The state of Texas has no shortage of baseball history. Even prior to MLB expanding to the Lone Star State in 1962, many Texas-born players became legends on the diamond. With such a large population, it is no surprise that Texas produced its fair share of Hall of Famers. Here are the 10 best Texas baseball players, several of whom are enshrined in Cooperstown.
Note: This list only contains players who were born in Texas. Therefore, players such as Roger Clemens, who are longtime Texas residents but were born elsewhere, are excluded.
The Best Texas Baseball Players
52.01 career WAR
Hailing from the small community of Justiceburg, Norm Cash is the first entry in our Texas Top 10. Cash got his start in the bigs with the Chicago White Sox, seeing limited action across two seasons. Following a trade to the Detroit Tigers, however, he became a star, spending the rest of his career in the Motor City. Cash’s best year came in 1961 when he won the AL batting title with a .361 average. He also led the league in OPS (1.148) and hits (193) and finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
“Stormin’ Norman” was a valuable member of the Tigers’ World Series-winning team in 1968, hitting .385 in that year’s Fall Classic. At the time of his retirement, Cash ranked fourth all-time in homers among AL lefties with 377. He is one of the few players on this list not in the Hall of Fame. Given his decade and a half of sustained success, it is surprising the five-time All-Star did not get a closer look.
67.69 career WAR
Although Ernie Banks is now known as Mr. Cub, he got his start in Dallas, where he was born and raised. His first foray into professional baseball came in 1949 when he signed with the Dallas Black Giants of the Negro Leagues while still in high school. After serving in the Korean War, Banks burst onto the scene with the Chicago Cubs, quickly becoming a star shortstop. He won back-to-back NL MVPs in 1958-59 and was an All-Star in 11 different seasons. Banks shined despite playing in an era of often subpar Cubs baseball. A member of the 500-homer and 2,500-hit club, he made it into Cooperstown in 1977. Many consider him the greatest Cub of all time.
75.92 career WAR
Like Ernie Banks, superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw hails from Dallas. Attending high school in the area, he made a name for himself as the best pitcher at that level before being drafted seventh overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006. He has called LA home ever since, and what a career it’s been. In 15 seasons, Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards, an NL MVP award in 2014, a World Series title in 2020, and nine All-Star nods. He is closing in on 200 career wins, which in this day and age is a new gold standard with 300 being exceedingly difficult to reach. Kershaw’s career ERA of 2.48 and WHIP of 1.001 make him one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. Although injuries and occasional postseason struggles have impacted his reputation slightly, he remains very much on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
ALL-STAR, CLAYTON KERSHAW. ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/2G55g7uOSG
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 10, 2022
81.28 career WAR
Pulling into the station at seventh on the Texas Top 10 is the Ryan Express. Born in the small town of Refugio, his family soon moved to Alvin, TX. It is here that Nolan Ryan grew up and eventually lived for decades. In a remarkable 27-year career spanning four separate decades, Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters and became the all-time strikeout king with 5,714. After winning his only title in 1969 with the New York Mets, Ryan became a star with the then-California Angels, hurling four no-nos and making five All-Star teams during his tenure.
He spent the rest of his career in his home state, starting in the 1980s with the Houston Astros, where he continued to put up great numbers. In 1981, Ryan posted a career-low 1.69 ERA while finishing fourth in Cy Young voting. He rounded out his career with the Texas Rangers, tossing a pair of no-hitters in his 40s. Stunningly, Ryan never won a Cy Young Award, his best finish being second in 1973. Still, he surpassed the 300-win mark, holds a pair of near-unbreakable records and joined the Hall of Fame in 1999. Ryan is rightly remembered as one of the most dominant pitchers of all time.
96.13 career WAR
Our Texas Top 10 continues with another Hall of Famer: Braves legend Eddie Mathews. A native of Texarkana, Mathews has the sole distinction of playing for the Braves in all three cities they’ve called home: Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. He came up in 1952, the franchise’s last year in Beantown. Mathews stayed with the team for their entire 13-year run in Milwaukee and quickly became a star third baseman. He twice led the National League in homers, with 47 in 1953 and 46 in 1959. Mathews was a key component of the Braves’ upset of the New York Yankees in the 1957 World Series, hitting the winning homer in Game Four. After one season in Atlanta, he rounded out his career with the Astros and Tigers. Mathews had 512 career homers, the same figure as fellow Texan Ernie Banks. He became a Hall of Famer in 1978.
100.44 career WAR
A key cog of the Big Red Machine, Joe Morgan is one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game. Originally from Bonham, TX, Morgan spent parts of nine seasons in Houston to begin his career. During this time, he made two All-Star games and finished second for NL Rookie of the Year in 1965.
