With Major League Baseball kicking off another season this week, here's a quick question – who’s the greatest high school baseball player ever?
The question is not so easily answered. While the National Federation Record Book is filled with many awe-inspiring performances, relatively few of the names ever reached the Major League level.
So how do you judge who is best? We’ve taken on the task of selecting the greatest high school baseball player from each state, but there is a catch. The player chosen also had to have a solid, if not outstanding, pro career as well.
So you won’t see David Clyde on this list. The Texas schoolboy phenom has his name all over the national record book, but injuries caused him to wash out at the Major League level.
Likewise you won’t see Ty Cobb. Obviously one of the great baseball players of all time, Cobb didn’t play on a high school team (at least not that we could find), instead playing semi-pro ball. Thus he doesn’t qualify for the list.
Now in some cases we had to make exceptions. Some players played baseball in high school, but not at their high school because the school did not have a team. In those cases, we allowed American Legion performances, but we did not count semi-pro ball.
One other rule. The player had to go to high school in the state. Being born in the state, but playing high school in a different state, is not considered. So Jackie Robinson, who was born in Alabama but played high school ball in California, would be considered a California candidate.
So with those guidelines in mind, here’s a look at the best high school (and pro) baseball players from each of the 50 United States. Let us know if we've missed a great high school player from your state.
Hank Aaron, Central, Toulminville – Played high school baseball as a freshman and sophomore before playing Negro League baseball with the Mobile Black Bears during his junior and senior seasons (which were spent at Josephine Allen Institute in Ala.). Aaron led Central to the Negro High School Championships both seasons. Aaron went on to break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record with 755 career round-trippers. Future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey also played at Central during the 1950s.
Chad Bentz, Juneau Douglas - According to the Baseball Cube, Alaska has had only two high school alumni advance to the Major League level (Curt Schilling was born in Anchorage but went to high school in Arizona). Bentz played two seasons at the Major League level, posting a career pitching record of 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA. Bentz was a standout at Juneau Douglas despite having a deformed right hand. Like former major leaguer Jim Abbott, Bentz switches his glove from his right hand to his left hand after delivering the pitch.
Jim Palmer, Scottsdale – Although born in New York City, Palmer was adopted by Moe Wiesen and wife Polly. However Wiesen died and Palmer moved to California where he eventually took the name of Polly’s new husband Max Palmer. He eventually landed at Scottsdale High School where he was 10-0 as a senior and signed a major league contract as an 18-year-old (there was no draft in 1963). Palmer went on to win three Cy Young Awards and a place in the Hall of Fame.
Brooks Robinson, Little Rock Central – Possibly the greatest defensive third baseman in Major League history, Robinson earned 16 Gold Gloves and was known as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” and is remembered for his incredible defensive display in the 1970 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Robinson got his start at Little Rock Central, where ironically he ran track and played football. Little Rock did not have baseball in 1952, but he did play American Legion baseball and won the state title in 1952 and 1953.
Barry Bonds, Junipero Serra, San Mateo – Winner of seven Major League MVP awards and holder of the all-time home run record at 762, Bonds was a star at Serra, batting .467 his senior year. He was selected by the San Francisco Giants as a senior in 1982, but instead attended Arizona State before eventually turning pro with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986.
Rich Gossage, Wasson, Colorado Springs – Gossage was a fearsome relief pitcher for a number of Major League teams, most notably the New York Yankees, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. He won six letters in basketball and baseball while playing at Wasson.
Jeff Bagwell, Xavier, Middletown – Bagwell got his start at Xavier, a private all-male Catholic school. He excelled in baseball and soccer and was eventually signed by the Boston Red Sox. Involved in one of the more lop-sided trades in Major League history, Bagwell went to Houston in exchange for Larry Anderson. Bagwell went on to a long career with the Astros as one of the organization’s all-time great players.
DeLino DeShields, Seaford – DeShields had a 13-year career as a second baseman for the Montreal Expos and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was first team all-state in 1986 and 1987. He was selected in the first round of the MLB draft and also received basketball scholarship to Villanova.
