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Major League Baseball Players

The game of baseball developed in the nineteenth century and became, along with hot dogs and apple pie, a classic element of American culture. Although the state of Arkansas has never been home to any major league team, Arkansas has contributed in many ways to the sport and its professional roster. While some players from other places developed and improved their skills as college or minor league baseball players in Arkansas (playing for teams such as the Arkansas Razorbacks or the Arkansas Travelers), more than 150 major league baseball players have been born in Arkansas.

Earliest Players and Newest Players
Chick Carroll is the earliest major league player born in Arkansas. Carroll played outfield in four games for the Washington (DC) Nationals baseball team in 1884 when he was eighteen years old. Carroll’s birthday and birthplace are not known (his birthplace is listed only as “Arkansas”), and he died in Chicago, Illinois, on July 13, 1908. The youngest player in the American League during both the 1916 and 1917 seasons was the Detroit Tigers’ Herbert “Babe” Ellison, born on November 15, 1895, in Rutland (Yell County).

Travis Wood of Little Rock began his major league career on July 1, 2010. That season, Wood pitched in seventeen games for the Cincinnati Reds, winning five while losing four. Traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 2011 season, Wood has already won enough games in four seasons to rank sixteenth among pitchers born in Arkansas. Catcher Cody Clark, born in Fayetteville (Washington County), played in his first major league game, for the Houston Astros, on August 23, 2013. Clark was almost thirty-two years old at the time. He had played college baseball and then had been in the minor league systems of several teams for eleven years before reaching the majors. Clark played in sixteen games for the Astros in 2013, garnering four hits.

Hall of Fame Players from Arkansas
Six baseball players born in Arkansas have received baseball’s highest honor, being voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Lou Brock, an outfielder who played nineteen seasons in the 1960s and 1970s (mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals) was born in El Dorado (Union County). Travis Jackson, an infielder who played fifteen seasons for the New York Giants in the twenties and thirties, was born in Waldo (Columbia County) and also died in Waldo. George Kell, another infielder, played fifteen seasons for five different teams in the 1940s and 1950s; he was born in Swifton (Jackson County). Brooks Robinson, born in Little Rock (Pulaski County), played third base twenty-three seasons for the Baltimore Orioles organization from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s. Joseph Floyd “Arky” Vaughan of Clifty (Madison County) played fourteen seasons—interrupted by his service in World War II—for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Perhaps the most colorful Hall of Fame player from Arkansas was pitcher Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean, who played seven seasons for the Cardinals and four more for the Chicago Cubs in the 1930s. Six years after he retired, Dean criticized the efforts of the St. Louis Browns players while he was working as a radio announcer for the team. Fan response forced Dean to back up his boast that he could outperform the current players. Dean pitched four innings for the Browns, allowing three hits and no runs. Dean was born in Lucas (Logan County); his younger brother Paul “Daffy” Dean, who pitched nine seasons for three different teams, was also born in Lucas.

Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, who played seventeen seasons for the New York Yankees, was born in Bastrop, Louisiana, but grew up in Kensett (White County). Dickey was overshadowed by Yankee stars such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, yet many of his fellow players considered him the most valuable player of the frequent world-champion New York team.

Many of these honored players were involved in the 1934 season, perhaps the one season that was most dominated by Arkansas natives. Dizzy and Daffy Dean both pitched for St. Louis that season and provided forty-nine of the Cardinals’ ninety-five victories. The Cardinals’ World Series opponent, the Detroit Tigers, featured pitcher Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe, who was born in Waco, Texas, but grew up in El Dorado. Rowe pitched fifteen seasons for three different teams in the 1930s and 1940s. Jackson, Vaughan, and Dickey all were in the midst of their successful careers that year, as was Chicago Cubs pitcher Lon Warneke, who was born in Mount Ida (Montgomery County) and was called “the Arkansas Hummingbird.” Warneke pitched fifteen seasons for the Cubs and the Cardinals. Five times an All-Star, Warneke retired with a career record of 192 wins and 121 losses. He later served as a judge in Mount Ida.

