFers. But, ultimately, I went with…

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Mordecai Brown“Three-Finger” Brown was the ace of a staff that led the Cubs to 4 of 5 World Series from 1906-1910. Not only did this Nyesville native win nearly 65% of his decisions, he led the league in saves 4 times – actually led the league in both saves and shutouts in 1910! Ty Cobb called Brown’s curveball “the most devastating pitch I ever faced.”

Iowa

Outside of the players who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, the state of Iowa doesn’t really have much to brag about. I mean, rounding out the top-10 players from Iowa are names like Mike Boddicker, Hal Trosky, and Kevin Tapani. And, then, of the six Hall-of-Famers to come from the Hawkeye State, five of them at least began their careers during the dead ball era.

That being said, I think honorable mention here goes to Cap Anson. The man played 27 years of professional baseball. He was a part of the very beginning of the National League in 1876, and was easily the best hitter of his era (he hit over .300 for 15 straight seasons). When he retired, he owned the game’s record for hits (3,081 – the first to ever cross the 3,000 hit threshold), doubles, runs, games, and at-bats.

But, the best player from the state of Iowa, in my opinion, is the one Hall of Famer that did not play during the dead ball era.

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Bob FellerFeller lost nearly 4 full seasons to military service during WWII, and they were right in the prime of his career. He led the league in strikeouts for 4 consecutive years, leading up to his service time, and then led the league in strikeouts again for the next 3 full seasons he played after returning. Had they had the award, he undoubtedly would have also won 3 consecutive Cy Youngs leading up to his time in the military.