Alex Rodriguez, Westminster Christian – Rodriguez had a spectacular high school career and was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners. He has since gone on to collect three MVP awards and is considered one of the top all-around players in the game today. At Westminster, Rodriguez was the USA Baseball Junior Player of the Year and was All-American as a senior when he batted .505 with nine home runs.
Frank Thomas, Columbus – An outstanding all-around athlete in high school, Thomas batted .440 in baseball, was an all-state tight end in football and also played on the basketball team. Although undrafted coming out of high school, Thomas went on to a 19-year career in the major leagues that included 521 home runs and a .301 career batting average.
Sid Fernandez, Kaiser, Honolulu – Fernandez was a member of the Mets pitching staff when New York won the World Series in 1986. He was known for his sidearm delivery and he won 116 games in his MLB career. At Kaiser, Fernandez reportedly threw a no-hitter in his first high school game. He was drafted out of high school in the third round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Harmon Killebrew, Payette – According to the Harmon Killebrew website, he was an all-state quarterback at Payette, but was signed by the Washington Senators after a scout watched him play in a pickup baseball game. Killebrew went on to a Hall of Fame career with 573 career home runs.
Kirby Puckett, Calumet – Although his career was cut short by vision problems, Puckett was elected to the Hall of Fame and had over 2,000 hits in his career. He led the Minnesota Twins to a pair of World Series titles and hit a walkoff home run to win Game 6 in 1991. As a third baseman at Calumet, Puckett was an All-American.
Chuck Klein, Southport – Klein was a four-sport athlete at Southport, excelling in baseball, football, basketball and track. He played semi-pro ball before eventually signing with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1928. He went on to a Hall of Fame career and was the National League MVP in 1932.
Bob Feller, Van Meter – Feller struck out 15 batters in his Major League debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1936 – he was only a junior in high school at the time. He went on to graduate from Van Meter in 1937 and spent a long career with the Indians, although interrupted by wartime service. The Hall of Fame pitcher, known as “Rapid Robert” and the “Heater from Van Meter” won 266 games and struck out 2,581 batters in his career.
Bill Russell, Pittsburg – Russell had the longest career of any Major Leaguer from Kansas, playing in 2,181 games during an 18-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the shortstop on the Dodgers’ World Series teams in the 1970s and he had 1,926 hits in his career.
Don Gullett, McKell – This is a tough call because Pee Wee Reese, David Justice and Steve Finley are all from Kentucky as well, however Reese reportedly only played five high school games due to his size, Justice’s school didn’t have a team and Finley was not necessarily considered a pro prospect in high school. Gullett, however, excelled in three sports at McKell and once pitched a perfect game with 20 strikeouts. He also once scored 11 touchdowns in one football game. As a pitcher in the major leagues, Gullet won 109 games and was the top pitcher for the Reds during the 1975 season.
Rusty Staub, Jesuit, New Orleans – Staub ranks as one of the great all-time hitters in the game. He had 2,716 career hits and 292 home runs with 1,466 RBI in a 24-year career. As a senior at Jesuit in 1961, Staub helped lead the team to a state championship. Each year, the Jesuit baseball team presents the Rusty Staub Award to the top senior leader on the team.
Billy Swift, South Portland – Swift played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues as a pitcher in Seatle, San Francisco and Colorado. His best season was in 1993 with the Giants when he went 21-8 with a 2.82 ERA. Swift helped lead South Portland to a league title in the late 1970s.
Babe Ruth, St. Mary’s Industrial School – Ruth learned the game from Brother Matthias at St. Mary’s and quickly became a major league talent. He was a member of the varsity team by the time he was 15, playing pitcher and catcher. At 19, Ruth signed with the Baltimore Orioles before eventually landing with the Red Sox and ultimately the New York Yankees, where he gained everlasting fame as the game’s greatest home run hitter.
