Throughout the history of Major League Baseball, there haven’t been many players who grew up in the Upper Peninsula. However, there have been fourteen MLB players born or raised in the Upper Peninsula, and that’s pretty impressive! Especially considering how short summers can be. As you can see four of them were born in before 1900. The most recent player to see MLB action is Mike Bordick who played 102 games with the Toronto Blue Jays as recently as the 2003 season. And to much acclaim, Kevin Tapani is the only member of the list to win a World Series.
We tip a hat to all each of the gentleman. And we would love to complete this collection of baseball cards. Do you have one for any of the following players? Who’ll be the next Yooper to make it to the big leagues?
Let’s play ball!
Born: Dec 4, 1878
Hometown: Atlantic Mine
Teams: Washington Senators
Playing career: 1909-1911
Dolly was a left-handed pitched for the Washington Senators. And some sources say he was born in Ishpeming rather than Houghton. He played 110 games across three seasons with the Senators. According to Wikipedia he got the nickname Dolly from the song “Nellie Gray” where his teammates distorted the lyrics ‘darling’ to Dolly. Dolly died at age 77 in Yuba City, California.
Born: May 16, 1886
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies
Playing career: 1911
Clarence played outfield, shortstop and second base for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1911. He played 23 games that season with 4 hits and 2 runs over 27 at bats. Clarence died at age 61 in Highland Park, MI.
Born: Feb 4, 1898
Teams: Boston Red Sox
Playing career: 1921
John lived in Escanaba through 1918 when he attended the University of Michigan where he played baseball and football. He was starting tailback for Michigan’s 1918 national championship team. He went on to play four games with the Boston Red Sox in 1921 where he had 3 hits and 3 runs. He continued to play with several minor league teams and in 1926 played six games for the Hartford Blues of the NFL. John died at age 71 in Detroit.
Born: Aug 15, 1901
Hometown: St. Ignace
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs
Playing career: 1927-1931
Les played a total of 161 games in the majors over five-year career. According to Wikipedia Les’ 7.71 ERA in 1930 is the highest in the modern era for a full season in which the pitcher qualified for the ERA title. Les died at age 72 in Melbourne, Florida.
Born: May 29, 1918
Teams: Philidelphia Phillies
Playing career: 1942-1946
Bill played two seasons for the Phillies in 1942 and 1946 where he played shortstop, playing in 27 games. Like many men of his generation, his career was cut short by World War II. In 1943 he enlisted in the Army, serving for three and a half years before returning to baseball. He continued to play in the minors through 1948. Bill died at age 92 in Apple Valley, California.
Born: Dec 6, 1934
Teams: Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins
Playing career: 1959-1961
Dan attended Western Michigan University before signing with the Washington Senators in 1955. He played in 198 games with the franchise as an outfielder. He served in the militar from during the 1957-1958 seasons and continued to play in the minors through 1963 after his stint in Minnesota.
Born: Jun 8, 1935
Teams: Kansas City Athletics, Milwaukee Braves, Houston Colt 45s, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Seattle Pilots, Washington Senators, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals
Playing career: 1956-1971
George attended Calumet High School and signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1952. He would never play for the Tigers but on to play for nine different MLB franchises playing in 324 games. After his career in the United States he went on to a hall of fame career in Mexico, where he was inducted in 1999. At age 42 he threw a no-hitter on June 20, 1977, while playing in Mexico. Amazingly, he pitched until he was 54 years old finishing his career with 36 years of pitching in organized baseball.
Born: Oct 24, 1937
Teams: Chicago Cubs
Playing career: 1960
The right-handed pitcher had an impressive 11-year career in the minors after attending Western Michigan University. He played in four games for the Chicago Cubs in 1960. John died at age 71 in Troy, Michigan. Interestingly, he was apparently born in Goetzville while having the last name Goetz. According to Wikipedia the Goetz family settled here in 1882. A post office was established in October 1882 spelled as Gatesville, but was changed to Goetzville in February 1917.
Born: Feb 23, 1941
Hometown: Iron Mountain
Teams: Cleveland Indians, Seattle Pilots
Playing career: 1967-1969
Gordy played two seasons in the majors for the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Pilots. He played in 23 games. After his playing career, Gordy went on to manage the Chicago White Sox farm system from 1974-82 finishing with a win-loss mark of 608-615 (.497).
Born: Apr 8, 1943
Hometown: Iron Mountain*
Teams: Detroit Tigers
Playing career: 1965-1980
The legendary baseball pitcher, John Hiller, played his entire Major League Baseball career for the Detroit Tigers. Over the course of 15 seasons John pitched 1,242 innings. He was on the 1968 World Series winning Tigers, where he made two appearances as a relief pitcher. At 27 years old, Hiller's career took a turn when he had a series of three heart attacks. He would miss the 1971 season, and after a lengthy recovery, returned to the Tigers in 1972. He played in the 1974 All-Star Game and finished his career as the Tigers franchise leaders among games played for pitchers. *Though John wasn't born or raised in the Upper Peninsula, he and his family have called Iron Mountain home for much of his adult life. He's certainly an honorary Yooper in our almanac.
Born: Oct 13, 1950
Hometown: Trout Creek
Teams: Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners
Playing career: 1973-1978
Dick attended Northern Michigan University and signed with the Red Sox in 1973. He pitched a no-hitter in the International League and made his Major League debut later that year. His six-year career earned him 77 starts and 122 games. After his playing career Dick went on to coach in the minors where he coached Greg Maddux who gave some credit to Dick, “I remember when Dick Pole told me one day, ‘Why don’t you stop trying to strike guys out? Just try to get them out, and you’ll probably strike out just as many guys, if not more. He was right. I’ve always tried with two strikes just to make a pitch and get the guy out. You get a lot of strikeouts just on accident.” As recently as 2009 he was pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds.
Born: Feb 18, 1964
Teams: New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs
Playing career: 1989-2001
Kevin was born in Des Moines, Iowa, but was raised in Escanaba where he played quarterback and won the 1981 MHSAA Class A Football Championship. He went on to pitch at Central Michigan University where he threw a no-hitter and as drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1985 MLB Amateur Draft, though he opted not to sign. A year later he signed with the Oakland Athletics. In 1990 he would finish 5th in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year. Kevin Tapani has the distinction of being the only player on our list to win a World Series. He did so in 1991 as a member of the Minnesota Twins. Kevin finished his career with a pitching record of 143–125, 1,482 strikeouts and a 4.35 ERA.
Born: Jul 21, 1965
Teams: Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets
Playing career: 1990-2003
Born to a military family Mike moved often growing up, spending most of his time in Maine and going to play baseball for the University of Maine Black Bears. He signed with the Athletics in 1986. Mike went on to have an incredible career. He amassed 1,720 games played in the majors for four different franchises. He had 1,500 hits and 91 home runs for his career. In 2012 Mike became a part-time color analyst for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
If you know of any other players please comment below and let us know who they are, we don’t want to leave anyone out.