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.
Baseball has a long and proud history. There are legends from every American state and territory. The best pitcher born in the Old Line State is Lefty Grove. His 113.31 career WAR ranks fifth among pitching leaders. The best Maryland born position player is arguably the greatest player of all time. Babe Ruth’s 182.47 career WAR is the highest for any player ever. Maryland’s combined 295.78 WAR ranks first among all states and territories.
Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove was born in the west Maryland town of Lonaconing. He pitched for 17 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-1933) and Boston Red Sox (1934-1941). Grove began his professional career in Martinsburg before the Minor League Baltimore Orioles bought him in exchange for an outfield fence. Grove spent five years in Baltimore before Connie Mack paid $100,600 for the future Hall of Famer. Once in the Majors, Grove was electric. In 616 career Games, he made 457 Starts, threw 298 Complete Games, including 35 Shutouts, pitched 3,940.2 Innings, allowed 3,849 Hits, 1,594 Runs, 1,339 Earned Runs, 162 Home Runs, 1,187 Walks, 2,266 Strikeouts, posting a 300-141 record, 3.06 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and 148 ERA+. Grove led the American League in Strikeouts in his first seven seasons. He was named to six All Star teams, won nine ERA Titles, and back to back Pitching Triple Crowns in 1930 and 1931. Grove’s .680 Winning Percentage is the best of any 300 Game winner. He was elected to Cooperstown in 1947.
Grove led the Athletics pitching to three consecutive American League pennants between 1929 and 1931. Grove pitched in all three World Series, appeared in 8 Games, made 5 Starts, threw 4 Complete Games, pitched 51.1 Innings, allowed 46 Hits, 12 Runs, 10 Earned Runs, 0 Home Runs, 6 Walks, 36 Strikeouts, posted a 4-2 record, 1.75 ERA, and 1.013 WHIP. The Athletics won the World Series in 1929 and 1930.
Unquestionably the best season of Grove’s career was with the 1931 Athletics. He pitched in 41 Games, made 30 Starts, threw 27 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, pitched 288.2 Innings, allowed 249 Hits, 84 Runs, 66 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 62 Walks, 175 Strikeouts, posted a 31-4 record, 2.06 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, and 217 ERA+. He led the Junior Circuit in Wins, Winning Percentage, Complete Games, Shutouts, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He won the Pitching Triple Crown and the American League MVP.
Easily the most written about baseball player ever, there is little left unsaid about Babe Ruth. George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore. The elite pitcher and all time great hitter played 22 seasons with three teams: Boston Red Sox (1914-1919), New York Yankees (1920-1934), and Boston Braves (1935). Fully appreciating Ruth’s greatness means examining his pitching and hitting. On the mound, Ruth appeared in 163 Games, made 147 Starts, threw 107 Complete Games, including 17 Shutouts, pitched 1,221.1 Innings, allowed 974 Hits, 400 Runs, 309 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 441 Walks, 488 Strikeouts, posted a 94-46 record, 2.28 ERA, 1.159 WHIP, and 122 ERA+. At the plate, Ruth played in 2,503 Games, collected 2,873 Hits, 506 Doubles, 136 Triples, 714 Home Runs, 2,214 RBI, scored 2,174 Runs, 123 Stolen Bases, 2,062 Walks, 1,330 Strikeouts, .342 BA, .474 OBP, .690 SLG, 1.164 OPS, and 206 OPS+. He was twice an All Star. Ruth was the American League MVP in 1923 and won the Batting Title in 1924. He remains the all time leader in SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Ruth was among the five members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first class in 1936.
The Great Bambino appeared in 10 World Series. He won seven championships, three with the Red Sox and four with the Yankees. On the mound, Ruth pitched in 3 Games, made 3 Starts, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, pitched 31 Innings, allowed 19 Hits, 3 Runs, 3 Earned Runs, 1 Home Run, 10 Walks, 8 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 0.87 ERA, and 0.935 WHIP. His record 29.2 scoreless World Series innings was later broken by Whitey Ford. At the plate, Ruth played in 41 World Series Games, collected 42 Hits, 5 Doubles, 2 Triples, 15 Home Runs, 33 RBI, scored 37 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 33 Walks, 30 Strikeouts, .326 BA, .470 OBP, .744 SLG, and 1.214 OPS. In 1926, he became the first player to hit three Home Runs in a World Series game. Ruth repeated the feat two years later.