Once Morgan was traded to the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 1972 season, he began an incredible run of success. He was an All-Star for all eight seasons he played in Cincy, led the league in on-base percentage four times, and won five straight Gold Gloves. Morgan also won back-to-back NL MVPs in 1975 and 1976. Not at all a coincidence, the Reds also won the World Series in both of those years. They remain the last NL team to repeat as world champs. Morgan jumped around to several teams to end his career, including a return to Houston in 1980. He joined the ranks of Cooperstown in 1990 and was a longtime broadcaster prior to his death in 2020.
106.56 career WAR
One of the best pitchers of his generation, Greg Maddux was notable for carving up lineups with finesse rather than velocity. Born in the central Texas city of San Angelo, he first came up with the Cubs in 1986. He pitched seven years in Chicago, capping that tenure with a Cy Young Award in 1992. Maddux then became a free agent and signed with the Atlanta Braves, where he continued his dominant run. He won the Cy Young his first three years in Atlanta, becoming the first pitcher to win four straight. In all four seasons, Maddux led the NL in ERA and FIP, also leading in wins, ERA, complete games, and WHIP three times each. He capped this run in the sweetest possible way, helping the Braves win the 1995 World Series.
Maddux later returned to the Cubs from 2004 to 2006 and ended his career jumping between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres. One of the best fielding pitchers of all time, he won 18 Gold Gloves, a record for any player. He compiled 355 career wins and is the only player to win 15 or more games in 17 straight seasons. Maddux became a Hall of Famer in 2014. He has a strong case (along with Nolan Ryan) as the greatest pitcher ever from the state of Texas, however, his career WAR lands him a bit higher on this list.
107.17 career WAR
Coming in third in the Texas Top 10 is Frank Robinson. He was born on the Gulf Coast in Beaumont but grew up in California. Debuting with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, Robinson won NL Rookie of the Year that season. He was a steady power hitter from the start, and in 1961, he won NL MVP, helping the Reds to the pennant. While the Reds came up short that October against the Yankees, Robinson still had a year to remember. He led the league in OPS, OPS+, and slugging, hitting 37 homers and driving in 124 runs.
Five years later, Robinson was infamously traded to the Baltimore Orioles in a move the Reds likely rue to this day. In his first season with the Birds, Robinson won the AL MVP. He remains the only player ever to win MVP in both leagues. His performance helped spur the Orioles to their first world championship. Robinson was still on the squad when they won it all again in 1970.
Later in his career, Robinson became the first black manager in major league history, helming the then-Cleveland Indians as player manager for two years starting in 1975. He retired fourth on the all-time home run list and remains 10th all-time with 586 long balls. Robinson was a longtime manager after his playing days, and he joined the Hall of Fame in 1982. While not raised in the Lone Star State, he is certainly a Texas legend for the purposes of this list.
127.34 career WAR
For the rest of our Texas Top 10, we’ll have to jump way back in time to an earlier age of baseball. Rogers Hornsby was born in Winters, TX, in 1896. He made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, and it was with the Redbirds that “The Rajah” enjoyed his greatest success. From 1920 to 1925, Hornsby won six straight NL batting titles, hitting over .400 in three of those years. In all six of those years, he also led the league in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and OPS+.
Hornsby was a two-time Triple Crown winner (1922, 1925), a two-time NL MVP (1925, 1929), and a world champion with the Cards in 1926. He is considered one of the best pure hitters of all time, finishing with a .358 career average and 301 homers (very impressive for that era). A longtime player-manager, later career stops for Hornsby included the Cubs and the St. Louis Browns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1942.
134.72 career WAR
Ironically enough, the top spot on this list belongs to an underrated player. Perhaps that isn’t the perfect descriptor of Tris Speaker, but he is certainly one of the less-discussed stars of his era. Hailing from the small city of Hubbard, TX, Speaker made his debut in 1907 with the Boston Americans. Soon enough, they would change their name to the Red Sox. During his time in Boston, the Red Sox won two World Series (1912, 1915). Speaker also led the league in doubles twice and hits and homers once each before heading to the Indians in 1916.
In his first season in Cleveland, Speaker had a career year, winning the batting title (.386) and leading the AL in hits (211), doubles (41), OPS (.972), and OPS+ (186). He later helped Cleveland to their first World Series title in 1920. Speaker remains the all-time career doubles leader with 792. He is also sixth all-time in career average (.345) and fifth in hits (3,514). Speaker was an early member of the Hall of Fame, being inducted in 1937. Given his sterling, history-making 22-year career, it is fitting that Tris Speaker tops the Texas Top 10.
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