Ranking the best baseball players from Iowa

August 5th, 2022

Although the 2022 Field of Dreams Game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs represents only the second Major League Baseball game ever played in Iowa, the state has made a significant impact on MLB history.

Iowa is the home state of 225 Major League players, including four who have seen action this year: The Pirates' Mitch Keller, the Tigers' Derek Hill, the Red Sox's Michael Wacha, and the Mariners' Matt Koch.

However, you won't see any of those names in the space below. This list is reserved for only the best who have emerged from the cornfields in Iowa to leave their mark on The Show. This top 10 is headed by some of the greatest to ever play the game, including six Hall of Famers.

Note: Each player's birth city is noted in parentheses.

1) Bob Feller, RHP (Van Meter)
Debuting with Cleveland at just 17 years old in 1936, Feller was an eight-time All-Star who racked up more than 2,500 strikeouts over his 18-season career. He led all of baseball in strikeouts seven times, and his 348 K’s in 1946 were the sixth-most by any AL/NL pitcher in the 20th century. Feller could have accomplished even more on the diamond, but he enlisted in the Navy two days after the bombing at Pearl Harbor and spent three full years in his 20s fighting in World War II. He was a first-ballot selection for the Hall of Fame in 1962.

2) Cap Anson, 1B (Marshalltown)
Anson won three batting titles and five National League pennants between 1880 and 1889 as the player/manager of the Chicago White Stockings, the franchise that later became the Cubs. As the sport's popularity rose in the late 19th century, Anson's success turned him into baseball's first true national celebrity. He played 22 of his 27 seasons in Chicago and remains the Cubs' all-time leader in hits, runs, RBIs and WAR. Anson may have also been the first player to ever reach 3,000 career hits.

3) , RHP (Orient)
Vance didn't earn his first MLB win until his age-31 season in 1922. He won 18 games that year and would go on to earn 146 more victories over the next eight seasons with the Brooklyn Robins. Vance, who earned the nickname of "Dazzy" for the dazzling fastball he first showcased as a teenager, led the Senior Circuit in strikeouts each year from 1922-28. He won three ERA titles, was the 1924 NL MVP, and finished with 197 wins by the time he retired as a 44-year-old in 1935.

4) Fred Clarke, OF (Winterset)
Clarke was considered a below-average defensive player, but boy, could he hit. Clarke went 5-for-5 in his first career MLB game in 1894 and by the time his career was over in 1915, he had accrued a .312 average and nearly 2,700 hits while with the Louisville Colonels and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clarke also served as a player/manager for both franchises, winning more than 1,600 games. He guided the Pirates to four NL pennants and a World Series victory in 1909.

5) , RHP (Cascade)
Faber won 254 games over 20 seasons with the White Sox, leading the AL in ERA twice. His longevity was due in part to the spitball. Faber learned the spitter after injuring his pitching arm about three years prior to his 1914 MLB debut, when the spitter was still a legal pitch. Faber's fastball-curveball-spitter repertoire helped him ultimately throw more than 4,000 innings in the Majors and record the third-most Baseball-Reference WAR of any player born in Iowa, trailing Anson and Clarke.

6) , SS (Sioux City)
Bancroft probably would have won a lot of Gold Gloves if the award existed in the early 20th century. His 23.5 defensive WAR ranks 26th in AL/NL history and the most by any MLB Iowan. Although he had a 98 OPS+, Bancroft compiled more than 2,000 hits and 1,000 runs across 16 seasons split between the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins. He was a two-time World Series champion with the Giants and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.

7) Mike Boddicker, RHP (Cedar Rapids)
Boddicker finished third in the AL Rookie of the year voting in 1983 as he went 16-8 with a 2.77 ERA for the Orioles. He was even better in the postseason as he threw a complete game with no earned runs allowed in the ALCS and the World Series, which Baltimore won in five games. Boddicker made his only All-Star team in 1984 and ended up fourth in that year's AL Cy Young voting after leading the league with a 2.79 ERA over 261 1/3 innings.

8) Hal Trosky Sr., 1B (Norway)
No Iowan has hit more home runs in the Majors than Trosky, who bashed 228 homers during his 11-season career. He slashed .313/.379/.551 with Cleveland from 1933-41 and received MVP votes four times during that span. He paced MLB in total bases (405), extra-base hits (96) and RBIs (162) in '36. Unfortunately, severe migraines halted Trosky's career in 1941 and he would play in parts of only two seasons beyond his 29th birthday.

9) Earl Whitehill, LHP (Cedar Rapids)
From 1926-64, the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise won one World Series game. It was started by Whitehill, who befuddled Mel Ott, Bill Terry and the Giants en route to a complete game shutout in Game 3 of the 1933 Fall Classic. Whitehill was a strictly league-average pitcher during his career (100 ERA+), but he was able to notch 218 wins over 17 seasons.

10) Kevin Tapani, RHP (Des Moines)
After finishing fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1990, Tapani experienced his best MLB season in '91. He posted a 143 ERA+ over 244 innings with the Twins and received Cy Young votes for the first and only time in his 13-year career. Tapani also delivered in October that season as he limited the Braves to two runs through eight innings in a Game 2 triumph for the eventual world champions.

Others of note:

Bing Miller, OF (Vinton)
A two-time World Series champion with the Philadelphia Athletics, Miller batted .311 with an .820 OPS over 16 seasons in the big leagues.

Denis Menke, SS (Bancroft)
Menke started a majority of his games at shortstop, but he made at least 150 appearances at first base, second base and third base as well. He hit 101 home runs over 13 seasons and made the NL All-Star team while with the Astros in 1969 and '70.

Casey Blake, 3B (Des Moines)
Blake trails only Trosky in MLB home runs by Iowa natives. He tallied a career-high 28 dingers for Cleveland in 2004.

Jon Lieber, RHP (Council Bluffs)
A reliable workhorse for the bulk of his career, Lieber topped 170 innings seven times from 1997-2005. He threw an MLB-high 251 innings in 2000 and made the All-Star team the following season while with the Cubs.

Stan Bahnsen, RHP (Council Bluffs)
Bahnsen was the 1968 AL Rookie of the Year after recording a 2.05 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP across 267 1/3 innings with the Yankees. He threw more than 2,500 innings and won 146 games during his career, which ended in 1982.