Tom Glavine, Billerica – Glavine has played 22 years in the Major Leagues and has won 305 games with 2,607 strikeouts. Glavine was a league MVP in ice hockey, but also led his team to the Division I North Title in the Eastern Massachusetts Championships his senior season.
Derek Jeter, Kalamazoo Central – Jeter was the starting shortstop on four World Series champion teams for the New York Yankees and ranks as one of the game’s all-time great shortstops. Entering his 16th season, Jeter has 2,538 career hits. At Kalamazoo Central, Jeter was the national high school player of the year.
Dave Winfield, St. Paul Central – Winfield was a three-sport star at St. Paul Central, although he didn’t play baseball until his junior season. He did earn All-City and All-State honors. The Hall of Famer collected 3,110 career hits in 22 seasons with 465 home runs.
George Scott, Coleman – “Boomer” was a three-sport star at Coleman and has been inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. He played first base for the Boston Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers during a 14-year career and finished with 1,992 career hits and 271 home runs.
Albert Pujols, Fort Osage – Pujols has emerged as one of the game’s top young players and he already has impressive numbers in just eight seasons of play. Besides rapping out 1,536 career hits, Pujols also has 320 home runs and 979 RBI. While at Fort Osge, Pujols was a two-time all-state player and batted .660 with eight home runs as a senior.
Dave McNally, Billings – Montana doesn’t field high school baseball teams, but has an outstanding American Legion program. McNally went 18-1 and struck out 27 batters in one game during the 1960 Legion season and led Billings to the American Legion World Series. In the Major Leagues, McNally won 184 games.
Bob Gibson, Tech, Omaha – Gibson won All-City and All-State awards while playing basketball and baseball at Tech. After a playing at Creighton University, Gibson played a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters before emerging as one of the top pitchers in the Major Leagues during the 1960s. He had 251 career wins with 3,117 strikeouts in a Hall of Fame career.
Greg Maddux, Valley, Las Vegas – The four-time Cy Young Award winner was a standout in high school as well, earning all-state honors as a junior and senior. He ranks eighth on the Major League all-time wins list with 355 and has 3,371 strikeouts in a 23-year career.
Carlton Fisk, Charlestown – Fisk excelled in all sports at Charlestown, even leading the basketball team to a 25-0 record. He made his Major League debut in 1969 and went on to catch more games in the Major Leagues than any other player in history (2,226). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Joe Medwick, Carteret – Considered a good enough football player to be recruited by Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, Medwick chose baseball instead and had a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Already playing semi-pro baseball by the time he was a sophomore in high school, Medwick won Triple Crown in 1937 with the Cardinals and helped St. Louis win the 1934 World Series as a member of the “Gashouse Gang.”
Duane Ward, Farmington – Ward was good enough in high school to be drafted with the ninth pick of the first round in 1982 by the Atlanta Braves. A middle reliever most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, Ward led the American League with 45 saves in 1993.
Lou Gehrig, Commerce – Gehrig, one of the game’s all-time great first basemen with the New York Yankees, caused a stir in high school when he belted a grand slam out of Wrigley Field against Lane Tech in a national high school championship game. In the history of Wrigley Field to that time, only 18 Major League baseball players had hit a ball out of the stadium.
Gaylord Perry, Williamston – Perry was an outstanding high school pitcher, tossing a pair of shutouts as a freshman and leading Williamston to a state title. He also threw five no-hitters in his career and was playing semi-pro ball prior to his senior year. He signed with the San Francisco Giants after graduating in 1958 and won 314 games with 3,534 strikeouts in 22 seasons.
Roger Maris, Shanley – Before breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961 with 61 homers, Maris was a standout football player at Shanley, once scoring four touchdowns on returns (kickoff, punt and interception) during one game. He played American Legion ball in the summer, earning MVP honors in 1950 while batting .367.
Pete Rose, Western Hills – This could easily be Ken Griffey or Mike Schmidt, both of whom are outstanding Ohio natives, but Rose was good enough at Western Hills during his high school days to sign with Cincinnati right after graduation. He was in the major leagues by the time he was 19, on the way to a 24-year career that amassed a league record 4,256 hits.