Ruth’s career on the mound was cut short because of his bat. His best season pitching was 1916 with the Red Sox. Ruth pitched in 44 Games, made 40 Starts, threw 23 Complete Games, including 9 Shutouts, pitched 323.2 Innings, allowed 230 Hits, 83 Runs, 63 Earned Runs, 0 Home Runs, 118 Walks, 170 Strikeouts, posted a 23-12 record, 1.75 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, and 158 ERA+. He won the American League ERA Title. Ruth’s best season at the plate was not his MVP season, but two seasons before. In 1921, coming off his record shattering first season in the Bronx, Ruth playing in 152 Games, collected 204 Hits, 44 Doubles, 16 Triples, 59 Home Runs, 168 RBI, scored 177 Runs, 17 Stolen Bases, 145 Walks, 81 Strikeouts, .378 BA, .512 OBP, .846 SLG, 1.359 OPS, and 239 OPS+. He broke his own Home Run record set the season prior. He led the American League in Home Runs, RBI, Runs scored, Walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. He hit more Home Runs than five American League teams. He passed Roger Connor’s 139 career Home Runs to become the Home Run King. Ruth set single season records for Extra Base Hits (119) and Total Bases (457). There was little Ruth could not do on a baseball field.
Maryland has given more to baseball than just Grove and Ruth. The Old Line State has 11 native sons in the Hall of Fame: Harold Baines, Frank Baker, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Judy Johnson, Al Kaline, Bowie Kuhn (Commissioner), Cal Ripken Jr., Babe Ruth, John Schuerholz (Executive), and Vic Willis. Maryland reigns supreme as the state with the highest combined WAR from its best pitcher and position player. Next week the United States of Baseball returns to New England. The Bay State is next, Massachusetts.
Everyone needs a vacation from time to time. Few states can compete with the beauty of Maine. Vacationland is a natural playground from the sea to the mountains and forests. Major League Baseball has seen 78 Mainers take the field. The greatest pitcher born in Maine is Bob Stanley. His 23.86 career WAR is the 48th highest among pitcher state and territory leaders. George Gore is the greatest position player born in Maine. His 39.94 career WAR is 41st highest among state and territory leaders. Maine has a combined 63.80 WAR, ranking Vacationland 46th among states and territories.
Bob Stanley was a critical part of Boston’s attempt to break the Curse of the Bambino. The Portland native played 13 seasons with the Red Sox (1977-1989). Stanley pitched in 637 career Games, made 85 Starts, 377 Games Finished, threw 21 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, 132 Saves, 1,707 Innings Pitched, allowed 1,858 Hits, 797 Runs, 690 Earned Runs, 113 Home Runs, 471 Walks, 693 Strikeouts, posting a 115-97 record, 3.64 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He was twice an All Star. Stanley was the American League Pitcher of the Month in August 1980. His 115 Wins are the most for a pitcher born in Maine. Stanley’s 33 saves in 1983 and 132 career Saves set then Red Sox records. He retains the Boston record for most career pitching appearances.
In the 1986 World Series, Stanley did his best to break the Curse. He pitched in 5 Games, Finished 4 Games, with 1 Save, Pitched 6.1 Innings, allowed 5 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 4 Strikeouts, posting a 0-0 record, 0.00 ERA, and 0.947 WHIP. Boston was close to ending its World Series drought before the team collapsed.
Stanley’s best season was his sophomore season. In 1978 he pitched in 52 Games, made 3 Starts, 35 Games Finished, including 10 Saves, Pitched 141.2 Innings, allowed 142 Hits, 50 Runs, 41 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 34 Walks, 38 Strikeouts, posted a 15-2 record, 2.60 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, and 160 ERA+. He finished 7th for the American League Cy Young and 25th for the MVP. While Stanley never surpassed 1978, he was a key arm in Boston for another decade.
