By Kevin Nelson
When it was announced last week that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine would be joining Bobby Cox in the Baseball Hall of Fame, all three of them to be inducted at next summer’s ceremonies in Cooperstown, their shared connection was impossible to ignore. Each achieved his greatest success in baseball while with the Atlanta Braves, Cox as manager and Maddux and Glavine as ace pitchers in the club’s sterling rotation.
But the news from Cooperstown also spotlighted another long-running, if far less commented upon, trend: California’s domination of baseball’s Valhalla. There are more people from California with plaques honoring them in the Hall of Fame gallery than from any other state.
Although he managed the Braves for a quarter of a century, winning five pennants and a World Series title, Bobby Cox grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, playing schoolboy ball at Selma High. While he did not grow up in California, another member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 is strongly identified with the state. Tony LaRussa, three-time World Series-winning manager of the Athletics and Cardinals, lives in the East Bay and is well known as the founder of an animal rescue and adoption foundation there.
Considering only those players and managers who were born or grew up in California, here is a list of the many Hall of Famers who spent their boyhood learning the game and honing their skills in the Golden State. Includes the year they were inducted and brief notes about their California connection and accomplishments in the game:
Sparky Anderson. 2000. Grew up in Los Angeles, Dorsey High. 3-time World Series-winning manager.
Before he became a Hall of Famer for the Kansas City Royals, George Brett grew up in El Segundo in southern California.
George Brett. 1999. El Segundo High, El Segundo, Ca. . Houdini with a bat, 305 lifetime average.
Bert Blyleven. 2011. Born in Netherlands, grew up in SoCal. Santiago High, Garden Grove. 287 career wins powered by nasty breaking stuff.
Gary Carter. 2003. Born Culver City, Sunny Hills High in Fullerton. The Kid: a catcher with HRs in his bat—324 lifetime.
Frank Chance. 1946. Born Fresno, Fresno High. Hard-nosed Cubs player-manager.
Bobby Cox. 2014. Grew up in San Joaquin Valley, Selma (Ca) High. World Series-winning manager with Braves.
Joe Cronin. 1956. Born SF, Sacred Heart High. Player, manager, executive.
Joe DiMaggio. 1955. Born Martinez, grew up SF. A Yankee legend and his generation’s best center fielder.
Bobby Doerr. 1986. Born LA, Fremont High, San Diego PCL. Stalwart Red Sox second-sacker.
Don Drysdale. 1984. Van Nuys, born and raised. Knock-you-on-your-ass right-hander with 209 wins.
Dennis Eckersley. 2004. East Bay all the way: Born Oakland, Washington High (Fremont). Talented and charismatic starter and reliever.
Rollie Fingers. 1992. Upland High, Upland, Ca. One of the best relievers ever and a mainstay of Oakland’s three world title teams in the 1970s.
Pat Gillick. 2011. Born Chico, played for 1958 College World Series-winning USC Trojans. Admired executive.
Joe Gordon. 2009. Born LA. Flashy glove man for Yanks and Tribe.
Tony Gwynn. 2007. Mr. Padre: Born LA, Long Beach Poly High, San Diego State. Master batsman with 3,141 perfectly placed hits. Continue reading