Minnesota has had its share of baseball glory. The Twins have put the Land of 10,000 Lakes on the baseball map with players like Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and Joe Mauer. The fear of contraction is gone. On the field the state of Minnesota has been well represented. The greatest pitcher born in Minnesota is Jerry Koosman. His 56.96 career WAR ranks 24th highest among state and territory leaders. Paul Molitor is the greatest Minnesota born position player. His 75.71 career WAR ranks 23rd highest. Minnesota’s combined 132.67 WAR ranks 24th highest among all states and territories.
Jerry Koosman would have been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam if not for a military dentist transferring him to Texas and the son of a Mets usher pointing a scout in the right direction. The Lefty from Appleton pitched 19 seasons in the Majors with four teams: New York Mets (1967-1978), Minnesota Twins (1979-1981), Chicago White Sox (1981-1983), and Philadelphia Phillies (1984-1985). Koosman pitched in 612 career Games, made 527 Starts, Finished 43 Games, threw 140 Complete Games, including 33 Shutouts, collected 17 Saves, Pitched 3,839.1 Innings, allowed 3,635 Hits, 1,608 Runs, 1,433 Earned Runs, 290 Home Runs, 1,198 Walks, 2,556 Strikeouts, posted a 222-209 record, 3.36 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, and 110 ERA+. He was a two time All Star. Koosman is the last pitcher to win 20 Games one season and then lose 20 the next. In 1991 he failed to receive 5% of the vote for the Hall of Fame and was removed from the ballot.
Koosman helped build the Mets into a winner. He pitched behind Tom Seaver and helped lead the Amazin’s to the World Series in 1969 and 1973. In the Fall Classics, Koosman made 4 Starts, threw 1 Complete Game, Pitched 26.1 Innings, allowed 16 Hits, 7 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 11 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 2.39 ERA, and 1.025 WHIP. He was on the mound when the Miracle Mets of 1969 brought a World Series title to Queens.
The best season of Koosman’s career was the year of the pitcher. In 1968 he pitched in 35 Games for the Mets, made 34 Starts, threw 17 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, Pitched 263.2 Innings, allowed 221 Hits, 72 Runs, 61 Earned Runs, 16 Home Runs, 69 Walks, 178 Strikeouts, posted a 19-12 record, 2.08 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, and 145 ERA+. Koosman’s 7 Shutouts set the then Mets record. He was an All Star and finished second for the National League Rookie of the Year, one vote behind Johnny Bench. He also finished 13th for the MVP. In the Year of the Pitcher, Koosman was not strongly considered for the Cy Young despite having an outstanding season.
Paul Molitor’s Hall of Fame career almost did not happen. Injuries and a cocaine habit nearly derailed the St. Paul native. Molitor played 21 seasons with three teams: Milwaukee Brewers (1978-1992), Toronto Blue Jays (1993-1995), and Minnesota Twins (1996-1998). He played all over the field, but primarily Third and Second Base. In 2,683 career Games, Molitor collected 3,319 Hits, 605 Doubles, 114 Triples, 234 Home Runs, 1,307 RBI, scored 1,782 Runs, 504 Stolen Bases, 1,094 Walks, 1,244 Strikeouts, .306 BA, .367 OBP, .444 SLG, .817 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was a seven time All Star and four time Silver Slugger. Molitor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004 on the first ballot. After his playing career, Molitor returned to the Twins as their manager for four seasons, winning the 2017 American League Manager of the Year award.
Molitor played in two World Series. His 1982 Brewers lost to the Cardinals, while his 1993 Blue Jays defeated the Phillies. Molitor played in 13 World Series Games, collected 23 Hits, 2 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 11 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 5 Walks, 4 Strikeouts, .418 BA, .475 OBP, .636 SLG, and 1.112 OPS. He was the 1993 World Series MVP after hitting .500 in 24 At Bats. Many thought Molitor’s best years were behind him, but they were wrong.
The best season of Molitor’s career was 1993 with Toronto. He played in 160 Games, collected 211 Hits, 37 Doubles, 5 Triples, 22 Home Runs, 111 RBI, scored 121 Runs, 22 Stolen Bases, 77 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .332 BA, .402 OBP, .509 SLG, .911 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Molitor led the Junior Circuit in Hits and Plate Appearances (725). He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger award. He finished second in the American League MVP voting behind Frank Thomas.
Minnesota has plenty of baseball history. The state is represented in Cooperstown by four players: Chief Bender, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and Dave Winfield. The Land of 10,000 Lakes continues building upon its great baseball legacy. The United States of Baseball is taking a break as The Winning Run prepares for our 30 in 30 road trip. When we return we will head south to the Magnolia State. Mississippi is next.
The trail blazing Right Fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the first Puerto Rican inducted into the Hall of Fame. Clemente is not just the greatest player from the island, he is among the greatest to ever play the game. Clemente’s career numbers leave little doubt about his place in Puerto Rican baseball history. He played 2,433 Games, had 10,212 Plate Appearances, 9,454 At Bats, collected 3,000 Hits, 440 Doubles, 166 Triples, 240 Home Runs, 1,305 RBI , scored 1,416 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 621 Walks, 1,230 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .359 OBP, .475 SLG, .834 OPS, 130 OPS+, and 94.76 WAR. An obvious Hall of Famer.
