Before the list starts, it’s important to take into account that this list only includes players that were born in New Jersey. Players such as Yogi Berra that were born elsewhere but lived the majority of their life in the garden state will not be included. With that being said, here is my ranking of the 10 best New Jersey baseball players!
Derek Jeter is a Hall of Famer. pic.twitter.com/9KElypEMgX
— ESPN (@espn) September 8, 2021
The Best New Jersey Baseball Players
Williams was born in Newark and later moved to Montclair, which is where he broke out as an athlete. He received a scholarship from Ithaca College for basketball. However, he decided to pursue a career in baseball when he was selected in the 1965 MLB August Legion Draft by the Atlanta Braves, which were at the time named the Milwaukee Braves. After a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 1970, Williams won the Rookie of the Year award in 1971. This was a feat only accomplished by two other catchers in the 70s, Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk. An elite class to say the least. While the rest of Williams’s career may not have lived up to his ’71 campaign, he still had a very respectable career as a catcher and deserves a spot on this list.
Hackensack native Eric Karros was selected in the sixth round of the 1988 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a brief stint in the big leagues in 1991, Karros won the Rookie of the Year award in 1992. In addition, after an impressive 1995 season, Karros won a Silver Slugger award. While his entire 14-year career is respectable enough, his performances throughout his career in the playoffs are what solidified his spot in this list. In his first playoff series in the 1995 NLDS, Karros hit .500 in 12 at-bats with two home runs. Despite a disappointing 1996 NLDS, Karros bounced back at the end of his career with the Chicago Cubs. In the 2003 NLDS, Karros hit .375 in 16 at-bats. In total, through four series and 50 playoff at-bats, Karros put up a .300/.364/.560 slash line.
Doc Cramer, a Beach Haven native, had a 20-season career spanning from 1929 to 1948. A centerfielder, Cramer had a career .979 fielding percentage and eight seasons with a batting average above .300. In addition, Cramer hit .387 through 9 World Series games. One of those series was the ’45 series, which he won with the Detroit Tigers at 39 years old. A five-time All-Star, Cramer is certainly one of the better players to ever be born in New Jersey.
Johnny Vander Meer
Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Johnny Vander Meer accomplished a feat that may never be accomplished again in the big leagues. Vander Meer is the only pitcher in MLB history to throw no-hitters in two consecutive starts. Vander Meer accomplished this in June 1938, and nobody outside of Nolan Ryan has even come close in the 84 years since. This is what most people who have heard of Vander Meer know him for, however, he was also a very good pitcher for many years. Vander Meer was an All-Star 4 times throughout his career and could’ve been in more had he not joined the military during World War Two and missed his age 29 and 30 seasons. Regardless, the Prospect Park native left his mark on baseball and certainly deserves a spot on this list.
Leon “Goose” Goslin
Goose Goslin is a Hall of Famer, and for good reason. The left fielder doesn’t have many awards such as All-Star appearances or Rookie of the Year simply because those awards didn’t exist for the majority of his career. When you look at his stats it’s evident that he would have been getting awards nearly every year had they been available. Goslin led the AL in triples in ’23, RBI in ’24, triples again in ’25, and batting average in ’28. He was a two-time World Series Champion and played in five World Series throughout his career. In game six of the ’35 Series, Goslin hit a walk-off to win the Series for Detroit. The Salem native is most definitely worthy of being on this list.
While Joe Black might not be a name most baseball fans are familiar with, he’s a very important part of baseball history and American history as a whole. Joe Black roomed with Jackie Robinson when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952 and became the first African American pitcher to win a World Series game that same year. In addition, he won the Rookie of the Year award.
After his playing career, Black advocated for African American players and fought for MLB to celebrate Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier. He worked closely with MLB and in 1992 urged commissioner Fay Vincent to compensate players who were unable to play in MLB due to the racist color barrier. Eventually, a plan was set and the players and their spouses were included in a lifelong health insurance plan. Without a doubt, both on and off the field, the Plainfield native made everyone proud.
Medwick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the same year as Goose Goslin, in 1968. It’s easy to see why. He played 17 seasons, was a 10-time All-Star, and was an MVP. The 1937 MVP season is arguably one of the best that a left fielder has ever had. He led the NL in nearly every offensive category and led the entire league in hits and doubles. In addition, Medwick was a 1934 World Series champion with the St. Louis Cardinals. He posted a .379/.400/.552 in that Series and is the only person in MLB history that was taken out of a game for their own safety. In game seven, after a hard slide, Detroit Tigers fans began throwing fruits and vegetables at Medwick to voice their displeasure. As Reggie Jackson famously said, “They don’t boo nobodies”. In this case, they don’t throw fruits and vegetables at nobodies.
Newcombe surprisingly isn’t a Hall of Fame member, but he should be. The righty is just one of three pitchers to have a dual Cy Young/MVP season, he was a Rookie of the Year in ’49, and on top of that, he was a four-time All-Star. He led the league in wins in 1957 with 27 and had three total seasons with 20 or more wins. He was also a huge part of the integration of baseball. In 2010, former US President Barack Obama had this to say about Jackie Robinson and Newcombe. “I would not be here if it were not for Jackie and it were not for Don Newcombe.”
It may be surprising to hear that Jeter is from New Jersey, but he most definitely is. He moved out of the state at five years old, but he was born in Pequannock so he’s eligible for this list. Jeter is one of those players that needs no introduction, but if you haven’t looked at his accolades or stats in a long time, it’s an impressive list, to say the least.
The Hall of Famer was a Rookie of the Year, 14-time All-Star, five-time World Series winner, five-time gold glover, five-time Silver Slugger, and World Series MVP. He was the 15th captain in New York Yankees history from 2003-2014 and is statistically one of the best postseason hitters of all time. It was tough not putting him at number one given all of his accomplishments, but the next player on this list is too good to be number two on any top 10.
The future Hall of Famer is another player that needs no introduction. Rookie of the Year, three-time MVP, nine-time Silver Slugger. That’s just scratching the surface of how good Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. Trout was as highly regarded of a prospect as there ever was, and he’s somehow exceeded those expectations.
He joined the big leagues at just 19 years old back in 2011 and since then has arguably been the best player in the game nearly every year. Trout has only one series of playoff experience due to the Los Angeles Angels’ struggles, but that is something that cannot be held against him. He’s shown up for the team year after year and has stuck with the franchise through the ups and the downs, which is commendable especially given the way MLB operates with players moving from team to team frequently. For all these reasons, Mike Trout is one of the best New Jersey baseball players in MLB history.
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Yogi Berra, Earl Williams, Thurman Munson, Carlton Fisk, Eric Karros, Doc Cramer, Johnny Vander Meer, Nolan Ryan, Leon “Goose” Goslin, Joe Black, Jackie Robinson, Joe Medwick, Reggie Jackson, Don Newcombe, Derek Jeter, Mike Trout