Rowe and Paul Dean faced each other in the sixth game of the 1934 World Series on October 8 of that year. Dean's Cardinals won the game 4 to 3. Two Arkansans would not take the mound against each other in a World Series for another seventy-five years. On November 2, 2009, in the fifth game of the World Series, Cliff Lee led the Philadelphia Phillies in an 8 to 6 victory over A. J. Burnett and the New York Yankees.

Short Major League Careers
Not every baseball player, though, can achieve the same success. Sid Benton, born in Buckner (Lafayette County), pitched in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals on April 18, 1922. Benton walked the only two batters he faced and never returned to the mound for a major league team. Joe Brown, born in Little Rock, pitched to three batters for the Chicago White Sox on May 17, 1927. Brown walked one batter and gave up two hits; all three players scored for the opposition. Brown also never had another chance to pitch for a major league team.

Otis Davis, born in Charleston (Franklin County), had a similarly short major league career. On April 22, 1946, batting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Davis (known as “Scat”) was put in as a pinch runner. He never appeared again in the major leagues. On May 7, 1969, Leroy Reams, who was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), struck out for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers before the 1970 season but never again left the minor leagues.

Notable Major League Careers
For most baseball players, success is neither spectacular enough to reach the Hall of Fame nor as brief as just one season. Wally Moon, born in Bay (Craighead County), was named Rookie of the Year in 1954, the same year that Hank Aaron began his major league career. Baseball legend has it that Moon was called to report to the minor league training camp that spring and accidentally reported to the major league camp instead. By the time the mistake was discovered, Moon had impressed the coaching staff sufficiently that he was invited to remain with the major league players. In a twelve-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Moon played twice in the All-Star game and won one Golden Glove.

Johnny Sain also achieved remarkable success with two teams, the Boston Braves and the New York Yankees. Sain was born in Havana (Yell County). In eleven seasons in the 1940s and 1950s, he won 139 games, including twenty-four for the Braves in 1948, when he started thirty-nine games and completed twenty-eight, leading the league in all three categories. (His teammate, Warren Spahn, won fifteen games that year, causing some sports writers to use the expression, “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain,” to describe the Braves’ pitching staff.) In 1954, Sain led the American League in saves with twenty-two. Sain was named to the All-Star team three times. His career batting average was .245, unusually high for a pitcher. Sain also holds a 3–1 record in World Series games.

Willie Davis from Mineral Springs (Howard County) played eighteen seasons in the outfield in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and won two Golden Gloves during those years. He ranks high on the major league charts for hits (2,561), stolen bases (398), and triples (138). Taylor Douthit, who was born in Little Rock, played eleven seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds in the 1920s and early 1930s. Known for his defense, he set a record in 1928 for center fielders by getting out 547 batters. Douthit also led the league in 1928 in another category, being hit by pitches ten times.

Alex Johnson from Helena (Phillips County) led the league in batting in 1970 as a player for the California Angels, when he hit .329. He completed thirteen seasons with eight different teams in his career in the 1960s and 1970s. Ellis Kinder, born in Atkins (Pope County), played in twelve major league seasons in the 1940s and 1950s and set the American League record in 1953 for most appearances without a complete game (sixty-nine), saving twenty-seven games that year. Sherm Lollar played eighteen seasons for the Chicago White Sox and for three other teams from the mid-1940s into the 1960s; born in Durham (Washington County), he was named to the All Star team seven times and earned three Golden Gloves.

Catcher Hal Smith from Barling (Sebastian County) played seven seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1950s and 1960s and was once named an All Star. Kevin McReynolds from Little Rock played twelve seasons for the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, and Kansas City Royals in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1988, he set a major league record by stealing twenty-one bases without being caught. Lloyd Moseby, who was born in Portland (Ashland County), played twelve seasons in the 1980s and early 1990s, ten for the Toronto Blue Jays, and was on the 1986 All Star team. Glenn Myatt of Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County) played seventeen seasons in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly with the Cleveland Indians, as a catcher. He retired after playing in 1,004 games.