George Gore was one of baseball’s earliest stars. The Saccarappa native patrolled Centerfield for 14 seasons with four teams: Chicago White Stockings (1879-1886), New York Giants (1887-1889, 1891-1892), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and St. Louis Browns (1892). He was a feared presence at the plate. In 1,310 career Games, Gore collected 1,612 Hits, 262 Doubles, 94 Triples, 46 Home Runs, 618 RBI, scored 1,327 Runs, 170 Stolen Bases, 717 Walks, 332 Strikeouts, .301 BA, .386 OBP, .411 SLG, .797 OPS, and 136 OPS+. His career began by conducting baseball’s first holdout, A.G. Spalding offered Gore $1,200 to sign with the White Stockings. He countered with $2500. The sides eventually agreed to $1900. It was money well spent as Gore led the National League in Runs scored twice (1881-1882) and Walks four times (1882-1884, and 1886). His career 1.01 Runs scored per Game far exceeds many Hall of Famers including Henry Aaron and Ted Williams. Gore brought excitement to every game he played.
Gore played in four World Series. He lost in 1885 and 1886 with the White Stockings and won in 1888 and 1889 with the Giants. In his four trips to the Fall Classic, Gore collected 16 Hits, 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 3 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 9 Walks, 5 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .373 OBP, .397 SLG, and .770 OPS. He helped lay the groundwork for the World Series we know today.
Gore’s best season was 1880 with the White Stockings. He played 77 Games of a 82 Game season, collected 116 Hits, 23 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 47 RBI, scored 70 Runs, 21 Walks, 10 Strikeouts, .360 BA, .399 OBP, .463 SLG, .862 OPS, and 185 OPS+. He led the National League in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Gore is the only Mainer to win a Batting Title, which came in a season so dominated by pitchers that the Pitcher’s Box was moved from 45 to 50 feet after the season.
Maine does not have a representative in Cooperstown. However, Vacationland has contributed greatly to the growth of baseball. Next week the United States of Baseball heads down the Atlantic coast to the Old Line State. Maryland is next.
Louisiana was once home to the Minor League New Orleans Baby Cakes. The team moved to Wichita, Kansas in 2020, leaving the Pelican State without a Major League affiliated team. Despite the absence, Louisiana has a strong baseball tradition, having sent 130 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in the Pelican State is Ted Lyons. His 70.40 career WAR ranks 16th highest among state and territory pitching leaders. Mel Ott is the greatest position player from Louisiana. His 110.66 career WAR ranks 9th among position player leaders. Lyons and Ott combine to give Louisiana 181.06 WAR. The Pelican State has the 13th highest WAR.
Ted Lyons was beloved by White Sox players, coaches, and fans. The Lake Charles native spent his entire 21 season career (1923-1942, 1946) pitching on the South Side of Chicago. The Right Hander graduated from Baylor University and skipped the Minors. In his career, Lyons pitched in 594 Games, made 484 Starts, threw 356 Complete Games, including 27 Shutouts, pitched 4,161 Innings, allowed 4,489 Hits, 2,056 Runs, 1,696 Earned Runs, 222 Home Runs, 1,121 Walks, 1,073 Strikeouts, posted a 260-230 record, 3.67 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He threw a No Hitter against the Red Sox on August 21, 1926. He was named to the 1939 All Star team and won the American League ERA Title in 1942. Lyons won at least 20 games three times, posted an ERA below 3.00 four times, threw 20 Complete Games seven times, and threw 10 Complete Games 18 times. After a shoulder injury nearly ended his career, Lyons began pitching only on Sundays to great effect. He led the Junior Circuit in Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, and Hits twice each.
Chicago was never good during Lyons’ career. The closest the White Sox came to the Pennant was in 1940, finishing fourth, 8 Games Back of the Tigers. After missing three full seasons in the military during World War II, Lyons returned for five more games before retiring when he was named the Chicago’s manager. He holds the record for most Wins, Innings Pitched, and Complete Games by a White Sox pitcher. Lyons would have reached the hallowed 300 Wins mark if he had played on a better team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. His 6.0% Strikeout rate is the lowest for any Hall of Famer who began their career after 1920. He also has the second highest career ERA, 3.67, of any pitcher in Cooperstown. The White Sox wanted to retire his #16 in 1985, but Lyons could not attend due to poor health and a desire to see others wear the number. He passed away the next year, after which the White Sox officially retired #16.