How does Clemente rank among Puerto Rican players? He played the third most Games, had the fourth most Plate Appearances and third most At Bats. He is the only Puerto Rican member of the 3,000 Hit club, with 156 more Hits than fellow Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. Clemente ranks sixth in Doubles. He easily outdistanced himself as the Triples leader with 166, 72 more than Jose Cruz. He ranks 12th in Home Runs, seventh in RBI, and third in Runs scored. Clemente Stole the 20th most Bases, drew the 10th most Walks, and Struck Out the 11th most times. His career .317 BA is the highest among qualified Puerto Ricans and one of only two with a .300 career BA. Clemente is seventh in OBP, 10th in SLG, and ninth in OPS. His 94.76 career WAR is the highest for any Puerto Rican player and 24.67 ahead of Carlos Beltran. Clemente’s 15 All Star games are the most by any Puerto Rican player. His play on the field made him the pride of Puerto Rico, but his actions off the diamond made Clemente a legend.
Roberto Clemente was a true humanitarian. He supported people financially, gave his time, put on baseball camps, and fought racial and ethnic prejudice. Throughout his career Clemente was referred to as Bob instead of Roberto. He hated the anglicizing of his name, he was proud of his Puerto Rican heritage. Despite this, and other slights, Clemente never responded with anything other than kindness. After his tragic death the Hall of Fame waived the usual five year wait period and inducted Clemente through a special election in 1973. In 1971 MLB began presenting the Commissioner’s Award for “The player that best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. The award was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973. Clemente was a dedicated humanitarian and the award helps continue his legacy of selfless service to others. There is no better legacy.
The Great Lakes dominate the landscape of Michigan. The Wolverine State is an outdoor playground in every season. While the snow piles up in Winter, it has not prevented Michigan from sending 444 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in Michigan is John Smoltz. His 68.96 career WAR ranks 17th highest among state and territory leaders. The greatest Michigan born position player is Charlie Gehringer. His 83.75 career WAR ranks 19th highest among state and territory leaders. The Wolverine State has a combined 152.71 WAR, ranking Michigan 18th highest.
John Smoltz is forever tied to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as they led the Atlanta Braves to an unprecedented stretch of dominance in the 1990’s. The Detroit native pitched 21 seasons with three teams: Atlanta Braves (1988-2008), Boston Red Sox (2009), and St. Louis Cardinals (2009). Despite missing all of 2000 due to Tommy John Surgery, Smoltz pitched in 723 career Games, made 481 Starts, Finished 204 Games, threw 53 Complete Games, including 16 Shutouts, 154 Saves, Pitched 3,473 Innings, allowed 3,074 Hits, 1,391 Runs, 1,284 Earned Runs, 288 Home Runs, 1,010 Walks, 3,084 Strikeouts, posted a 210-147 record, 3.33 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, and 125 ERA+. Originally drafted in the 22nd Round by his hometown Detroit Tigers in 1985, he was traded to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander two years later. Smotz’s skills on the mound allowed him to lead the National League in Wins at age 29 and 39, and Saves at age 35. He was an eight time All Star. He was named the 1992 National League Championship Series MVP and won the 1995 World Series with the Braves. Smoltz won the Cy Young award in 1996 and the Silver Slugger award in 1997. After transitioning to the Closer role, he won the 2002 Rolaids Relief award. Smoltz received the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award. In 2015, Smoltz was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the then lowest drafted Hall of Famer.
Smoltz helped Atlanta reach the Postseason and continued his success in October. In 41 career Postseason Games, he made 27 Starts, Finished 11 Games, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, 4 Saves, Pitched 209 Innings, allowed 172 Hits, 67 Runs, 62 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 67 Walks, 199 Strikeouts, posted a 15-4 record, 2.67 ERA, and 1.144 WHIP. Smoltz gave the Braves an opportunity to win every time he took the mound.
Smoltz’s best season was 1996. He made 35 Starts, threw 6 Complete Games, including 2 Shutouts, Pitched 253.2 Innings, allowed 199 Hits, 93 Runs, 83 Earned Runs, 19 Home Runs, 55 Walks, 276 Strikeouts, posted a 24-8 record, 2.94 ERA, 1.001 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Innings Pitched, and Strikeouts. He was named an All Star, finished 11th in MVP voting, and won the Cy Young. Pure dominance.
Detroit fans voted Charlie Gehringer as the greatest second baseman in the storied history of the Tigers. Fan chose Gehringer over the beloved Lou Whitaker. Gehringer played 19 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1924-1942). The Fowlerville native played in 2,323 Games, collected 2,839 Hits, 574 Doubles, 146 Triples, 184 Home Runs, 1,427 RBI, scored 1,775 Runs, 181 Stolen Bases, 1,186 Walks, 372 Strikeouts, .320 BA, .404 OBP, .480 SLG, .884 OPS, and 125 OPS+. Gehringer hit over .300 13 times in 14 seasons, with his .298 BA in 1932 as the lone exception. He was named to the first six All Star games, helped the Tigers win the 1935 World Series, and won both the American League Batting Title and MVP in 1937. Gehringer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 in a special runoff election, but was unable to attend as the ceremony coincided with his own wedding. He served on the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee from 1953 to 1990. The Tigers retired his #2 in 1983.
Gehringer’s success helped the Tigers reach the World Series three times (1934, 1935, and 1940), winning in 1935. In the World Series, Gehringer played in 20 Games, collected 26 Hits, 4 Doubles, 1 Home Runs, 7 RBI, scored 12 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 7 Walks, 1 Strikeout, .321 BA, .375 OBP, .407 SLG, and .782 OPS. Detroit twice lost Game 7, the Tigers were close to dominating all of baseball not just the American League.
