Yesterday’s post about Kentucky Hall of Famers made me think about who would make an All-Star team composed of only Kentucky natives. With the help of the wonderful database at Baseball-Reference.com I set out to make such a team. Each player’s playing time is listed next to his name along with the team or teams he spent most of his career with. The second bullet under each name lists the players batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage, and his rankings among relevant categories are listed in bolded parentheses next to that category.
C — John Grimm (1888-1899) — Louisville Colonels/Brooklyn Grooms
- The running for greatest catcher in Kentucky history wasn’t a hotly contested one. Grimm leads Kentucky players who spent the majority of their career behind the plate in hits and games played, but ranks only in 28th and 30th place among all Kentucky natives in those categories. Grimm was born in Lebanon, Ky. His best season came in 1894 for the Louisville Colonels when he hit .298 with 7 home runs and 70 RBI.
- .267/.302/.359 — 705 hits (28), 706 games (30), .943 Fielding %
1B — Don Hurst (1928-1934) —Philadelphia Phillies
- Don Hurst played seven seasons, six of which were with the Phillies. Hurst finished his career with a .298 batting average and a .854 OPS. Hurst was born in Maysville, Ky., and played in seven games in the outfield in addition to his 863 games at first base. Don was one of only nine Kentucky natives with over 100 home runs in his career. Hurst led the National League with 143 RBI in 1932.
- .298/.375/.478 — 976 hits (16), 115 HR (7), 610 RBI (11)
2B — Dan Uggla (2006-Present) — Florida Marlins
- This might be the most controversial selection to the All-Time team. Uggla is only playing in his fourth season in the MLB, but has already racked up two all-star games appearances and finished third in the 2006 rookie of the year voting. Uggla averaged 30 home runs and 90 RBI in his first three seasons. His average has dipped significantly in 2009, but he still has 17 home runs this season. If Uggla reaches his 30 home run average in 2009 he’ll already have the fourth most home runs of any Kentucky native.
- .257/340/.479 — 543 hits (31), 107 HR (8), 322 RBI (24)
3B — Travis Fryman (1990-2002) —Detroit Tigers/Cleveland Indians
- Fryman manned the hot corner for 13 seasons for two AL Central teams. Travis was a five-time All-Star, finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1990, received MVP votes in two different seasons and won a silver slugger and a gold glove. Fryman is the only Kentucky native with at least 200 home runs and 1,000 RBI.
- .274/.336/.443 — 1776 hits (5), 223 HR (2), 1022 RBI (2)
SS — (HOF) Pee Wee Reese (1940-1958) —Brooklyn/LA Dodgers
- Pee Wee Reese is one of only two positions players born in Kentucky that has been elected to the Hall of Fame. Reese leads Kentucky natives in hits, games played, runs and All-Star appearances. Reese was a 10-time All-star and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times. Pee Wee led the league in runs (132) in 1949, walks (104) in 1947 and stolen bases (30) in 1952.
- .269/.366/.377 — 2170 hits (1), 126 HR (5), 1338 Runs (1)
RF — Bobby Veach (1912-1925) – Detroit Tigers
- Veach, born in St. Charles, Ky., spent 12 of his 14 seasons in Detroit playing alongside centerfielder Ty Cobb. Bobby is one of only two Kentucky natives with 2,000 hits and is the only Bluegrass native with 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBI. Veach led the American League in RBI in 1915, 1917 and 1918, hits in 1919, doubles in 1915 and 1919, and triples in 1919. Veach leads Kentucky natives in RBI and ranks second in hits and triples and games played. Bobby Veach holds the distinction as the only player to pinch hit for Babe Ruth after Ruth moved to the outfield, and Bill James ranks Veach as the 33rd best left fielder of all time.
- 310/.370/.442 — 2063 hits (2), 147 triples (2), 1166 RBI (1)
CF — (HOF) Earle Combs (1924-1935) —New York Yankees
- Earle Combs joins Pee Wee Reese as the other native Kentuckian position player in the Hall of Fame. Combs batted lead off for the 1927 “Murderer’s Row” Yankees and would do the same for the All-Time BluGrass Team. Earle ranks third among Kentucky natives in hits despite having his career ended early by injury. Combs led the American League in hits in 1927 and in triples in 1927, 1928 and 1930.
- .325/.397/.462 — 1866 hits (3), 1186 Runs (2), 154 triples (1)
LF — Guss Bell (1950-1964) –Cincinnati Reds
- Guss Bell is the patriarch of the Bell baseball family tree. His son Buddy and grandsons David and Mike went on to play in the MLB. Bell spent nine of his fifteen seasons in Cincinnati. Guss was a four-time All-Star and led the league in games played in 1955 and triples in 1951. Bell hit for the cycle on June 4, 1951, and he and his grandson David are hold the distinction as the only grandfather-grandson duo to hit for the cycle.
- .281/.330/.445 — 1823 hits (4), 206 HR (3), 942 RBI (5)
DH — Jay Buhner (1987-2001) –Seattle Mariners
- I personally can’t stand the DH, but it is hard to not find a spot on this team for Jay Buhner. Buhner leads all Kentuckians in home runs and ranks fourth in RBI. He’s the only Bluegrass native with 300 home runs. Buhner spent most of his 15 seasons in the outfield, but did move to DH at the end of his career. Buhner was known for his power and propensity to strike out (holds the Mariners record with 1375 K’s), but he finished his career with a .359 on-base percentage. The Mariners haven’t issued his number 19 since he retired, but he is not eligible to have the number officially retired because he didn’t reach the Hall of Fame.
- .254/.359/.494 — 1273 hits (11), 310 HR (1), 965 RBI (4)
P — Jim Bunning (1955-1971) –Philadelphia Phillies
- Jim Bunning is the only Kentucky pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame and is one of only six pitchers in MLB history with at least one no hitter and a perfect game. Bunning pitched 40 shutouts in his career, won 224 games and made nine All-Star teams. Bunning is the only Kentucky pitcher with 2,000 strikeouts and has 1190 more strikeouts than the Kentuckian with the second most K’s.
- 264-232 (2), 3.27 ERA, 2855 K’s (1)
Player/Manager — Fred Pfeffler –Louisville Colonels
- The history of managers from Kentucky is not pretty. None of the three Kentuckians to lead a major league team has a .500 winning percentage. The best of the three is Fred Pfeffler who went 42-56 in two season leading the Louisville Colonels. The good news is Pfeffler can bring himself off the bench as he ranks third in runs scored and sixth in hits among Kentucky natives.
- 1094 runs (3), 1671 hits (6), 42.9 winning % (1)
Executive — (HOF) A. B. “Happy” Chandler — Commissioner of Baseball (1945-1951)
- Chandler probably had the most lasting impact on baseball of any Kentuckian. He was the second commissioner of professional baseball and presided over the game when Jackie Robinson broke the color line for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Chandler supported Dodgers’ President Branch Rickey’s decision to sign Robinson and was quoted as saying he felt excluding players based on race would prevent him from feeling good when he met his maker. Chandler also served two terms as Kentucky’s governor.
The All-Time BluGrass Team will be permanently linked on the top navigation bar this afternoon.