Lyons’ best season was in 1927. He pitched in 39 Games, made 34 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 2 Shutouts, pitched 307.2 Innings, allowed 291 Hits, 125 Runs, 97 Earned Runs, 7 Home Runs, 67 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, posted a 22-14 record, 2.84 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, and 143 ERA+. He led the American League in Wins, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, and Hits allowed. Despite the White Sox finishing 70-83, Lyons finished third in MVP voting. Ted Lyons’ career was filled with tough luck games and seasons.
Mel Ott was one of the greatest players in Major League history. The Gretna native patrolled Right Field at the Polo Grounds for 22 seasons with the New York Giants (1926-1947). Ott played in 2,730 career Games, collected 2,876 Hits, 488 Doubles, 72 Triples, 511 Home Runs, 1,860 RBI, scored 1,859 Runs, 89 Stolen Bases, 1,708 Walks, 896 Strikeouts, .304 BA, .414 OBP, .533 SLG, .947 OPS, and 155 OPS+. He led the National League in Runs scored and OPS twice, OBP four times, OPS+ five times, and Home Runs and Walks six times. His domination at the plate included hitting 30 Doubles five time, posting a 1.000 OPS seven times, slugging 30 Home Runs eight times, scoring 100 Runs and 100 RBI nine time, drawing 100 Walks 10 times, posting a .300 BA 11 times, and a 150 OPS+ 14 times. His skills with the bat and feared throwing arm earned him 12 All Star appearances. Ott set the National League record with 79 Runs scored and 87 RBI on the road in 1929. He retired as the Senior Circuit’s all time leader with 511 Home Runs (200 more than second place), trailing only Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth. He was also the National League’s all time leader in Runs scored, RBI, and Walks. Ott was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951.
Ott played in three World Series. The Giants defeated the Washington Senators in 1933.. The Giants would return to the World Series in 1936 and 1937, losing both to the Yankees. In three World Series, Ott played 16 Games, collected 18 Hits, 2 Doubles, 4 Home Runs, 10 RBI, scored 8 Runs, 8 Walks, 9 Strikeouts, .295 BA, .377 OBP, .525 SLG, and .901 OPS. He tried to bring more titles back to the Polo Grounds.
The best season of Ott’s career was 1936. In 150 Games, he collected 175 Hits, 28 Doubles, 6 Triples, 33 Home Runs, 135 RBI, scored 120 Runs, 6 Stolen Bases, 111 Walks, 41 Strikeouts, .328 BA, .448 OBP, .588 SLG, 1.036 OPS, and 177 OPS+. He led the National League in Home Runs, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. He was named an All Star and finished sixth in MVP voting while leading the Giants to the Pennant.
Louisiana has a proud baseball history. The Louisiana State University baseball team remains one of the premier college teams every year. Five members of the Hall of Fame were born in the Pelican State: Willard Brown, Bill Dickey, Ted Lyons, Mel Ott, and Lee Smith. There are others with strong cases for induction. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to New England. Vacationland is next, Maine.
Position players are largely judged by their abilities at the plate. However playing defense is critical to team success. Outfielders are judged on their Range, how much ground they cover to convert balls in play into outs, and arm strength. The ability to throw out runners can prevent them from taking the extra base. Reputation alone can impact how opposing teams run the bases.
Roberto Clemente’s arm stopped base runners. His ability to rifle the ball in from the outfield continues to amaze, nearly 50 years since his final game. Clemente won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, 1961-1972, for his play in Right Field. The Gold Glove award is subjective, but Clemente’s defensive skills earned him the award.
In his Hall of Fame career, Clemente played Right Field in 2,305 Games, 19,920.1 Innings, had 4,845 Chances, made 4,459 Putouts, 255 Assists, 131 Errors, turned 40 Double Plays, posted a .973 FLD%, 2.13 RF/9, 2.05 RF/G, and 204 Rtot. While his FLD% was -0.004 below league average, he was 0.19 higher in RF/9, and 0.10 higher in RF/G. Clemente’s Range made up for any fielding deficiency. His arm helped the Pirates win as he Held 48% of runners, 7.1% better than league average. His 4.3% Kill rate, runners thrown out, was 1.1% higher than league average. During his career, Clemente prevented 52.3% of runners from taking the extra base or threw them out versus the league average of 44.1%. Opposing base runners Held or were thrown out an additional 203 times by Clemente. Pittsburgh pitchers loved the Great One.