Other Arkansans with significant major league careers are Jim King from Elkins (Washington County), who played eleven seasons for six teams in the 1950s and 1960s; Tommy McCraw, born in Malvern (Hot Spring County), who played thirteen seasons for five teams in the 1960s and 1970s; Walter Schmidt of Coal Hill (Johnson County), who played ten seasons (nine for the Pittsburgh Pirates) in the 1910s and 1920s; Earl Smith, born in Hot Springs (Garland County), who played twelve seasons for four teams mostly in the 1920s; Jerry Turner from Texarkana (Miller County), who played ten seasons, mostly for the Padres in the 1970s and 1980s; and Aaron Ward of Booneville (Logan County), who played twelve seasons, mostly for the New York Yankees in the late 1910s and 1920s.

Dick Hughes, who was born in Stephens (Ouachita County), played only three seasons, but won sixteen games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967. Pitcher Clyde Henry Day—nicknamed “Pea Ridge” Day because he was born in that town—pitched forty-six games over four seasons in a seven-year span for three different teams in the 1920s, winning five games and losing seven.

Unusual Stories
Glenn Abbott played eleven years for the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Detroit Tigers in the 1970s and 1980s. Abbott was born in Little Rock. On September 28, 1975, he was one of four pitchers to combine for a no-hit performance. Manager Alvin Dark removed starter Vida Blue after the fifth inning—a rare move when a pitcher is holding opponents hitless—and had Abbott pitch the sixth inning. Paul Lindblad pitched the seventh inning, and Rollie Fingers finished the game, marking the first time four pitchers ever combined for a no-hit major league game.

Another unusual game included Randy Jackson from Little Rock, who played ten seasons in the 1950s, mostly for the Chicago Cubs. On June 29, 1956, he was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies, who were leading 5–2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Deke Snider preceded Jackson with a home run, which brought the game to 5–4. Jackson then hit a home run to tie the game, and on the next pitch, Gil Hodges hit another home run to win the game for the Dodgers. This was the only time in major league history that a baseball game ended with three consecutive home runs.

Outfielder Rick Monday, born in Batesville (Independence County), played nineteen seasons for four different teams from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. On April 25, 1976, while playing in the outfield for the Chicago Cubs against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday saw two spectators leave the stands and attempt to burn an American flag in the outfield. Monday raced to the spot and took the flag away before it was ignited. A month later, the rescued flag was presented to Monday by officials from the Los Angeles team. The Cubs traded Monday to the Dodgers after that season, and he played in the World Series three times for the Dodgers.

Ray Powell, born in Siloam Springs (Benton County), played nine seasons in the 1910s and 1920s, mostly for the Boston Braves. An outfielder, he led the National League in strike-outs in both the 1919 and 1921 seasons. Gene Stephens from Gravette (Benton County) played twelve seasons in the 1950s and 1960s, eight for the Boston Red Sox. On June 18, 1953, in the seventh inning, Stephens became the only major league player to have three hits in the same inning.

Charles “Boss” Schmidt, who was born in Coal Hill (Johnson County), played six seasons as catcher for the Detroit Tigers. Starting in the World Series for the Tigers, Schmidt made several records of dubious value: in 1908 he committed five errors and allowed sixteen stolen bases, and he made the last out of the World Series in two consecutive years (1907 and 1908). None of these records has been broken.

Arkansas’s Only Major League Player/Manager
Only one baseball player born in Arkansas has ever played in and managed in the major leagues. Don Kessinger was such a talented infielder that his team, the Chicago Cubs, moved future Hall of Fame player Ernie Banks from the shortstop position to first base to make room for Kessinger. Kessinger, who was born in Forrest City (St. Francis County), played twelve seasons for the Cubs and three for the St. Louis Cardinals before he was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1979. That year, he both played in and managed the team, leading them in forty-six wins and sixty losses until he was released by the White Sox on the last day of July. One of those losses was a forfeited game: the White Sox had scheduled a double-header against the Detroit Tigers for July 12 and announced that disco records would be burned on field between the games. “Disco Demolition Night,” as it was called, turned into a violent event that damaged the field and made it impossible for the second scheduled game to be played.

