While baseball might not be known as the most known export from the Dairyland, the state of Wisconsin has had its fair share of Major League talent come up through the ranks. In MLB history 242 players have listed Wisconsin as their birth state and while California leads the record books with 2,231, Wisconsin finds itself right in the middle at #22. Most of these players grew up in Wisconsin, some moved, but others came and dealt with the snow-covered fields of Wisconsin in the spring. Here are the top MLB players to come from the Wisconsin High School ranks in the live-ball era (1920-present).
Name- Primary Position(s)- MLB Seasons (High School)
Jerry Augustine- Pitcher- 1975-1984 (Kewaunee)- the current Brewers Live analyst played all 10 of his MLB seasons in a Brewers uniform. He ended his career with a 4.23 ERA in 944 innings. The lefty pitcher had a solid career and as of 2017 was one of 171 players to have played his whole career, of 10 or more seasons, with one franchise.
Craig Counsell- Utility Infielder- 1995, 1997-2011 (Whitefish Bay): born in South Bend, Indiana but Counsell grew up in Wisconsin and lived a Wisconsin kid’s dream by checking off all the following items:
- Grew up around big leaguers at County Stadium while his father worked for the Brewers front office from 1979-187
- Scored the game winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series
- Won the 2001 NLCS MVP Award along with a second World Series title
- Played for the Brewers in in 2004 and from 2007-2011 appearing in three playoff series with the Crew
- Became the 19th manager in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history
Counsell’s retired from playing after the Brewers’ memorable 2011 season, his 16th in the big leagues. Known for his excellent defense and quirky batting stances as a player, Counsell will always be a fan favorite in the Dairyland as he continues to mold a talented, scrappy Brewers team as the present-day manager.
Ryne Duren- Pitcher- 1954-1964 (Cazenovia)– the pitcher to whom Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn was inspired due to his wicked fastball, tinted coke bottle glasses and bout with alcoholism. The country boy from south-central Wisconsin went from working in a factory and working his way up from the local sandlot Cazenovia Reds where in 1949 he caught the attention of a scout for the St. Louis Browns and was signed to their Class D affiliate, the Wausau Lumberjacks. Five seasons later and numerous stops across the Minor Leagues Duren found himself in the Major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles (whom the Browns turned into after relocating in 1954). In 1958 Duren was traded to the New York Yankees and his career took off. He became an All-Star and World Champion in 1958 and appeared in four All-Star games in his four seasons in pinstripes. After being traded to the Angels in 1961 he would bounce around the Majors before his release from the Washington Senators in 1964 led to the end of his career. Duren suffered from substance abuse which is partially to blame for his career derailing. Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was named in honor of Duren and his flamethrower’s amazing life was documented in his book “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Jim Gantner- Second baseman- 1976-1992 (Campbellsport)– “Gumby” was a fan favorite during the Brewers’ glory days and a staple in the Brewers infield, primarily at 2B while also being able to play 3B when needed. Gantner carved out a 17-year career in a Brewers uniform and was the steady defensive presence on a roster filled with big bats. Gantner was solid and scrappy at the plate, finishing in the top 10 in the American League in Singles in 1983 & 1984 while also leading the American League in Hit by Pitch with 10 in 1989. Gantner’s finished his career with a .274 BA, 47 HR’s and 568 RBI while honing a Wins Above Replacement of 22.3, one slot below Craig Counsell and one notch above Dan Uggla all-time for second basemen. Not too shabby for the kid from the small Fond du Lac County town.
Burleigh Grimes- Pitcher 1916-1934 (Clear Lake): Grimes played 19 seasons, compiled 270 wins and was the last player allowed to throw a spitball. Also known for his temperament, probably due to the harsh Wisconsin winters, and once was believed to throw a ball at a batter on the on-deck circle. None the less, Grimes put together a stellar career with cumulated with enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964. Won a World Series with St. Louis Cardinals in 1931 and was twice the NL wins leader. Led the NL in strikeouts in 1921 with 136 and finished with 1,512 career strikeouts while playing with seven different franchises.
Eric Hinske- Third Base, First Base & Outfield- 2002-2013 (Menasha): the pride of Menasha was the 2002 Rookie of the Year and a two-time World Champion who was a consummate professional during playing days. His career slash line .249/.332/.430 and his versatility being able to play 3B, 1B, LF and RF in the field kept him around big-league clubhouses for 12 seasons. His knowledge of the game has translated over to a successful post-playing career as a hitting coach where he captured another championship ring with a baseball team based in Illinois and now handles the same duties for the Los Angeles Angels.
Billy Hoeft- Pitcher-1952-1966 (Oshkosh): the lefty from Oshkosh was an all-star in 1955 with the Tigers and followed that up with 20 wins in 1956. Hoeft would pitch 15 years in the Majors and finished with 1,140 strikeouts and a 3.94 ERA. On September 7, 1953 in the 7th inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox Hoeft threw an immaculate inning, which means he struck out three batters on nine pitches in one inning.
