Friday, January 21, 2011

Top 10 Players Born in North Dakota

According to BaseballReference.com, there have been 15 players in the history of baseball that have been born in North Dakota.  There are other players, like Roger Maris, who spent time growing up in NoDak but the focus of this piece will be ranking the top players that had their first breath in my home state.

10. Truck Hannah- Born in Larimore.  He was a member of the Yankees in the early 1900's (1918-1920). As a catcher his career numbers don't leap off the page at you, but he was playing in the Dead Ball Era. Over his three seasons in the majors he had a .235 BA, 5 HR, 66 RBI, and a .631 OPS.

9. Mark Lee- Born in Williston. Lee made appearances in the big leagues with the Royals, Brewers, and Orioles in the late 1980's and early 1990's. He saved two games during his career but for the most part saw limited time over his four seasons.  He had a 3.82 ERA, 84 K, and a 1.437 WHIP.

8. Gary Serum- Born in Fargo. He pitched for parts of three seasons with the Minnesota Twins (1977-79). He was (10-12) during that span with a 4.72 ERA, 1.391 WHIP, and 125 K. In 1978 he pitched five complete games and had a career high nine wins.

7. Tim Johnson- Born in Grand Forks. Over his seven seasons in baseball, there were some bad times (.061 BA in 1977) and some good times (.275 BA in 1976).  One interesting statistic is the fact that he never hit a major league homerun in his 516 games that he played.  His overall numbers tallied up like this: .223 BA, 84 RBI, and a .539 OPS. The only member of the Born in NoDak Club that also served as a manager. He managed the Toronto Blue Jays for one season in 1998. In his time at the helm he lead the team to a third place finish and an 88-74 record.

6. Ken Hunt- Born in Grand Forks. Hunt was drafted by the Yankees in 1952 but the majority of his big league experience came with the Angels organization, including his only season as a full-time player (1961). In that summer of 1961 he played in 149 games and racked up the following line: .255 BA, 25 HR, 84 RBI. For parts of six seasons Hunt roamed the outfield of major league stadiums. His life-time batting average of .226, 33 HR, 111 RBI, and an OPS of .720. WAR: 0.4

5. Lynn Nelson- Born in Sheldon. "Line Drive" Nelson seems like an odd nickname to have if you are a pitcher. But with the stats that he put up in his seven year career, the nickname "Line Drive" seems to fit. He got hit for line drives throughout his career leading to a 5.25 ERA, 255 K, and a 1.535 WHIP. In 1939 he lead the league in homeruns allowed (27). In a two season span from 1938 to 1939 he reached his peak by pitching 388.2 innings, 25 complete games, and two double digit win seasons.

4. Chris Coste- Born in Fargo. Coste had quite the journey to the majors, which he chronicled in his book "The 33-Year-Old Rookie." This journey took him through the minor leagues, independent leagues, and eventually to the World Series. He was a back-up catcher for the Phillies and the Astros for four seasons with his last appearance being in 2009. Over the course of those seasons he managed a .272 BA, 23 HR, 108 RBI, and .744 OPS. Not too bad for the former Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks star.

3. Rick Helling- Born in Devils Lake. The number one starter that was born in North Dakota. Helling spent 12 seasons pitching his way to two World Series rings both with the Florida Marlins. The best season he had was in 1998 when he tied for the American League lead in wins (20). In 2004, Helling was on pace to be the Twins number five starter. A come-backer to the mounded injured his leg and ended the chance of that before the season started. After his final game in September 2006 he had a 4.68 ERA, 1058 K, and a 1.377 WHIP.

2. Travis Hafner- Born in Jamestown. His hometown of Sykeston, NoDak has a giant sign to honor their hometown star. Hafner is a slugger with the Indians but broke into the league with the Rangers in 2002. He finished in the top 10 in the AL MVP voting in both the 2005 (5th) and 2006 (8th) seasons. The 2006 season saw Hafner lead the league in slugging (.659), OPS (1.097), and OPS+ (181). Recent years have seen a injuries plague the star. Between 2008-2009, he only played in 151 games and saw his numbers drop. As of the end of the 2010 season he has a .281 BA, .902 OPS, 176 HR, and 603 RBI.

1. Darin Erstad- Born in Jamestown. He made the All-Star team in 1998 and 2000.  He also the only player ever to win a Gold Glove as an outfielder (2000 and 2002) and as an infielder (2004). He won a Silver Slugger in 2000 when he had the most hits in the AL. He lead the American League in Defensive Wins Above Replacement in 1999, 2000, and 2002. His 14-year career came to a close in 2009 but not before he played for the Angels, White Sox, and Astros. His total numbers include a .282 BA, 699 RBI, 1697 H, and .743 OPS.

Congratulations to Darin Erstad the Best Major League Player Ever Born in North Dakota!

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