The best season of Gehringer’s career was 1934. He played in 154 Games, collected 214 Hits, 50 Doubles, 7 Triples, 11 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 135 Runs, 11 Stolen Bases, 99 Walks, 25 Strikeouts, .356 BA, .450 OBP, .517 SLG, .967 OPS, and 149 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Games played, Hits, and Runs scored. Gehringer finished second in MVP voting while leading the Tigers to the American League Pennant.
Michigan’s proud baseball legacy continues to grow. The Wolverine State has sent seven native sons to Cooperstown: Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Gehringer, Larry MacPhail (Executive), Hal Newhouser, Ted Simmons, John Smoltz, and Tom Yawkey (Executive). More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball continues it’s exploration of the water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota is next.
There is more to baseball in Massachusetts than Fenway Park. The iconic ball park has played a major role in the game’s history, but it is not the Bay State’s only contribution. Massachusetts has sent 667 players to the Major Leagues. The greatest pitcher born in Massachusetts is Tim Keefe. His 89.13 career WAR ranks him 12th among pitching state and territory leaders. Jeff Bagwell is the greatest position player born in the Bay State. His 79.88 career WAR ranks 20th among position player leaders. Massachusetts has a combined 169.01 WAR, ranking the Bay State 16th among states and territories.
Tim Keefe made the most of his opportunities in baseball. The Cambridge native pitched for 14 seasons with five teams: Troy Trojans (1880-1882), New York Metropolitans (1883-1884), New York Giants (1885-1889, 1891), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and Philadelphia Phillies (1891-1893). The inspiration for the pitcher in Casey At The Bat, Keefe pitched in 600 career Games, made 594 Starts, threw 554 Complete Games, including 39 Shutouts, Pitched 5,049.2 Innings, allowed 4,438 Hits, 2,470 Runs, 1,474 Earned Runs, 75 Home Runs, 1,233 Walks, 2,564 Strikeouts, posted a 342-225 record, 2.63 ERA, 1.123 WHIP, and 126 ERA+. He won three ERA Titles (1880, 1885, and 1888) and became the second member of the 300 Win Club, joining Pud Galvin. Keefe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee.
The World Series was a postseason exhibition during Keefe’s career, but he still shined. He pitched in three series (1884, 1888, and 1889), helping the Giants win the latter two. Keefe pitched in 8 Games, made 7 Starts, threw 7 Complete Games, Pitched 61.0 Innings, allowed 45 Hits, 36 Runs, 18 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 14 Walks, 46 Strikeouts, posted a 4-3 record, 2.66 ERA, and 0.967 WHIP. He was terrific regardless of the stakes.
The best season of Keefe’s career was 1888 with the Giants. He pitched in and Started 51 Games, threw 48 Complete Games, including 8 Shutouts, Pitched 434.1 Innings, allowed 317 Hits, 143 Runs, 84 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 90 Walks, 335 Strikeouts, posted a 35-12 record, 1.74 ERA, 0.937 WHIP, and 156 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Shutouts, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+ to win the Pitching Triple Crown. Keefe established the Major League record, later equaled by Rube Marquard, with 19 consecutive victories from June 23 to August 10.
Away from the diamond, Keefe stayed busy. In 1885, he helped form the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, an early attempt at a player’s association. Keefe worked to end the Reserve Clause. In his ongoing efforts to break the hold of owners, Keefe helped establish the Players League in 1890. While the league collapsed after one season, Keefe continued fighting for player’s rights.
Houston’s Killer B’s revolved around Jeff Bagwell. The Boston Native played First Base for 15 seasons with the Astros (1991-2005). In 2,150 career Games, Bagwell collected 2,314 Hits, 488 Doubles, 32 Triples, 449 Home Runs, 1,529 RBI, scored 1,517 Runs, 202 Stolen Bases, 1,401 Walks, 1,558 Strikeouts, .297 BA, .408 OBP, .540 SLG, .948 OPS, and 149 OPS+. Originally drafted by his hometown Red Sox, Bagwell was traded to Houston for Larry Anderson. The Minor Leaguer was heartbroken. However, the Astros gave him the opportunity to win the First Base spot in Spring Training. Bagwell played Third Base throughout his Minor League career, but Ken Caminiti was entrenched at the Hot Corner. Bagwell responded by winning the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award, receiving 23 of 24 first place votes. He was named to four All Star teams and won three Silver Slugger awards. Bagwell was a terror at the plate, collecting at least 30 Doubles 10 times and scored 100 Runs nine times. He hit 30 Home Runs with 100 RBI eight times. Despite his ferocious approach, Bagwell drew 100 Walks seven times. He hit over .300 six times and posted a 1.000 OPS five times. He twice produced 30 Home Run 30 Stolen Base seasons. Bagwell appeared in the 2005 World Series, collecting his final career Hit in eight At Bats as shoulder injuries ended his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Unquestionably the best season of Bagwell’s career was 1994. In the Strike Shortened season, he played in 110 Games, collected 147 Hits, 32 Doubles, 2 Triples, 39 Home Runs, 116 RBI, scored 104 Runs, 15 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 65 Strikeouts, .368 BA, .451 OBP, .750 SLG, 1.201 OPS, and 213 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI, Runs scored, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases (300). Bagwell won his first Silver Slugger, the Gold Glove, and was the unanimous National League MVP.
