MLB: Geographically Unique Baseball All-Stars
Some states and countries are bigger hotbeds of talent than others in terms of producing MLB All-Stars. These 10 stand alone in their jurisdictions.
Some might argue that the meaning of being an All-Star in Major League Baseball has been somewhat diluted over the years. In 2016, for example, a mind-boggling 79 players were named to the All-Star Game! Included in this count were an unprecedented 34 first-time All-Stars. The first Midsummer Classic in 1933 featured 36 players in total.
Having said that, there is still something special about becoming an All-Star. It measures a combination of ability and popularity that can signal the fulfillment of a boyhood dream for many. Sometimes this gets lost with the sheer volume of All-Stars. For one Tuesday night each July, though, these players are at the center of the American sports landscape.
In the long and storied history of baseball, players from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have been joined from representatives of 51 foreign countries and United States territories in reaching the sport’s highest level of competition. Baseball Reference even lists the birthplace of one player, pitcher Ed Porray, as “At Sea” in the Atlantic Ocean.
Altogether there are 103 different geopolitical entities that have served as the birthplace for future MLB players. Among these, four states and six countries hold the distinction of being the birthplace of exactly one All-Star. These 10 players range from a Who’s Who to a Who Cares, but each in his day left a mark on the game of baseball. Let’s meet them all.
Maine – Bob Stanley
Bob Stanley was born in Portland on November 10, 1954, and had a generally successful career that spanned 13 seasons from 1977-89 for the Boston Red Sox. Serving as something of a predecessor to later Red Sox pitchers such as Tom Gordon, Derek Lowe and even Tim Wakefield, Stanley functioned as both a starting pitcher and a formidable reliever during his tenure. He was named to the All-Star team in 1979 and 1983.
In 1979 he made the team after filling a variety of roles for the Red Sox, starting 15 games (including seven complete games) and finishing seven others (including one save) in the first half of the season while going 11-6 with a 3.29 ERA. Stanley relieved starter Nolan Ryan and pitched the third and fourth innings, allowing one run on one hit.
In 1983 Stanley had settled in as Boston’s closer, finishing the first half with a 2.27 ERA to go along with a 5-4 record and 16 saves. Once again, he pitched two innings of relief, this time not allowing a run.
Stanley may best be remembered for his wild pitch in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that preceded Bill Buckner’s error, but his body of work led to his induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Stanley was only 34 when he retired, and finished his career with a 115-97 record and 132 saves.
Montana – Dave McNally
Dave McNally was born in Billings on October 31, 1942, and spent most of his 14-year career as a starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. His debut in September 1962 was a two-hit shutout of the Kansas City Royals, the only game he pitched that year.
A solid contributor through 1967, McNally blossomed in 1968 with a 22-10 record accompanied by a sparkling 1.95 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. This season was overshadowed by Denny McLain’s 31-win campaign, and did not even earn McNally an All-Star appearance, as his 8-8 first-half record paved the way for a 14-2 second-half. He did finish fifth in the MVP voting.
That stellar second half paved the way for All-Star recognition in 1969, 1970 and 1972. McNally appeared in the 1969 and 1972 games, firing two shutout innings in 1969. He was less successful in 1972, serving up a walk-off single to Joe Morgan in the bottom of the 10th inning and picking up the loss.
McNally spent his final season in Montreal, and was only 32 when he retired in 1975. He ended his career with a 184-119 record and 3.24 ERA, and remains the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in the World Series, in 1970’s Game 3 off of Wayne Granger.
McNally passed away from lung cancer in 2002.
North Dakota – Darin Erstad
Darin Erstad was born in Jamestown on June 4, 1974, and spent the majority of his 14-year career as an outfielder and first baseman for the Angels. He and Garret Anderson hold the distinction of being the only players to be part of the franchise for its years as the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Erstad’s calling card was his defense, and he won a gold glove while playing three different primary positions: left field in 2000, center field in 2002 and first base in 2004. Erstad had a respectable career batting line of .282/.336/.407, but he had one of the biggest out-of-nowhere seasons in baseball history in 2000.
In 1999 Erstad hit .253 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI. In 2001 Erstad hit .258 with nine home runs and 63 RBI. That year in between, Erstad exploded as the Angels’ leadoff hitter, pounding out 240 hits for a .355 batting average. He hit 25 home runs and became the first player in MLB history to drive in 100 runs from the leadoff spot.