Rising Stars

In baseball, it is said, records are made to be broken. In the twenty-first century, baseball players from Arkansas have continued to shape the game. Allan James “A. J.” Burnett played for four teams in seventeen seasons. The North Little Rock native won 164 games, including eighteen in 2008. Only Lon Warneke has more wins to his credit among pitchers from Arkansas. Torii Kedar Hunter, born in Pine Bluff, was a member of three teams in nineteen seasons. He won nine gold gloves and was on the All Star team five times, most recently in 2013. Hunter retired at the end of the 2015 season, having hit 353 home runs, more than any other player from Arkansas. Patrick Brian “Pat” Burrell, born in Eureka Springs (Carroll County), played nine seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, including their 2008 World Series championship team; he then played for two other teams before retiring after the 2011 season. Cliff Lee had the best win-loss percentage in the major leagues in 2005 and then topped that season with a stellar season in 2008, in which he started the All Star game for the American League and was granted the Cy Young award at the end of the season. The Benton (Saline County) native played thirteen seasons for four teams winning a total of 143 games, good enough for third place in wins on the list of pitchers born in Arkansas.

As of the start of the 2016 season, three players who were born in Arkansas were active in the major leagues. Craig Gentry, from Fort Smith, plays center field for the Los Angeles Angels; Drew Smyly, from Little Rock, pitches for the Tampa Bay Rays; and Travis Wood, also from Little Rock, pitches for the Chicago Cubs.

No one can predict the future of baseball, but Arkansas will surely continue to provide some of the talented players who keep the game alive.  

 

Major League Baseball Players from Arkansas with more than 400 hits in their careers (as of November 1, 2015)

Name

S   

G

AB

H

2b

3b

HR

R

BI

AVG

OBP

SLG

Lou Brock

 19 

2616

10332

3023**

486

141**

149

1610**

900

.293

.343

.410

Brooks Robinson

 23

2896

10654

2848

482

68

268

1232

1357

.267

.322

.401

Willie Davis

 18

2429

9174

2561

395

138

182

1217

1053

.279

.311

.412

Torii Hunter

 19

2372

9692

2452

498**

39

353**

1296

1391**

.277

.331

.461

Arky Vaughan

 14

1817

6622

2103

356

128

96

1173

926

.318**

.406**

.453

George Kell

 15

1795

6702

2054

385

50

78

881

870

.306

.367

.414

Don Kessinger

 16

2078

7651

1931

254

80

14

899

527

.252

.314

.312

Travis Jackson

 15

1656

6086

1768

291

86

135

833

929

.291

.337

.433

Rick Monday

 19

1986

6136

1619

248

64

241

950

775

.264

.361

.443

Lloyd Moseby

 12

1588

5815

1494

273

66

169

869

737

.257

.332

.414

Kevin McReynolds

 12

1502

5423

1439

284

35

211

727

807

.265

.328

.447

Sherm Lollar

 18

1752

5351

1415

244

14

155

623

808

.264

.357

.402

Wally Moon

 12

1457

4843

1399

212

60

142

737

661

.289

.371

.445

Pat Burrell

 12

1640

5503

1393

299

16

292

767

976

.253

.361

.472**

Alex Johnson

 13

1322

4623

1331

180

33

78

550

525

.288

.326

.392

Taylor Douthit

 11

1074

4127

1201

220

38

29

665

396

.291

.364

.384

Tommy McCraw

 13

1468

3956

972

150

42

75

484

404

.246

.309

.362

Aaron Ward

 12

1059

3611

966

158

54

50

457

447

.268

.335

.383

Floyd Robinson

 9

1011

3284

929

140

36

67

458

426

.283

.365

.409

Ray Powell

 9

875

3324

890

117

67

35

467

276

.268

.336

.375

Ellis Valentine

 10

894

3166

881

169

15

123

380

474

.278

.315

.458

Randy Jackson

 10

955

3203

835

115

44

103

412

415

.261

.320

.421

Glenn Myatt

 16

1004

2678

722

137

37

38

346

387

.270

.334

.391

Jim King

 11

1125

2918

699

112

19

117

374

401

.240

.326

.411

Earl Smith

 12

860

2264

686

115

19

46

225

355

.303

.374

.432

Walter Schmidt

 10

766

2411

619

63

20

3

216

234

.257

.301

.303

Smead Jolley

 4

473

1710

521

111

21

46

188

313

.305

.343

.475

Gene Stephens

 12

964

1913

460

78

15

37

283

207

.240

.325

.355

Jerry Turner

 10

733

1742

448

73

9

45

222

238

.257

.319

.387

Hal Smith

 7

570

1697

437

63

8

23

126

172

.258

.300

.345

Dib Williams

 6

475

1574

421

74

12

29

198

201

.267

.327

.385

KEY:

S = seasons
H = hits
HR = Home Runs
AVG = batting average (hits/at-bats)
G = games
2b = doubles
R = runs scored
OBP = on base percentage

AB = at-bats
3b = triples
BI = runs batted in
SLG = slugging percentage
* Still an active player

** Leader in category

Major League baseball pitchers from Arkansas with at least twenty career wins (as of November 1, 2015)

Name

S

G

W

L

%

GS

CG

SH

SV

ERA

Lon Warneke

 15

 445

 192**

 121

 .613

 343

 192**

 30**

 13

 3.18

A J Burnett*

 17

 435

 164

 157

 .511

 430

 24

 10

 0

 3.99

Dizzy Dean

 12

 317

 150

 83

 .644

 230

 154

 26

 30

 3.02

Cliff Lee

 13

 328

 143

 91

 .611

 324

 29

 12

 0

 3.52

Johnny Sain

 11

 412

 139

 116

 .545

 245

 140

 16

 51

 3.49

Preacher Roe

 12

 333

 127

 84

 .602

 261

 101

 17

 10

 3.43

Ellis Kinder

 12

 484

 102

 71

 .590

 122

 56

 10

 102**

 3.43

Hank Wyse

 8

 251

 79

 70

 .530

 159

 67

 11

 8

 3.52

Glenn Abbott

 11

 248

 62

 83

 .428

 206

 37

 5

 0

 4.39

Ryan Franklin

 11

 532

 62

 76

 .449

 106

 6

 3

 84

 4.14

Paul Dean

 9

 159

 50

 34

 .545

 87

 44

 8

 8

 3.72

Gene Bearden

 7

 193

 45

 38

 .542

 84

 29

 7

 1

 3.96

Hank Robinson

 6

 150

 42

 37

 .532

 73

 32

 3

 2

 2.53

Harry Kelley

 6

 146

 42

 47

 .472

 78

 43

 3

 5

 4.86

Travis Wood *

 6

 182

 39

 52

 .429

 133

 0

 0

 4

 4.08

Bill Bailey

 11

 203

 38

 76

 .333

 117

 70

 8

 0

 3.57

Mike Jeffcoat

 10

 255

 25

 26

 .490

 45

 3

 2

 7

 4.37

Drew Smyly*

 4

 126

 24

 15

 .615

 55

 1

 1

 2

 3.24

Marlin Stuart

 6

 196

 23

 17

 .575

 31

 7

 0

 15

 4.65

Joe Berry

 4

 133

 21

 22

 .488

 0

 0

 0

 18

 2.45**

Dick Hughes

 3

 68

 20

 9

 .690**

 34

 13

 4

 8

 2.78

 

KEY:


S = seasons
G = games
W = games won
L = games lost
% = percent of decisions won

CG = complete games pitched
SH = shut-outs
SV = games saved
ERA = earned run average

* = Still an active player

For additional information:

Bailey, Jim. “1934 World Series belonged to Arkansas.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 24, 2006, p. 2C.

Higgins, Billy D. The Barling Darling: Hal Smith in American Baseball. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2009.

Martinez, David H. The Book of Baseball Literacy. New York: Plume, 1996.

Mitchell, Fred. Cubs: Where Have You Gone? Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing, 2004.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. http://baseballhall.org/ (accessed April 26, 2016).

Palmer, Peter, and Gary Gillette, eds. The Baseball Encyclopedia. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2004.

“Players Born in Arkansas.” Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/bio/AR_born.shtml (accessed April 26, 2016).

Swindell, Larry. “Arkansas’ 10 Best Baseball Players.” Arkansan (April 1979): 32–39.

Steven Teske
North Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 4/26/2016

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