Massachusetts continues to play an important role in the game. The Bay State’s rich baseball history has seen 15 native sons enshrined in Cooperstown: Jeff Bagwell, Jack Chesbro, John Clarkson, Mickey Cochrane, Candy Cummings (Executive), Leo Durocher (Manager), Tom Glavine, Frank Grant, Tim Keefe, Joe Kelley, Connie Mack (Manager), Rabbit Maranville, Tommy McCarthy, Wilbert Robinson (Manager), and Pie Traynor. Fenway is not Massachusetts’ only baseball legacy. Next week the United States of Baseball heads for the Great Lakes. The Wolverine State is next, Michigan.
It has been over a century since Kentucky had a Major League team. The Louisville Colonels/ Eclipse were absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1899. Despite the lack of a Major League team, the Bluegrass State has produced 125 Major League players. The greatest Kentucky born pitcher is Jim Bunning. His 60.37 career WAR ranks him 34th among state and territory pitching leaders. Pee Wee Reese is the greatest position player. His 68.23 career WAR ranks 19th among state and territory leaders. Bunning and Reese give the Bluegrass State 128.60 WAR, 25th highest among all states and territories.
Jim Bunning grew up across the Ohio River from the Cincinnati Reds. The Southgate native pitched for 17 seasons with 4 teams: Detroit Tigers (1955-1963), Philadelphia Phillies (1964-1967, 1970-1971), Pittsburgh Pirates (1968-1969), and Los Angeles Dodgers (1969). The Righty appeared in 591 career Games, made 519 Starts, threw 151 Complete Games, including 40 Shutouts, pitched 3,760.1 Innings, allowed 3,433 Hits, 1,527 Runs, 1,366 Earned Runs, 372 Home Runs, 1,000 Walks, 2,855 Strikeouts, posted a 224-184 record, 3.27 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, and 115 ERA+.
Career numbers never tell the full story of a player. Bunning was a nine time All Star. The former Xavier University basketball player threw a No Hitter on July 20, 1957. He then threw an Immaculate Inning on August 8, 1959. Five years later on June 21, 1964, he was perfect. Bunning’s Perfect Game was the fifth in Major League history, the first since 1922, and the first in the National League since 1880. He also played a critical role in recruiting Marvin Miller as the first leader of the Player’s Union. After retiring, Bunning managed in the Phillies Minor League system before entering politics. He was elected to the Kentucky State Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate. In 1996, Bunning was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. His final baseball honor came in 2001 when the Phillies retired his #14.
The best season of Jim Bunning’s career was with the 1967 Phillies. He made 40 Starts, threw 16 Complete Games, including 6 Shutouts, pitched 302.1 Innings, allowed 241 Hits, 94 Runs, 77 Earned Runs, 18 Home Runs, 73 Walks, 253 Strikeouts, posted a 17-15 record, 2.29 ERA, 1.039 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Starts, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, Hit By Pitch, and Batters Faced. Philadelphia finished two games above .500, but Bunning still finished second for the Cy Young and 22nd for the MVP. Great seasons can happen for players on less than great teams.
Pee Wee Reese never wanted to go to Brooklyn. The Dodgers legend thought he was heading to Boston. When Joe Cronin kept playing despite his age, the Red Sox traded the minor leaguer to the Dodgers. Harold Henry Reese gained his nickname from his love of playing marbles. The Ekron native played Shortstop for 16 seasons with the Brooklyn/ Los Angeles Dodgers. He missed three full seasons serving in the Navy Seabees during World War II. Despite the lost time, Reese still played in 2,166 career Games, collected 2,170 Hits, 330 Doubles, 80 Triples, 126 Home Runs, 885 RBI, scored 1,338 Runs, 232 Stolen Bases, 1,210 Walks, 890 Strikeouts, .269 BA, .366 OBP, .377 SLG, .743 OPS, and 99 OPS+. Reese was a solid Shortstop. He played 17,707.1 Innings, had 10,319 Chances, made 4,040 Putouts, 5,891 Assists, 388 Errors, turned 1,246 Double Plays, with a .962 FLD%, 5.05 RF/9, 4.93 RF/G, and 22 Rtot. His skills made Reese a 10 time All Star, named Dodger captain in 1949, his #1 retired by the Dodgers, and elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Reese played in seven World Series, all against the Yankees. Brooklyn won only once, 1955, in their sixth attempt. In 44 World Series Games, Reese collected 46 Hits, 3 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 16 RBI, scored 20 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, 18 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, .272 BA, .346 OBP, .349 SLG, and .695 OPS.
Pee Wee Reese’s best season was 1954. He played in 141 Games, collected 171 Hits, 35 Doubles, 8 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 69 RBI, scored 98 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 90 Walks, 62 Strikeouts, .309 BA, .404 OBP, .455 SLG, .859 OPS, and 121 OPS+. He was named an All Star and finished ninth for the MVP. Reese set career highs in Doubles, Batting Average, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. It was his only season hitting over .300.
Perhaps the greatest moment of Reese’s career was a simple act. It is debated where it occurred, Cincinnati or Boston. What is not debated is Reese putting his arm on Jackie Robinson’s shoulder in a public show of support. Reese could not shield Robinson from the horrific abuse he took from opposing players and fans, but showing his support for his teammate let everyone know where he stood. Reese’s support helped Robinson succeed.
The Bluegrass State has a proud baseball legacy. Kentucky is home to several Minor and Independent League teams. Four native Kentuckians are enshrined in Cooperstown: Jim Bunning, Happy Chandler (Commissioner), Earle Combs, and Pee Wee Reese. More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the Gulf Coast. The Pelican State is next, Louisiana.
