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Best Baseball Cities

October!  The most special month of the year for every baseball fan.  The World Series determines the best baseball team, but did you ever wonder which place can lay claim to the best baseball city?

We wondered too, and thought about what it means to be a great baseball town.  We decided it’s more than wins and losses, attendance, and championships.  It’s where there’s a batting cage in every backyard, kids sleep with their mitts, and families spend their entire weekend at the Little League field.

We realized that every big-league ballplayer represents thousands of kids who once dreamed playing in the Big Show.

So to find the best baseball cities, we counted the home towns for every single Major Leaguer who played in The Bigs from since 1920.  We determined if their home town fell within one of the 361 modern metro areas.  (For our rankings, we focused on the 50 largest metros, which are home to over half of the U.S. population.)  Then we took the number of players and factored in the area population to come up with a per-capita rate of Major Leaguer production.  The result is the Top American Baseball Cities of All Time.

Here’s the top 10:

Big-Leaguers per Capita

Total Big-Leaguers Since 1920

1.  San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA

14.85

364

2.  St. Louis, MO

14.64

293

3.  Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

12.48

816

4.  Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA

12.42

99

5.  Cincinnati-Middletown, OH

12.39

172

6.  Birmingham-Hoover, AL

11.74

88

7.  San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA

11.40

141

8.  Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

8.84

93

9.  Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC

8.63

60

10. Austin-Round Rock, TX

8.57

43

(note: these are metropolitan areas, which include the primary cities and the surrounding suburbs, and the per-capita rate is number of players per 10 million population over the span of the study.)

Click here to download a spreadsheet of all 361 major metro areas.  It’s already sorted on the results for the 50 largest metros, and you’ll want to re-sort it to see how your home town ranks overall.  You’ll never guess which place is #1 overall, when you consider all the smaller places!

It’s a diverse list. There are classic baseball cities like Cincinnati and St. Louis near the top, as well as a few intriguing surprises like Tampa, Charlotte, and Birmingham. With its perfect baseball climate, it’s no surprise California snags four of the top 10 slots.

#1 is none other than the San Francisco metro area, whose beloved Giants are playing for the World Series Championship this year. Starting Giant shortstop Brandon Crawford is from Mountain View, which is just outside of San Francisco. All-time great Joe DiMaggio hailed from the Bay Area town of Martinez, CA.

The American League’s representative in the 2012 World Series is the Detroit Tigers, who recently had hometown pitcher Darin Downs on their squad before he was designated for reassignment. New York and Chicago trailed only Los Angeles for total number of big leaguers produced, but couldn’t crack the top 10 when adjusted for population.

On the flip side of the coin, perhaps it’s no surprise that a city like Minneapolis, MN is at the bottom at 50th place. With its cold climate, maybe residents there are spending their time playing hockey instead of baseball. Other cellar-dwellers include Salt Lake City, UT at #49 and Indianapolis, IN at #48. Sunny Phoenix, AZ is a surprise at #47.

The Modern Era

All-time stats are interesting, but what about the current generation? To get an idea of which cities are turning out the most major leaguers in the modern era, we looked at players who were active from 1990 to present. The Los Angeles area leaps to #1 in those results, with 434 big-leaguers total for per capita rate of 16.97. Cincinnati jumps to #2, with San Diego and San Francisco coming in at 3 and 4.

Nashville anchors the list at #50 in the modern era, followed by Minneapolis at #49 and Richmond, VA at #48.

As you’re watching the World Series this year, think about these results and pay attention to the unlikely heroes that emerge from the shadows to take their place in history. There’s a good chance they’ll be from one of the cities on this list.

 

5 comments to Best Baseball Cities

  • Tom

    Hi Bert,

    Your “best” differs from your previous surveys. Does having the most major-leaguers really connote/denote the “best” baseball towns? What about stadium comfort, access, sight lines, food, cost, safety, fan energy – components we’d expect from your previous efforts?

    Best,
    Tom

    • Hi Tom,
      Yes, this is a different kind of study. We were looking for some insight into the mindset of the local residents, and we’re not going to find this by rating their stadium’s hot dogs. Given that each pro ballplayer represents hundreds of thousands of young athletes, I’m thinking that maybe this simple approach gives as good an insight as any into the local passion for the game. The rankings certainly correlate strongly with places with lots of sunny weather, where kids are more likely to spend their days on the ballfield. The more I think about the whole concept, I think this approach has more validity than the usual rankings of cities based on the business of sports.
      Best, Bert

  • I was a bit surprised about the number one ranking for San Francisco but when it comes to St Louis’ ranking not surprised at all. Their fans are the best; always there whether the Cards ar at or near the top or just average. And they are very educated in baseball in general. By the way, this comes from a fan brought up in New York who has no ties to St. Louis whatsoever. A interesting and worthwhile study- Nice article…Regards, :Larry

  • Jake

    So where is the entire study. I would like to know where Corpus Christi falls in the mix.

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