Erstad was an obvious All-Star in 2000, hitting .384 with 17 homers and 66 RBI in the first half, but he also made the team in 1998 after hitting .313 with 18 homers and 59 RBI before the break. In those two games, Erstad would go 0-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Erstad was never able to come close to replicating his 2000 success. Only once more would he reach a double-digit home run total before retiring after the 2009 season.
Utah – Bruce Hurst
Bruce Hurst was born in St. George on March 24, 1958, and pitched mostly for the Red Sox and Padres during his 15-year career. He debuted in 1980, and during a 10-year peak from 1983-1992, Hurst won 136 games with a 3.66 ERA. He turned in some of his most impressive work during the 1986 postseason, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over 38 innings in five starts.
Hurst rode that momentum to his lone All-Star selection in 1987. Although the All-Star Game went 13 innings that year, he did not make an appearance as the National League won a 2-0 slugfest. Nonetheless, Hurst was still an All-Star, and only time will tell how long it will be before there is another All-Star from Utah. There hasn’t even been a major leaguer from the state since Brandon Lyon retired in 2013.
Hurst was an effective pitcher till a torn rotator cuff and labrum required surgery following the 1992 season. He would go on to start just 13 more games in his career, averaging less than four innings per appearance, before retiring in 1994. Like former teammate Bob Stanley, Hurst is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Aruba – Xander Bogaerts
Xander Bogaerts was born in Oranjestad on October 1, 1992, and is the only active player on this list. Aruba does not have a long history of representation in Major League Baseball, as Bogaerts is only the fifth Aruban-born player to advance to the majors.
Bogaerts made his debut with the Red Sox late in 2013 at the age of 20, but was a part of the Dutch national team that won the gold medal at the final Baseball World Cup in 2011. As a result, Bogaerts was knighted in his home country. Three of the previous four Aruban major leaguers have also been knighted: Gene Kingsale, Calvin Maduro and Sidney Ponson.
Still just entering his age-24 season, Bogaerts already has two silver sluggers and an All-Star appearance to his name. In 2015 Bogaerts hit for a .320 average but only seven home runs. The average dipped a bit to .294 in 2016, but the home run count tripled to 21. His silver slugger award was all the more impressive considering the competition from other young shortstops Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.
Bogaerts went 1-2 with a double in the 2016 All-Star Game, drawing the start and batting fifth in the lineup. Even though his position is littered with great players in this renaissance at shortstop, Bogaerts certainly has many more All-Star appearances in his future.
France – Charlie Lea
Charlie Lea was born in Orleans on December 25, 1956, and pitched most of his brief career north of the border in Montreal. Lea made his debut in 1980, and extensive arm and shoulder problems led him to pitch only one inning in the majors from 1985-1987 before closing out his career with the Twins in 1988.
For a short time, though, Lea was a very effective starter. In 90 starts from 1982-1984, Lea went 43-31 with a 3.07 ERA in 624 innings pitched. His efforts culminated in his lone All-Star selection in 1984, when Lea finished the first half with a tidy 13-4 record and 2.91 ERA. He started the game for the National League, allowing a George Brett solo home run in two innings of work, good enough to earn the win.
While Lea is the only French-born player to make an All-Star team, he is not the only French-born individual to have a presence in the game. Bruce Bochy was born in Landes de Bussac, and while he wasn’t an All-Star during his playing career that spanned parts of nine seasons, Bochy has gone on to manage four All-Star Games. Lea may have the only All-Star appearance as a player, but Bochy is likely bound for the Hall of Fame.
Netherlands – Bert Blyleven
Bert Blyleven was born in Zeist on April 6, 1951, and is the only Hall of Famer represented here. Blyleven’s illustrious career spanned from 1970-1992 and ended with a record of 287-250 and 3.31 ERA. The win-loss record prevented kept Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame until his 14th time on the ballot in 2011, but his peripheral statistics make one wonder why it took so long.
Blyleven ranks fifth all-time with 3,701 strikeouts, trailing only Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton. His 60 career shutouts rank ninth. Blyleven’s longevity places him high as well, with his 685 career starts 11th all-time and 4,970 innings pitched ranking 14th.
Still, Blyleven’s career was more about consistency and durability than any particular stretch of brilliance. He only received Cy Young Award votes four times, never finishing higher than third. He only made two All-Star teams, in 1973 and 1985. He gave up two runs in each of those appearances, picking up the loss in 1973.