Fly over states may not have the large cities that attract Major League teams, but they play plenty of baseball. Kansas does not lack for baseball talent with 218 MLB players born in the Sunflower State. The best Kansas born pitcher is one of the greatest of all time. Walter Johnson has the most career WAR, 164.54, for a pitcher born in Kansas. He has the second highest WAR for any state and territory pitching leader. Johnny Damon is the greatest position player born in the Sunflower State. His 56.33 career WAR ranks 35th among state and territory leaders. Johnson and Damon give Kansas 220.87 WAR, 8th highest among all states and territories.
Walter Johnson is on the Mount Rushmore of Major League pitchers. Few pitchers can compare to the Humboldt native. The Right Hander pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators. In 802 career Games, Johnson made 666 Starts, threw 531 Complete Games, including 110 Shutouts, pitched 5,914.1 Innings, allowed 4,913 Hits, 1,902 Runs, 1,424 Earned Runs, 97 Home Runs, 1,363 Walks, 3,509 Strikeouts, posted a 417-279 record, 2.17 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, and 147 ERA+. On July 1, 1920 against the Red Sox Johnson threw his only career No Hitter. Four years later, he helped propel the Senators to their only World Series victory. The Big Train holds the record for most career 1-0 Wins (38) and Losses (26). He is likely the permanent all time leader in Shutouts.
Johnson dominated. He had 10 consecutive 20 Win seasons. He led the American League in Strikeouts 12 times, Shutouts seven times, Wins, Complete Games, WHIP, and ERA+ six times, and Innings Pitched five times. The Big Train struck out 300 batters twice and 200 batters seven times. He posted a WHIP below 1.000 nine times. His ERA+ was over 200 four times and 150 eight times. Johnson’s domination included an ERA under 2.00 11 times and winning five ERA Titles. He won the Pitching Triple Crown three times (1913, 1918, 1924) and the American League MVP twice (1913 and 1924). In 1936 Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class.
Johnson’s best season was 1913. He pitched in 48 Games, made 36 Starts, threw 29 Complete Games, including 11 Shutouts, pitched 346 Innings, allowed 232 Hits, 56 Runs, 44 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 38 Walks, 243 Strikeouts, posted a 36-7 record, 1.14 ERA, 0.780 WHIP, and 259 ERA+. Johnson won the MVP award while leading the league in Wins, Winning %, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Home Runs, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. Total control on the mound as the Senators won 90 games to finish second for the pennant.
“We’re idiots.” Boston’s Johnny Damon as the Red Sox marched to their 2004 World Series title. The Fort Riley native was a veteran leader that helped return Boston to baseball glory. The sometimes caveman looking Centerfielder played 18 seasons for seven teams: Kansas City Royals (1995-2000), Oakland Athletics (2001), Boston Red Sox (2002-2005), New York Yankees (2006-2009), Detroit Tigers (2010), Tampa Bay Rays (2011), and Cleveland Indians (2012). In 2,490 career Games, Damon collected 2,769 Hits, 522 Doubles, 109 Triples, 235 Home Runs, 1,139 RBI, scored 1,668 Runs, 408 Stolen Bases, 1,003 Walks, 1,257 Strikeouts, .284 BA, .352 OBP, .433 SLG, .785 OPS, and 104 OPS+. He scored at least 100 Runs 10 times. He was twice an All Star (2002 and 2005) and World Series champion (2004 and 2009). Damon appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 1.8% of votes. He is best remembered for his departure in Oakland helping to usher in the Moneyball era and ending the Curse of the Bambino.
Damon’s best season was in 2000 for the Royals. He played in 159 Games, collected 214 Hits, 42 Doubles, 10 Triples, 16 Home Runs, 88 RBI, scored 136 Runs, 46 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 60 Strikeouts, .327 BA, .382 OBP, .495 SLG, .877 OPS, and 118 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Runs scored and Stolen Bases. Damon set career highs in Plate Appearances, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Stolen Bases, BA, OBP, SLG, and Total Bases. He was the July Player of the Month as he posted a 6.2 WAR season. Damon finished 19th in MVP voting. The Royals tried to resign him, but the constant losing took its toll. Kansas City traded him to Oakland instead of losing him in Free Agency.
Kansas has sent two players to Cooperstown, Walter Johnson and Joe Tinker. Damon was a good player, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy. Kansas continues to wait for a third member in Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the land of horse racing and basketball. The Bluegrass State is next, Kentucky.
Indiana is known more for basketball and auto racing than baseball. However, the Hoosier State has a strong baseball legacy. 377 Major League players were born in Indiana. Amos Rusie is the greatest Hoosier pitcher. His 65.20 career WAR ranks 23rd among state and territory pitching leaders. Scott Rolen is the greatest position player from Indiana. His 70.11 career WAR ranks 27th among position player leaders. Combined, Indiana boasts a 135.31 WAR, 23rd highest among all states and territories.
The Hoosier Thunderbolt terrified batters. Many batters never saw Amos Rusie’s fastball, but it sounded fast. The Mooresville native so scared opposing teams the pitcher’s box was moved back from 55 feet to the familiar 60 feet 6 inches. Batters wanted extra time to avoid taking a fastball to the head.
Rusie pitched for 10 seasons in the Majors with three teams: Indianapolis Hoosiers (1889), New York Giants (1890-1895, 1897-1898), and Cincinnati Reds (1901). The talents of some players are easily recognizable. Rusie pitched just four minor league games before reaching the Majors with the Hoosiers, who folded after the 1889. In 463 career Games, he made 427 Starts, threw 393 Complete Games, including 30 Shutouts, pitched 3,778.2 Innings, allowed 3,389 Hits, 2,068 Runs, 1,288 Earned Runs, 75 Home Runs, 1,707 Walks, 1,950 Strikeouts, posted a 246-174 record, 3.07 ERA, 1.349 WHIP, and 129 ERA+. Foul balls were not counted as strikes until 1901, making Rusie’s strikeout total even more impressive.