Every player has a peak. The defensive peak for Clemente is difficult to pinpoint as he never declined. In his 12 Gold Glove seasons, Clemente played Right in 1,614 Games, 14,034.2 Innings, had 3,286 Chances, made 3,031 Putouts, 168 Assists, 87 Errors, turned 28 Double Plays, posted a .974 FLD%, 2.06 RF/9, 1.99 RF/G, and 133 Rtot. He was slightly below average in FLD%, -.003, and above average in RF/9, 0.11. and RF/G, 0.04, with 133 Rtot. His arm was dangerous. In 1,735 Chances with runners, Clemente Held them 833 times, 48.01%, and Killed them 71 times, 4.09%. Opposing base runners were unable to advance 52.1% of the time. The numbers are similar to the rest of his career. Clemente’s Gold Glove years highlight his consistent elite defense. An average Gold Glove season was 135 Games played, 1,169.2 Innings, had 274 Chances, made 253 Putouts, 14 Assists, 7 Errors, turned 12 Double Plays, .974 FLD%, 2.06 RF/9, 1.99 RF/G, 11 Rtot, 145 Base Runner Chances, 69 Holds, and 6 Kills.
A strong arm builds a reputation. The more runners cut down the less likely more will try for the extra base. Fear of Clemente saved the Pirates runs every season he patrolled Right Field. Clemente was a Hall of Fame player with the bat, but may have been even better with the glove.
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.
Let’s start with the obvious. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a generational talent with the bat in his hands. He can do it all, which is why the Padres rewarded him with a gigantic contract. There is no debating his talent, but Tatis needs to improve his defense.
The 22 year old Shortstop has work to do in the field. In 164 career Games, Tatis has played 1,414.2 Innings, had 606 Chances, made 194 Putouts, with 380 Assists, 32 Errors, turned 79 Double Plays, posting a .947 FLD%, 3.65 RF/9, 3.50 RF/G, and -21 Rtot. His FLD% is -.023 below league average. This is not always an indicator of a poor fielder. However a low FLD% combined with below average range is not great. Tatis is -0.17 RF/9 and -0.23 RF/G below league average. His defense allows opponents to score 20 more runs a season than if he were replaced by a league average defender. He is reaching 35 fewer balls in play, making 47 fewer plays, and committing 18 more errors. This hurts the Padres in a tough division against the Dodgers where every game is critical.
Yes this critique of Tatis is nitpicking. However, he is the face of the Shortstop Golden Age. Tatis with Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, and Francisco Lindor should rule baseball for the next decade. This Mount Rushmore of modern Shortstops does not include Andrelton Simmons as he is already an all time great defender. It also lacks Trea Turner, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager who are also elite. Baez is an above average Shortstop, who creates plenty of highlights. His Range is slightly better than league average, but his FLD% is below average. Correa is a very good defensive Shortstop, saving the Astros 33 runs in his career defensively. Lindor is an elite Shortstop with 59 career defensive runs saved. Collectively, they are redefining what an elite Shortstop is. Tatis does not need to be the second coming of Ozzie Smith or Andrelton Simmons. If he becomes league average his value only increases and he makes San Diego better.
Tatis is not moving off Shortstop. He played 154 Innings between Second and Third in the Minors. He is the Padres Shortstop now and in the future. His infectious energy makes baseball better. Maybe it does not matter if Tatis’ defense improves. Maybe we should just enjoy watching him play every night, but imagine how special Tatis can be if he becomes an all around player.
The Golden Age of the Shortstop is here. The era of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra was once the peak. It included two Hall of Fame talents and a third that seemed destined for Cooperstown. This current group of Shortstops may have even more talent and are laying the foundation for their induction into the Hall of Fame. Enjoy this special era in baseball while it lasts.