Before Tim Raines’s election this year, perhaps no player’s Hall of Fame case was helped more by Sabermetrics. Blyleven ended his career with more than 100 wins above replacement according to Fangraphs, good for seventh among pitchers in baseball history.
Taiwan – Hung-Chih Kuo
Hung-Chih Kuo was born in Tainan City on July 23, 1981, and is probably not even the best-known Taiwanese pitcher to make his debut in 2005. That honor would go to Chien-Ming Wang, who won 19 games for the Yankees in each of 2006 and 2007, finishing second in Cy Young voting in 2006. But Wang wasn’t an All-Star.
Kuo pitched seven mostly unspectacular seasons with the Dodgers, with the majority of his appearances coming out of the bullpen. He pitched more than 60 innings in a season only once, in 2008, when he finished with a 5-3 record and a 2.14 ERA across 80 innings pitched.
Kuo was at his best in 2010, when he served up a sparkling 1.20 ERA and 0.78 WHIP across 60 innings. In the first half of the season, Kuo turned in a 3-1 record with a 0.99 ERA and two saves in 27.1 innings. Kuo would eventually take over for Jonathan Broxton as closer, but he was named an All-Star even before then, allowing an unearned run while recording two outs in his lone appearance.
Despite being on the right side of 30, Kuo’s performance cratered in 2011, sporting an ugly 9.00 ERA over 40 appearances. That was his last appearance in the majors, and he would later return to Taiwan to resume his professional career. Kuo’s career goes to show that even as a middle reliever, all you need is a few stellar months of production to go down as an All-Star.
United Kingdom – Bobby Thomson
Bobby Thomson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 25, 1923. The man who hit the Shot Heard ‘Round the World was indeed born around the world. Thomson’s pennant-winning home run off Ralph Branca for the New York Giants in 1951 overshadowed a very good career that included eight 20-homer seasons.
1951 was Thomson’s best offensive season, as he hit .293/.385/.562 with 32 home runs and 101 RBI, none bigger than the three-run shot most famously broadcast on radio by Russ Hodges. Thomson finished eighth in MVP voting that year, but he was not an All-Star.
Thomson’s All-Star seasons came in 1948, 1949 and 1952. Mostly an outfielder in his career, Thomson’s lone start in the All-Star Game came in 1952 at third base. He would go hitless in four plate appearances across the three games.
Thomson’s promising career was sidetracked when, after eight years with the club, the Giants traded him to the Milwaukee Braves before the 1954 season. Thomson would go on to play seven more seasons, but would only show glimpses of the potential flashed in his younger days.
For his career, Thomson owned a .270 batting average with 264 home runs and 1,026 RBI. He was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and died in 2010 at his home in Savannah, Georgia.
Vietnam – Danny Graves
Danny Graves was born in Saigon on August 7, 1973, during the Vietnam War. The baby-faced Assassin is not only the only All-Star to come from Vietnam; he is the only person born in Vietnam ever to play Major League Baseball.
More from Call to the Pen
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen Next Up in Right Field For Pirates1 h ago
- Philadelphia Phillies Add John Kruk to Their Broadcast Team3h ago
- Oakland Athletics: Rickey Henderson Honored and Joins Organization4h ago
- Washington Nationals: Why Haven’t They Done More This Winter?5h ago
- Chris Carter Should Take the Money and Run to Japan6h ago
Graves began and ended his career with the Cleveland Indians, but he made his mark with the Cincinnati Reds. All 182 of Graves’s career saves came in a Reds uniform. He broke out as a closer in 1999, saving 27 games as Cincinnati fell just short of the playoffs. Graves was a key component of a rubber-armed trio that also included Scott Sullivan and Scott Williamson. The three relievers combined for 318 innings pitched across 216 appearances out of the bullpen, going a collective 25-18 with 49 saves.
Williamson won Rookie of the Year in 1999 and represented the Reds in the All-Star Game, but Graves would maintain his role as the primary closer for the next several seasons. In 2003, Cincinnati would shift Graves to the starting rotation with disastrous results, and he returned to the bullpen in 2004 to save a career-high 41 games.
Graves was an All-Star in 2000 and 2004, making an appearance in 2000. He relieved Randy Johnson, pitching a scoreless second inning.
These are the only 10 players to be their country’s or state’s lone All-Star representative. If things go right, perhaps Yan Gomes (Brazil) or Jharel Cotton (U.S. Virgin Islands) could join them one day.