Baseball is a business. In 1895, Rusie was twice fined $100 for breaking curfew and not trying hard enough. Angered by the large fines, his salary was $3,000, Rusie sat out the 1896 season and sued the Giants owner for $5,000 and his release. Ultimately the matter was settled for $5,000 as baseball owners did not want the Reserve Clause challenged in court.
Rusie’s career was derailed after injuring his shoulder making a pickoff move in 1898. The injury prevented him from pitching in 1899 and 1900. The Giants traded Rusie to the Cincinnati Reds in 1901 for a young pitcher named Christy Mathewson. Rusie only lasted until June, Mathewson went to Cooperstown.
Rusie set an unbreakable record, walking 289 batters in 1890. He pitched the Giants’ first No Hitter in 1891. Rusie won two ERA titles (1894 and 1897) and the Pitching Triple Crown in 1894. He led the National League in Strikeouts and Walks five times, and Shutouts four times. Rusie was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 by the Veterans Committee.
Amos Rusie’s best season was 1894 with the Giants. He pitched in 54 Games, made 50 Starts, threw 45 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 444 Innings, allowed 426 Hits, 228 Runs, 137 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 200 Walks, 195 Strikeouts, posted a 36-13 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.410 WHIP, and 188 ERA+. He led the National League in Starts, Wins, Shutouts, Walks, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. At his peak, few pitchers baffled and intimidated hitters like Rusie.
Third Base is under-represented in Cooperstown. The hot corner does not receive the same respect as the rest of the infield. Evansville native Scott Rolen should be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the coming years. He played 17 seasons with four teams: Philadelphia Phillies (1996-2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2002-2007), Toronto Blue Jays (2008-2009), and Cincinnati Reds (2009-2012). Drafted by the Phillies in the 2nd Round, Rolen was one At Bat short of losing his rookie status in 1996 when he was injured by a Hit By Pitch. He returned from the injury to win the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year award and launch a Hall of Fame career.
Rolen played 2,038 career Games, collected 2,077 Hits, 517 Doubles, 43 Triples, 316 Home Runs, 1,287 RBI, scored 1,211 Runs, 118 Stolen Bases, 899 Walks, 1,410 Strikeouts, .281 BA, .364 OBP, .490 SLG, .855 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was elite with the glove. At Third, he played 17,479.1 Innings, had 5,745 Chances, made 1,478 Putouts, 4,081 Assists, committed 186 Errors, turned 355 Double Played, with a .968 FLD%, 2.86 RF9, 2.75 RFG, and 140 Rtot. Rolen was a seven time All Star, won eight Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and the 2006 World Series with the Cardinals. Despite his great play, his departures from Philadelphia and St. Louis came after run-ins with managers Larry Bowa and Tony LaRussa.
The best season of Rolen’s career was 2004 with the Cardinals. He played 142 Games, collected 157 Hits, 32 Doubles, 4 Triples, 34 Home Runs, 124 RBI, scored 109 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 72 Walks, 92 Strikeouts, .314 BA, .409 OBP, .598 SLG, 1.007 OPS, and 158 OPS+. He was an All Star for the third time and won his sixth Gold Glove. Rolen finished fourth for the National League MVP. While he did not lead the league in any statistical category, it was another solid season in Rolen’s consistent career.
Indiana continues to build a proud baseball history. The Hoosier State is well represented in Cooperstown with 10 Hall of Famers: Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Max Carey, Oscar Charleston, Ford Frick (Commissioner), Billy Herman, Chuck Klein, Sam Rice, Edd Roush, Amos Rusie, and Sam Thompson. Rolen should soon join this elite group. Next week the United States of Baseball moves to the final member of the former Three I League. The Hawkeye State, Iowa.
There is more to Idaho than potatoes. The Gem State is full of unspoiled beauty that everyone who enjoys the outdoors should experience. Idaho has also produced 30 Major League players. The greatest pitcher born in the Gem State is Larry Jackson. His 52.56 career WAR ranks him 26th among state and territory pitching leaders. Harmon Killebrew is the greatest position player born in Idaho. His 60.42 career WAR ranks him 33rd among position players. Killebrew is the only Idahoan in the Hall of Fame. Jackson and Killebrew combined to give Idaho 112.98 WAR, 34th most among all states and territories.
Larry Jackson was born in Nampa. The Right Hander pitched 14 seasons in the Majors for three teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1955-1962), Chicago Cubs (1963-1966), and Philadelphia Phillies (1966-1968). In 558 career Games, Jackson made 429 Starts, threw 149 Complete Games, including 37 Shutouts, pitching 3,262.2 Innings, allowing 3,206 Hits, 1,405 Runs, 1,233 Earned Runs, 259 Home Runs, 824 Walks, 1,709 Strikeouts, posting a 194-183 record, 3.40 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. Jackson was a five time All Star and the first from Idaho.
Jackson’s best season was in 1964 with the Chicago Cubs. In 40 Games, he made 38 Starts, throwing 19 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitching 297.2 Innings, allowing 265 Hits, 114 Runs, 104 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 58 Walks, 148 Strikeouts, posting a 24-11 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.085 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins. Jackson finished 12th in the MVP voting. He also finished 2nd for the Cy Young award, then given to a single pitcher, not one per league.
