Matthew Taylor: Mining major league talent from Maryland

Residents of the great state of Maryland can claim seven Hall of Famers as their own: Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Home Run Baker, Al Kaline, Vic Willis, and, of course, Cal Ripken Jr. and Babe Ruth. As the Babe Ruth statue outside Camden Yards demonstrates, Marylanders are proud of their native sons, even when they play for the Yankees.

Last weekend’s Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game got me thinking about the connection between “Maryland, My Maryland” and the Major Leagues. The contest, which has been held for the past 33 years, pits the state’s best baseball players against one another. Past participants have included Mark Teixeira, Gavin Floyd and Billy Ripken.

There are currently five players from Maryland who have been active in the big leagues this year: Teixeira, Brett Cecil of the Blue Jays, Chris Coghlan of the Cubs, Justin Maxwell of the Giants and our own Steve Clevenger.

Overall, there have been 303 major leaguers who were born in Maryland, which ranks near states including Indiana (366), Georgia (339), Alabama (318), Tennessee (293), and Virginia (279). California leads the way - and comfortably, I might add - with 2,218 players born there. Of the 303 guys from Maryland, 165 are from Baltimore.

Speaking of California, we get to claim Brady Anderson as one of our own. Anderson may have played his high school and college ball in California, but he was born in Silver Spring.

This exercise in state pride begs the following question: What if we made major leaguers play in the state where they were born? An interesting article by Joseph Milord examined this notion. He compiled home state all-star teams using the best players in baseball history.

Here is Milford’s list by position for Maryland with the years they were active:

Pitcher: Lefty Grove (1925-1941)
Catcher: Babe Phelps (1931-1942)
First base: Jimmie Foxx (1925-1945)
Second base: Cupid Childs (1888-1901)
Shortstop: Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001)
Third Base: Home Run Baker (1908-1922)
Left Field: Charlie Keller (1939-1952)
Center Field: Al Kaline (1953-1974)
Right Field: Babe Ruth (1914-1935)

Ripken and Kaline are the only Marylanders to reach 3,000 hits, Ruth and Foxx are the lone guys to have 500 home runs, and Grove is the one pitcher with 300 wins.

The Maryland career home run list is impressive:

Ruth (714)
Foxx (534)
Ripken (431)
Kaline (399)
Harold Baines (384)

Teixeira, with 379 career homers, should soon find himself in that top five.

Meanwhile, the top five career wins list for pitchers born in Maryland looks like this:

Grove (300)
Bobby Matthews (297)
Vic Willis (249)
Eddie Rommel (171)
Dave Foutz (147)

Other Maryland guys with big league experience whose names should ring familiar are Orioles offspring Damon Buford, Steve Johnson and Josh Roenicke. Some Maryland natives who have suited up for the O’s are Buford, Johnson, the Ripkens, Garrett Stephenson, Baines, Steve Barber, Tom Phoebus and, as a manager, Sam Perlozzo.

Jeff Nelson, who has the most pitching appearances among players born in Maryland, graduated from my alma mater, Catonsville High School. He faced Brian Jordan in a major league game only once. Jordan, who had a hit and an RBI in that at-bat, played his high school ball just down the road from Catonsville at Milford Mill.

Both Nelson and Teixeira have challenged the notion that you can’t go home again. Just know that if you do so as a Yankee, you’re likely to get booed.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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