The Best MLB Players Born in Kentucky
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Jim Bunning, born in Southgate, Kentucky, pitched the seventh perfect game in Major League Baseball history as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies on June 21, 1964 (Credit: AP Images)[/caption]
There have been 280 Major League Baseball players born in the state of Kentucky, where the Louisville Bats, Triple-A affiliate of the Reds, call home. The Bluegrass State ranks 19th for states with the most MLB player births. Minor league baseball in Kentucky dates back to the early 20th century, after the Louisville Colonels’ eight-year run as a big-league club in the National League from 1892–99.
In this article, we rank the 15 best MLB players that were born in Kentucky:
15: Corey Hart born in Bowling Green, 1982 played 2004–15
Hart went to Greenwood HS in Bowling Green before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000. He had a very successful time in Milwaukee, making two all-star games. He had a pair of 30-homer seasons, and hit 154 homers in a Brewers uniform.
14: Gus Weyhing born in Louisville, 1866 played 1887- 1901
The only player to appear on this list that played in the 19th century, Weyhing was a right-handed pitcher who played 14 pro seasons. His 264 wins are the most among Kentucky-born pitchers. Apparently he wasn’t afraid to pitch inside: His 277 hit-by-pitches are the most all-time.
13: Tyler Clippard born in Lexington, 1985 played 2007-pres.
The right-handed reliever made two all-star games as a set-up man for the Washington Nationals in 2011 and ’14. His career ERA in 578 innings is 2.88, with a 44–30 record and 54 saves. He saved a career-high 32 games in 2012 as the DC’s closer, and has also spent time with the Yankees, Athletics, Mets, and D’Backs.
12: Brandon Webb born in Ashland, 1979 played 2003–09
If Webb had stayed healthy, he’d probably rank much higher on this list, but he only pitched in six full big-league seasons. The University of Kentucky Wildcat was outstanding when he was on the field, going 87–62 with a 3.27 ERA in 198 career starts. He won the NL Cy Young in 2006, and went 22–7 in 2008 when he made his third and final all-star game.
11: Mark Reynolds born in Pikeville, 1983 played 2007-pres.
Reynolds is playing with his 7th franchise in 2016, but his best days came as a Diamondback in 2007–10. His 239 home runs are 2nd-most among Kentucky-born players, and his 123 in an Arizona uniform makes the franchise top five. His best year came in 2009, when he hit 44 home runs, 102 RBI, with 22 stolen bases.
10: Gus Bell born in Louisville, 1928 played 1950–64
The Louisville-born outfielder is the first Cincinnati Red to appear on the list, playing for the Redlegs from 1953–61. He made four all-star games with Cincinnati, knocking in 100 or more runs on four different occasions. His 206 HR and 942 RBI are both 5th for Kentucky-born hitters.
9: Dan Uggla born in Louisville, 1980 played 2006–15
Uggla is the only second baseman in MLB history to have four 30-homer seasons, three with the Marlins and a career-high 36 with the Braves. He made three all-star games and won the NL Silver Slugger for second base in 2010. His 154 home runs as a Marlin were a franchise-best until Giancarlo Stanton passed him in 2015.
8: Mike Greenwell born in Louisville, 1963 played 1985–96
“Gator” played his entire 12-year career with the Red Sox, hitting a lifetime .303 as Boston’s left fielder. He had a spectacular 1988, smacking 192 hits, 22 home runs, 119 RBI, and hitting for a .325 average. He finished second in the AL MVP voting to the Athletics’ Jose Canseco.
7: Travis Fryman born in Lexington, 1969 played 1990–2002
Fryman was one of the best third basemen in the 1990s to early 2000s. He made five all-star games in 13 seasons split between the Tigers and Indians. His 1,022 career RBI and 345 doubles place him 2nd among KY-born players, with his 223 home runs ranking fourth.
6: Bobby Veach born in St. Charles, 1888 played 1912–25
Born in the small town of St. Charles, Veach became one of the best hitters in the pre-Ruth dominated American League. Among KY-born hitters, he owns the most doubles (393) and RBI (1,169), and ranks 2nd in hits (2,063) and triples (147). His primary team was the Tigers, played 12 seasons with them from 1912–23.
5: Paul Derringer born in Springfield, 1906 played 1931–45
Derringer was a great pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds from 1933–42, a run that included six all-star bids. He was one of the top starters on the 1940 World Series team, winning 20 games that year in a league-leading 37 starts. He went 223–212 with a 3.46 ERA for his career, and also earned 29 saves.
4: Jay Buhner born in Louisville, 1964 played 1987–2001
Buhner’s 310 career home runs are the most among Kentucky-born players in MLB history. He owns three of the four 40-homer seasons (1995–97) for KY-born hitters, with Mark Reynolds (#11 on this list) owning the other. The Yankees traded the powerful right fielder as a prospect to the Seattle Mariners in 1988, where he ended up finishing with the third-most homers in team history.
3: Earle Combs [HOF] born in Pebworth, 1899 played 1924–35
The starting center fielder and leadoff hitter on the famous Murderer’s Row Yankees teams of the 1920s attended Eastern Kentucky University before his MLB days. Combs led the league in triples three times, including a career-high 23 for the famous 1927 Yankees. He owns a .325 lifetime AVG, the best among KY-born players in the modern era. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1970.
2: Jim Bunning [HOF] born in Southgate, 1931 played 1955–71
Bunning had a spectacular 17-year career mainly spent with the Tigers and Phillies. He won 224 games (2nd-most for KY-born pitchers) with a 3.27 lifetime ERA. He made nine all-star games (most for KY pitchers) and pitched the seventh perfect game in MLB history on June 21, 1964. Bunning was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, and was a United States Senator in Kentucky from 1999–2011.
1: Pee-Wee Reese [HOF] born in Ekron, 1918 played 1940–58
The number one spot on the list of greatest MLB players born in Kentucky goes to Harold Henry “Pee-Wee” Reese. The longtime Dodgers shortstop made 10 consecutive all-star games (most All-Star games for any KY-born player), and served in World War II forcing him to miss the 1943–45 seasons entering his prime. He leads all KY-born hitters in hits (2,170), runs (1,338), and walks (1,210). He finished top-10 in NL MVP voting on eight occasions, and played in seven World Series for Brooklyn. He had his jersey number (1) retired in 1984, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame that same year.
For a full registry of MLB players born in Kentucky, you can visit: http://www.baseball-reference.com/bio/KY_born.shtml