In Philadelphia, Jackson is most remembered for being part of the trade that sent future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to the Cubs. Later, the Montreal Expos selected Jackson in their expansion draft. He knew he was close to the end of his career, Jackson wanted to play for a west coast team closer to home. Instead of reporting to Montreal, he retired and returned to Idaho. Jackson served four terms in the Idaho House of Representatives and as the Executive Director of the Idaho Republican Party. He ran for Governor, finishing fourth in the Republican Primary despite campaigning by fellow Idaho players Harmon Killebrew and Vern Law.
Harmon Killebrew struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. The Payette native played 22 seasons for the Washington Senators/ Minnesota Twins (1954-1974) and Kansas City Royals (1975). In his career, Killebrew played in 2,435 Games, collected 2,086 Hits, 290 Doubles, 24 Triples, 573 Home Runs, 1,584 RBI, scored 1,283 Runs, 19 Stolen Bases, 1,559 Walks, 1,699 Strikeouts, .256 BA, .376 OBP, .509 SLG, .884 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Killebrew was a great hitter who opted to forgo hitting for average and use his power to help his team.
The best season of Killebrew’s career was his 1969 MVP season with the Twins. In 162 Games, he collected 153 Hits, 20 Doubles, 2 Triples, 49 Home Runs, 140 RBI, scored 106 Runs, 8 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 20 Intentional Walks, 84 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .427 OBP, .584 SLG, 1.011 OPS, and 177 OPS+. He led the American League in Games played, Home Runs, RBI, Walks, OBP, and Intentional Walks. Killebrew season was a terror at the plate. His MVP came in the middle of Killebrew’s five year run where he finished in the top five for the MVP four times.
Killebrew was a 13 time All Star, finished in the top 10 for the MVP six times, won the 1969 American League MVP award, the 10th player to join the 500 Home Run Club, and the first Twins player elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. He was the first player elected as an All Star at three different positions (Third Base, First Base, and Left Field). Killebrew posted eight 40 Home Runs seasons, second only to Babe Ruth’s 11. Killer had nine 100 RBI seasons and seven 100 walk seasons, leading the Junior Circuit four times in free passes. When he retired Killebrew had the fifth most Home Runs. The legendary slugger became a beloved broadcaster for several teams in retirement.
Idaho has given baseball several solid players and a Hall of Famer. The Gem State continues building its baseball legacy and hopes to send more players to Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads east across the plains to the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is next.
Baseball may not be the top priority for visitors to Hawaii. However, the game is alive and well on the islands. The Aloha State has produced 47 Major League players, but it is still waiting for its first Hall of Famer. Despite no representation in Cooperstown, Hawaii has produced several great players. Charlie Hough is the greatest pitcher born in Hawaii. His 39.03 career WAR ranks as the 40th highest among all state and territory leaders. Shane Victorino is the greatest position player born in Hawaii. His 31.46 career WAR is the 46th highest among position player leaders. Their combined 70.49 WAR ranks Hawaii 43rd among all states and territories.
Charlie Hough was born in Honolulu and pitched for 25 seasons in the Majors. The Right Handed knuckleballer pitched for four teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (1970-1980), Texas Rangers (1980-1990), Chicago White Sox (1991-1992), and Florida Marlins (1993-1994). In his quarter century on a Major League mound, Hough pitched in 858 Games, made 440 Starts, Finished 240 Games, threw 107 Complete Games, including 13 Shutouts, 61 Saves, pitched 3,801.1 Innings, allowed 3,282 Hits, 1,807 Runs, 1,582 Earned Runs, 383 Home Runs, 1,665 Walks, 2,362 Strikeouts, posting a 216-216 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, and 106 ERA+. His lone All Star selection was in 1986.
1984 was the best season of Hough’s career. In 36 Starts for the Rangers, he threw 17 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitching 266 Innings, allowing 260 Hits, 127 Runs, 111 Earned Runs, 26 Home Runs, 94 Walks, 164 Strikeouts, posting a 16-14 record, 3.76 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, and 110 ERA+. He led the American League in Starts, Complete Games, and Hits allowed. While his season was not eye popping, Hough’s knuckleball kept batting guessing every time he took the mound.
Catching a knuckleball can be impossible on certain days. It flutters, dips, and dives. Geno Petralli can attest to his own personal disdain for Charlie Hough’s knuckleball. Hough’s career was prolonged by throwing the knuckleball and expansion. His final two seasons were spent in south Florida, a climate not all too different from his native Hawaii. Hough took the mound for the inaugural game in Marlins history on April 5, 1993 in a 6-3 win over the Dodgers. The Marlins began their history as Hough wound down his career as baseball’s last active player born in the 1940’s.
Not every career lasts a quarter century. Shane Victorino played 12 seasons for five teams: San Diego Padres (2003), Philadelphia Phillies (2005-2012), Los Angeles Dodgers (2012), Boston Red Sox (2013-2015), and Los Angeles Angels (2015). The Wailuku born outfielder was a switch hitter until injuries forced him to bat only from the right side in the last few seasons of his career. Victorino was twice a Rule 5 Draft pick. The Padres took him in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers in 2002. He made his debut with San Diego, but was returned to Los Angeles in late May as he struggled with the Padres. Two years later the Phillies took Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft. He did not make the Philadelphia roster and was offered back to Los Angeles. The Dodgers declined, so he reported to the Phillies’ Triple A team. Philadelphia would love the results.
