The best baseball players born on Oct. 23

October 23rd, 2023

Who are the best players born on each day of the year? We have a list for every day on the calendar.

Here’s a subjective ranking of the top five for Oct. 23:

1) Jim Bunning (1931)
Bunning got his Hall of Fame pitching career off to a strong start with an AL-high 20 wins in his first full season with Detroit in 1957. It would be the first of nine All-Star selections for the right-hander, who also pitched for the Phillies, Pirates and Dodgers over his 17 seasons in the Majors. Bunning threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on July 20, 1958, striking out 12 from a lineup that included Ted Williams and eventual AL MVP Award winner Jackie Jensen. He topped that feat by firing a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 for Philadelphia, striking out 10 Mets at Shea Stadium. It was the ninth perfect game in baseball history and the first in 42 years at the time. After his retirement from baseball, Bunning’s career turned to politics. In 1986, he was elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives from Kentucky's 4th congressional district, and served in the House from 1987-99. He was elected to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky in '98 and served two terms. Bunning was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. He died on May 26, 2017, at age 85.

2) Vern Stephens (1920)
An eight-time All-Star who finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times, Stephens was one of the top slugging shortstops of his era, taking the home run title with 24 in 1945. He led the AL in RBIs with 109 in 1944 and topped the Majors with 159 in ‘49 (tied with Ted Williams) and 144 in ‘50. Stephens was the cleanup hitter for the St. Louis Browns when they won their only AL pennant in 1944, and he also played for the Red Sox, Orioles and White Sox over his 15-year career. He died after suffering a heart attack on Nov. 3, 1968, at age 48. He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006.

Vern Stephens (right) with Ted Williams (left) and Stan Spence at Fenway Park on June 6, 1948.

3) Al Leiter (1965)
Drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 1984 Draft, Leiter overcame injury troubles early in his career and would spend 18 years in the Majors, finding success in both leagues. The lefty pitched for three different teams in the Fall Classic and won World Series rings with the Blue Jays (1993) and Marlins (‘97). In 1996, his first year with the Marlins, Leiter threw the franchise’s first no-hitter on May 11 against the Rockies and also earned his first All-Star selection. After being traded to the Mets after the 1997 season, Leiter reached a career-high in wins (17) and a career-low in ERA (2.47) in the first of his seven solid seasons in Queens. On April 30, 2002, he became the first big league pitcher to defeat all 30 teams in his career with a win over the D-backs. Leiter moved on to a second career as a TV analyst and color commentator following his retirement from baseball, working for YES Network, ESPN, FOX Sports and MLB Network.

4) Ewell Blackwell (1922)
Blackwell’s pitching career got off to a delayed start when he was drafted into the army in 1943 during World War 2. But when he returned to the big leagues in 1946 with the Reds, it would be the first of six straight All-Star campaigns for the right-hander. Known as “The Whip” for his lanky, sidearm delivery, he led baseball with 22 wins and topped the NL with 193 strikeouts in 1947, when he finished second in MVP voting behind Boston’s Bob Elliott. Health problems and shoulder pain would later hinder his career and he stepped away from the game in 1955. He died Oct. 29, 1996, at age 74.

5) John Lackey (1978)
Drafted by the Angels in the second round of the 1999 Draft, Lackey paid quick dividends as a rookie in 2002. After making 18 starts that year and going 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA (ultimately placing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting), the right-hander really shined in the postseason. He pitched three scoreless innings in the ALDS against the Yankees and seven more against the Twins in the ALCS before making three appearances in the World Series against the Giants, including starting Game 7. He would allow just one run on five hits to become only the second rookie in World Series history to start and win a Game 7. Over his 15-year career, he also won World Series rings with the Red Sox (2013) and Cubs ('16), while also playing a stint with the Cardinals.

Others of note:

Rube Bressler (1894)
After a sore arm derailed his pitching career, Bressler found success as a hard-hitting outfielder. Over 19 big league seasons, he hit .301 with 586 RBIs while playing for Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Brooklyn and St. Louis. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1963.

Want to see more baseball birthdays for Oct. 23? Find the complete list on Baseball Reference.