Mickey Mantle, Commerce – Known as the “Commerce Comet” for his blazing speed to first base, Mantle was playing semi-pro ball with the Whiz Kids while still in high school. There, a Yankee scout noticed Mantle and signed him when he was just 17. He was in the Major Leagues by the time he was 19 and he played 2,401 games in pinstripes – more than any other Yankee. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Dale Murphy, Wilson, Portland – Murphy was a two-time National League MVP with the Atlanta Braves and finished his career with 2,111 hits and 398 home runs. At Wilson, Murphy played catcher and was considered to be “the next Johnny Bench”. He batted .400 his senior year and was considered the top player in Oregon his senior season.
Stan Musial, Donora – Musial only played one year of high school baseball because Donora only had a team one season while he was in school. Nevertheless, he was good enough to pitch semi-pro ball, striking out 13 batters in one game at the age of 15. Eventually signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and had one of the most consistent careers of any major league player, earning 20 all-star selections, three MVP awards and getting 3,630 base hits.
Davey Lopes, LaSalle Academy – Lopes was an all-state player in baseball and basketball at LaSalle Academy before embarking on a 16-year Major League career, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joined Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Bill Russell to form one of the greatest infields in Dodger history during the 1970s.
Jim Rice, T.L. Hanna – Rice was good enough in football to gain attention from colleges all across the country, but he was even better in baseball. He signed with the Boston Red Sox right out of high school and embarked on a 16-year career that culminated with his induction into the Hall of Fame last year.
Mark Ellis, Stevens, Rapid City – Not a hard choice here, considering that Ellis is the only South Dakota high school player to reach the Major Leagues. Ellis has played seven years with Oakland A’s.
Todd Helton, Knoxville Central – Helton was a Baseball America All-American as a senior and was also a great quarterback, a position he played in college at Tennessee. A five-time all-star, Helton has, 1958 hits in a 13-year career.
Nolan Ryan, Alvin – Ryan had a 20-4 record at Alvin and pitched two no-hitters – a sign of things to come. During his 27-year career in the major leagues, Ryan struck out 5,714 batters and won 324 games with seven no-hitters.
Bruce Hurst, Dixie – Hurst was the first player from Utah selected in the first round of the Major League draft when he was chosen by the Red Sox with the 22nd overall pick. He won 145 games in his 15-year career.
Ray Fisher, Middlebury – Thanks to our readers, we have added Fisher, who was a 3-sport star at Middlebury at the turn of the century. He won exactly 100 games in his career, mostly for the New York Highlanders/Yankees.
Lou Whitaker, Martinsville – Whitaker was an outstanding pitcher at Martinsville, but he became one of the all-time great second basemen in the major leagues. Drafted out of high school by the Tigers, Whitaker played 19 seasons with Detroit, amassing 2,369 hits and five all-star game appearances.
Ryne Sandberg, North Central, Spokane – All-city in basketball and a scholarship winner in football, Sandberg chose to play baseball following his graduation from North Central in Spokane. He went on to a long career with the Chicago Cubs, resulting in his induction in the Hall of Fame.
John Kruk, Keyser – Kruk gets the nod over Lew Burdette (who didn’t play baseball in high school) for the top high school player in West Virginia. Kruk was a standout at Keyser High School, where the high school field is now named in his honor. Kruk played in three all-star games and had 1,170 career hits.
Harvey Kuenn, Lutheran, Milwaukee – Kuenn was a standout baseball and basketball player at Lutheran in the late 1940s and signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1952. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1953 and led the American League in batting in 1959.
Mike Devereaux, Kelly Walsh – Although baseball is not played at the high school level in Wyoming, Devereaux was an all-around athlete at Kelly Walsh, excelling in track and eventually playing at Arizona State. He played with several teams in the Major Leagues, including the Atlanta Braves, with whom he won the NLCS MVP award during the 1995 season.