So, we kind of got caught up in baseball fever here at The List HQ this week.
How could you not? Opening Day, Turner Field is packed, the weather is perfect, and bats are pinging all over the high school area too.
Watching all the Major League stars play these past couple of days – particularly hometown guy Brian McCann for the Braves – got us thinking, who are the best MLB players to emerge from Georgia high schools?
It’s quite a long list, since we are, of course, the best state in the country for high school baseball. It’s true, even if someone tells you it isn’t.
But who are the best of the best? Here’s your answer, in typical Top 10 format (and keep in mind, some of the high school years are our well-intentioned best estimate, given research):
10. Ron Blomberg (Druid Hills, 1964-67)
Blomberg’s career was relatively short, but he made more of an impact than many with much longer MLB stints. Blomberg was the first Major Leaguer to play a game as a designated hitter, and he was an extremely popular athlete in New York after being chosen with the top overall pick by the Yankees out of Druid Hills High, where he was the first athlete chosen as a Parade All-American in football, basketball and baseball. He batted almost .300 and hit 47 home runs over five seasons in New York before injuries wrecked his promising career.
9. Todd Jones (Osborne, 1983-86)
He pitched for eight different teams – including two stops in Detroit, five years apart – over 16 years, most notably as a closer for the Tigers and Marlins. After saving 141 games over four years in Detroit, with 42 of those coming in 2000, he lost the closer job, and his career fell off the map for a few years. That was, until he went back to closer for Florida in 2005, saving 40 games, then returning for 37- and 38-save seasons in Detroit before retiring in 2008.
8. Ray Knight (Dougherty, 1967-70)
A two-time All-Star and 1979 MVP candidate, Knight is possibly best remembered as a key member of the 1986 World Series-winning Mets team. He batted .298 with 76 RBI that year, winning National League Comeback Player of the Year. Then, in his only World Series, he batted .391 with 5 RBI, and he was the guy trotting home when the fateful groundball rolled between Bill Buckner’s legs.
7. Brian McCann (Duluth, 1999-2002)
Already a six-time All-Star in just seven full seasons, McCann has established himself as one of the game’s best catchers, both behind and at the plate. Averaging more than 21 home runs and 83 RBI over those first seven full seasons, he’s shown power and even makes good contact with a .279 average. And at only 28, he’s still got plenty of time to move up this list.
6. Wally Joyner (Redan, 1977-80)
It’s not often that a 16-year veteran’s first two years in the big leagues were his best, but that’s the case with Joyner, who hit 22 home runs and had 100 RBI while finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1986, then upped that to 34/117 in year two, as Wally World became a phenomenon in Anaheim. He never really duplicated those numbers again, though there’s nothing wrong with a .289 career average and 200-plus homers.
5. Marquis Grissom (Lakeshore, 1982-85)
Perhaps best remembered in Atlanta for securing the final out of the 1995 World Series victory, Grissom had a long, successful career for several teams. He was a speedster in the early years, leading the league in stolen bases with 76 in 1991 and 78 in 1992. He slowed down soon after that but put up several solid years, finishing with a career .272 average, 429 stolen bases and two All-Star selections.
4. Kevin Brown (Wilkinson, 1980-83)
A relative nobody coming out of Wilkinson High, Brown walked on at Georgia Tech as a shortstop and then moved to pitcher. It’s fair to say that move worked out. He ended up the fourth pick of the 1986 draft and then was a good pitcher for the Rangers for six years, even winning 21 games in 1992. Then, he came to the Marlins and blew up in 1996, posting ERAs of 1.89, 2.69, 2.38, 3.00, 2.58 and 2.65 over the next six seasons, nearly winning two Cy Youngs and getting a World Series.
3. Luke Appling (Fulton, 1924-27)
This Hall of Famer might have put up some even bigger career numbers if he hadn’t been robbed of two years due to military service, but he did plenty of damage as it was. He was a three-sport star at Fulton High, but stuck with baseball, ending up on some of the decimated post-Black Sox Scandal White Sox teams. He won two batting titles, had seven All-Star Game appearances and went on to be a successful Minor League manager after his playing days.
2. Frank Thomas (Columbus, 1983-86)
A part of one state-championship team at Columbus, Thomas went on to become one of the most feared hitters in baseball history, particularly in the early to mid 1990s. From 1990-97, he never hit below .308 in a season, slugged 257 homers and averaged more than 100 RBIs while winning two MVP awards for the White Sox.
1. Ty Cobb (Franklin County, 1901-04)
A surly malcontent who was hated by many of his peers during his playing days, he might not have been the first guy you invite over for dinner. But man, could he ever hit. Won 11 batting titles and still has the highest career batting average ever (.366). Won one MVP award, hit over .400 three times, and finished with 2,246 runs (second all time), 724 doubles (fourth), 295 triples (second), 4,189 hits (second), 1,938 RBI (eighth) and 897 stole bases (fourth). He’s a Hall of Famer, and he might be in the top 10 among all players from all states.
Now we want to know what you think. Who are the best MLB players to come out of Georgia? Whom did we leave out? Would Ty Cobb punch you in the face if you looked at him cross-eyed? Let us know here in the comments or on Twitter at @ajcprepsports.