Ken Keltner- Third baseman- 1937-1944, 1946-1950 (Milwaukee Boys’ Technical HS): Keltner played 12 seasons in a Cleveland Indians uniform and 13 games in 1950 for the Boston Red Sox. A seven-time all-star and 1948 World Series Champion (the Indians’ last title) in also a member of the Indians’ Hall of Fame. In 1945 Keltner joined the US Navy and missed the entire season while serving in Hawaii. He returned in 1946 and made his sixth all-star game. Then In 1948, Keltner had a career year and helped lead the charge of the Indians Championship team crushing 31 home runs and finished 5th in the AL with a .522 slugging percentage.
Tony Kubek- Shortstop- 1957-1965 (Milwaukee Bay View HS): Kubek played all nine of his seasons in New York Yankees pinstripes, winning three World Championships, seven AL pennants and earning four All-Star appearances along with the 1957 AL Rookie of the Year award. Kubek formed a top notch double play combo with second baseman Bobby Richardson.
Harvey Kuenn- Shortstop, Outfield & Third Base- 1952-1966 (Milwaukee Lutheran High School) –Well known in these parts as the manager who guided the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers aka “Harvey’s Wallbangers” but Kuenn put together a very impressive 15-year career. Kuenn was a 10x All Star, the 1953 ROY, captured the 1959 Batting Title and a career .303 career hitter amassing 2,092 career hits. His most successful time in the majors was with the Detroit Tigers from 1952-1959 and played for the Indians, Giants, Cubs and Phillies. After his playing days, Kuenn served as a Brewers coach from 1975-1983, serving as the interim manager in 1975 and the full-time manager in 1982 and 1983. Even after while suffering a series of medical complications during his coaching tenure, Kuenn never gave up his love for the game. In 1980 a blood clot led to the amputation of his right leg below his knee. Kuenn returned to coaching only six months afterwards and his prosthetic leg now hangs in memorial at 4th Base Restaurant in West Milwaukee.
Damian Miller- Catcher-1997-2007 (West Salem): the 2002 National League (NL) All Start backstop spent 11 seasons in Major League Baseball with five franchises, winning one World Championship (Arizona in 2002) and fulfilling a dream donning the Brewers script on his chest during the last three seasons of his career. A notable string of moments in Miller’s career came during his last season. On June 27, 2007 on “La Crosse Day” at Miller Park, Miller hit a walk-off homerun against the Houston Astros. He followed that up in his next start five days later with a franchise-tying record seven RBI which included a grand slam and a two-run home run in a 10-3 Brewers win against the Pirates.
Andy Pafko- Outfield- 1943-1959 (Boyceville): “Handy Andy” Pafko made a mark with all three franchises he played with throughout his 17-year playing career and was an all-around good baseball player who was able to play all three outfield positions well along with handling third base duties at times as well. In 1999 Pafko was named to the Chicago Cubs All-Century Team but after a short stint with the Brooklyn Dodgers following Chicago, he was most celebrated in the latter stages of his career with his home state Milwaukee Braves. While all Pafko’s five all-star seasons came with the Cubs, Pafko won his lone World Series title in 1957 with the Braves and was the only Wisconsin native on the team’s roster.
Joe Randa- Third Base- 1995-2006 (Kettle Moraine): played 12 seasons with five different franchises but was most known for his time as a Kansas City Royal, the team he works as a minor league special assistant with to this day. Randa once had 6 hits (5 singles, 1 double) in a 2004 game and finished his career with 1,543 hits, 123 long balls and a solid .284 average while primarily playing the hot corner.
Shane Rawley- Pitcher- 1978-1989 (Racine Horlick)- the southpaw from Racine played 12 seasons in the majors donning the uniforms of the Mariners, Yankees, Phillies and Twins. Rawley’s most noteworthy times happened as a member of the Phillies when he earned his only all-star appearance in 1986 and was the Phillies opening day starter in 1987 and 1988. In 1987 Rawley won a career high 17 games and led the NL in games started with 36.
Rick Reichardt- Leftfielder- 1964-1974 (Stevens Point)- Reichardt was an all-around fantastic athlete. He started at fullback for the Wisconsin Badgers in college and was a two time Big 10 Conference batting champion. After his college days, Reichardt signed an MLB record signing bonus of $200,000 from the Angels. He would go on to play 997 total games in the majors over 11 years with the Angels, White Sox and Royals. In 1966, Reichardt hit the first home run at Anaheim Stadium, which is now the fourth oldest, occupied stadium in Major League Baseball.