In his career, Victorino played in 1,299 Games, collected 1,274 Hits, 231 Doubles, 70 Triples, 108 Home Runs, 489 RBI, scored 731 Runs, 231 Stolen Bases, 381 Walks, 626 Strikeouts, .275 BA, .340 OBP, .425 SLG, .765 OPS, and 102 OPS+. Victorino primarily patrolled Centerfield. In 1,219 Games, he played 10,026.1 Innings, had 2,704 Chances, 2,613 Putouts, 76 Assists, committed 15 Errors, and turned 23 Double Plays. His .994 FLD% was well above the league average .986 FLD%, which combined with his above average Range (2.41 RF9 vs 2.20 lgRF9), resulted in a 34 Rtot. Victorino helped his team score and prevented the opposition from scoring. His relentless effort on the diamond earned him two All Star games (2009 and 2011), two World Series rings (2008 Phillies and 2013 Red Sox), and four Gold Gloves (2008-2010, 2013).
Victorino’s best season was his 2009 campaign with the Phillies. In 156 Games, he collected 181 Hits, 39 Doubles, 13 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 62 RBI, scored 102 Runs, 25 Stolen Bases, 60 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .292 BA, .358 OBP, .445 SLG, .803 OPS, and 110 OPS+. He led the National League in Triples, was an All Star, won his second Gold Glove, and finished 18th in MVP voting.
Victorino was a great player on and off the field. He won the 2008 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. The annual award is given by the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity to honor the MLB player who best exemplifies the spirit and character of Lou Gehrig on and off the field. Victorino also won the 2011 Branch Rickey Award, which was given annually to a member of a MLB organization in recognition of their exceptional community service. Victorino appeared on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. While he did not receive any votes, it is still an honor to have your name on the ballot.
Hawaii is more than a tropical paradise, it produces solid Major League players. The Aloha State is critical to baseball’s success. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to the mainland. The Gem State is next, Idaho.
Few players possess the skill and grace on a baseball field like Roberto Clemente. His cannon for an arm in Right Field combined with his ability to hit the ball place him among baseball’s elite. There are players with better stats, although not many. However the numbers Clemente produced during his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates are impressive.
Clemente struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams every time he stepped in the batter’s box. They knew their only hope was to limit the damage. In 2,433 career Games, Clemente came to the plate 10,212 times, collected 3,000 Hits, including 440 Doubles, 166 Triples, 240 Home Runs, 1,305 RBI, scored 1,416 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, drew 621 Walks, 167 Intentional Walks, 1,230 Strikeouts, .317 BA, .359 OBP, .475 SLG, .834 OPS, 130 OPS+, and 4,492 Total Bases. He produced a 71.5 oWAR. Baseball is a difficult game, and Clemente with a bat only made it harder for pitchers.
There are plenty of players who play half the game. They excel at the plate, but are a liability in the field. Clemente is not among them. In 2,373 Games, primarily in Right Field, he played 20,514.1 Innings, had 5,108 Chances, made 4,697 Putouts, 269 Assists, 142 Errors, 42 Double Plays, with .972 FLD%, 2.18 RF/9, and 205 Rtot. His FLD% was below the .976 league average, however his Range was above the 2.12 league average. While he did commit a few more errors, Clemente reached more balls than other Right Fielders, turning hits into outs. His skill in the outfield resulted in a career 12.2 dWAR. Clemente was an asset, not a liability in the field.
It is difficult to summarize an entire career in a few stats. There is so much more to Clemente’s career than numbers. Watching him throw out runners from the outfield and launch baseballs with his bat was awe inspiring. He won plenty of awards for his elite play. Clemente, like every player, went through hot streaks. He won the National League Player of the Month award three times (May 1960- .336 BA, May 1967- .400 BA, and July 1969- .418 BA). He was a 15 time All Star (1960-1967, 1969-1972), playing in both All Star games in both 1960 and 1961. Clemente helped the Pirates win the 1971 World Series, hitting .414 in the Series. He was named World Series MVP and won the National League Babe Ruth award for the best Postseason performance. He won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1961 to 1972. He won four Batting Titles: 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times, winning in 1966. After his tragic death, the Hall of Fame waived the five year waiting period and inducted him in 1973 in a Special Election. Clemente was a giant among his contemporaries. Few players reach the same rarified air.
Baseball has changed in the nearly 50 years since Clemente last graced the diamond. He was great in his era, but does he stack up against players from every era? Simply put, yes. Clemente still ranks 30th in career Singles, 27th in Triples, and 91st in Extra Base Hits. He drew the 37th most Intentional Walks. He collected the 51st most Total Bases and has the 83rd most Times on Base. Collectively this gives Clemente the 58th highest oWAR. The offensive explosion in recent decades has not ousted Clemente from near the top of the offensive record book. He also remains near the top on defense. He turned the 58th most Double Plays by an Outfielder, made the 38th most Putouts, and 17th most Outfield Assists. Clemente is one of the greatest defensive Right Fielders ever. He turned the 10th most Double Plays by a Right Fielder and is second in both Putouts and Assists. Combining Clemente’s elite bat and glove gives him the 25th highest career WAR.
It is impossible to properly explain how great Roberto Clemente was as a player. His stats stand up to the test of time. He remains among the greatest players ever a half century after his death. He is a Hall of Famer and deserved to have his #21 retired by the Pirates. MLB should highlight his accomplishments whenever possible, yet for all of his greatness on the field he was a better man off of it. It is time to retire #21 across baseball.