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 Travelers and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals), 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 (Pulaski County) 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; Aaron Ward of Booneville (Logan County), who played twelve seasons, mostly for the New York Yankees in the late 1910s and 1920s; and Solly Drake and Sammy Drake of Little Rock, the first African American brothers to play for the major league in the modern era.
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.
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.
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, played center field for the Los Angeles Angels; Drew Smyly, from Little Rock, pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays; and Travis Wood, also from Little Rock, pitched for the Chicago Cubs.
In the shortened 2020 season (due to COVID-19), seven players from Arkansas—six of them pitchers—played in the major leagues. The veteran of the active Arkansas corps, Blake Parker (born in Fayetteville) was a free agent as of December 2020 after playing for six teams, beginning with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, and pitching most recently for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020; by 2020, his career record in the major leagues consisted of fourteen wins and ten losses with three games saved. Smyly signed with the Atlanta Braves at the end of 2020 after pitching for five other teams over seven seasons, most recently for the San Francisco Giants, building a record of thirty-five wins, thirty-five losses, and three saves. Jakob Junis, born in Jacksonville (Pulaski County), pitched in games for the Kansas City Royals during the last four seasons. Jalen Beeks (born in Fayetteville) pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays in each of the last three seasons. Outfielder Jonathan Davis, born in Camden (Ouachita County), played for the Toronto Blue Jays those same three seasons. Ashton Goudeau, born in Newport (Jackson County), played his rookie season for the Colorado Rockies but, as of December 2020, was part of the Baltimore Orioles organization. Tyler Zuber, born in White Hall (Jefferson County), pitched as a rookie for the Kansas City Royals in 2020.
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)
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
** Leader in category
Major League baseball pitchers from Arkansas with at least twenty career wins (as of November 1, 2015)
|A J Burnett||17||435||164||157||.511||430||24||10||0||3.99|
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
For additional information:
Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. http://arkbaseball.com/tiki-index.php (accessed June 30, 2022).
Bailey, Jim. “1934 World Series Belonged to Arkansas.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 24, 2006, p. 2C.
Goold, Derrick. “Arkansas Centenarian Baseball Player Reflects.” Jonesboro Sun, November , 19, 2006, p. A12.
Henry, Orville. “Native Sons in the Majors.” Arkansas Gazette, April 7, 1967, p. 2B.
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 June 30, 2022).
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 June 30, 2022).
Yeager, Jim. Backroads and Ballplayers: A Collection of Stories about Famous (and Not So Famous) Professional Baseball Players from Rural Arkansas. N.p.: 2018.
North Little Rock, Arkansas
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