Scott Servias- Catcher- 1991-2001 (Westby): the current manager for the Seattle Mariners carved out a solid 11-year MLB career as a backup backstop playing entirely in the NL with the Astros, Cubs, Giants and Rockies. Servias won an Olympic Gold Medal with the USA at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Following his playing days Servias worked in the front office of the Texas Rangers before being hired as assistant GM of the LA Angels by GM Jerry Dipoto. When Dipoto joined the Seattle Mariners after the end of the 2015, he hired Servias to be the team’s manager.
Al Simmons- Outfield- 1924-1944 (Milwaukee): this Hall of Fame outfielder (inducted 1953) is arguably the best Wisconsin born baseball player of all-time. The two-time World Series Champion (both with the Philadelphia Athletics) and two-time AL batting champion finished in the top 10 in the MVP race six times during his 20-year career which spawned across seven different franchises. Nicknamed “Bucketfoot Al” for the way he strode toward third base when hitting, Simmons collected 2,927 career hits with a .334 average to go along with 307 home runs. Simmons also rose to the occasion in the clutch, posting a batting average of .329 to go along with a .658 slugging percentage in 19 World Series Games. Simmons reached 2,000 hits in only 1,390 games, a mark that stands are the fastest in MLB history.
Hall of Fame players Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Al Simmons pose for a photograph (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library).
Paul Wagner- Pitcher- 1992-1999 (Germantown): After being drafted by the Pirates in 1989 Wagner made his debut with the Pirates in 1992 and would find a spot in bullpen while also averaging 19 starts a year during his time in Pittsburgh. After being released by the Pirates in 1997, the hometown Brewers signed Wagner. Wagner’s career numbers over 8 seasons were pedestrian, to major league standards, finishing with a 4.83 ERA over 598.2 innings, but he did post a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 in 137 chances (50 putouts, 87 assists) over 160 appearances.
Jarrod Washburn- Pitcher- 1998-2009 (Webster)- as a freshman at UW-Oshkosh, the lefty from La Crosse led the Titans to the 1994 NCAA Division III Championship. Then following his sophomore season, Washburn was drafted by the then California Angels in the second round (31st overall pick) of the 1995 draft. On June 2, 1998 Washburn made his major league debut finishing the season going 6-3 over 11 starts. Washburn would bounce between AAA and the Angels over the next few seasons before cementing a spot for good in 2001. Washburn’s career year was 2002, when he went 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA in helping the Anaheim Angels to a World Series Championship. Washburn would pitch in the big leagues for an additional seven more seasons, but never reclaimed the magic of his 2002 season. Over a 12-year career with the Angels, Mariners and Tigers, Washburn finished with a 4.10 ERA over 1863.2 innings pitched before ultimately retiring after eight appearances for the Tigers in 2009.
Bob Wickman- Pitcher- 1992-2007 (Oconto Falls)- the big right hander from Green Bay was a Wisconsin boy through and through. As a child Wickman lost part of his index finger on his throwing hand but that didn’t slow him down, in fact it helped him with his sinker ball. Wickman played college ball at UW-Whitewater before being drafted in the 2nd round by the Chicago White Sox in 1990. Wickman made his debut with the New York Yankees in 1992 and throughout his career he donned the jerseys of the Yankees, Brewers, Indians, Braves and Diamondbacks. He amassed 267 career saves and a 3.57 career ERA across 15 seasons. Wickman made two All-Star teams (2000 as Brewer and 2006 as an Indian) and was the American Leader in saves in 2005 with 45.
Bob Uecker- Catcher-1962-1967 (Milwaukee Boys’ Technical HS): while Mr. Baseball frequently jokes about his playing career and while his career stats of .200 BA, 14 HR (bonus for hitting one off the great Sandy Koufax) and 74 RBI aren’t ideal, he was considered a very stable defensive player with a fielding percentage of .981. Although in 1967, Uecker led the league in past balls while catching for knuckleballer Phil Niekro. Always a jokester, Uecker tabbed the famous line of “The best way to catch a knuckleball is…to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up.” Uecker received the Ford C. Frick in 2003 which is bestowed annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.” 2018 marks his 63rd year in professional baseball and Uecker’s contributions to Milwaukee outside of his on-field play is what makes Mr. Baseball, Wisconsin’s most famous baseball son.
Jordan Zimmermann- Pitcher- 2009-Present (Auburndale): the former UW-Stevens Point Pointer was the second-round pick in 2007 by the Washington Nationals and been the most successful current Wisconsin based MLB player. Zimmermann is a two-time All Star who led the NL in wins (19) and pitched the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history on the last day of the 2014 regular season. After seven seasons in Washington DC, Zimmermann inked a five-year $110 million contract with the Detroit Tigers in 2016. Zimmermann entered 2018 with 1072 career strikeouts and a 3.80 ERA and is listed as the #2 starting pitcher in the Tigers rotation.