Beginning with Lee William “Flame” Delhi in 1912, there have been 101 Arizona-born players to make it to the show through 2016. Delhi, born in the mining town of Harqua Hala on November 5, 1892, made his only big league appearance with the Chicago White Sox on April 16, 1912. It was only two months after Arizona had gained statehood and just a day after the sinking of the Titanic.
As one would imagine, sightings of Arizonans in the big leagues were few and far between in those days. The number has grown along with the state’s population and the increase in the number of major league teams. The second native Arizonian to hit the bigs was Tucson-born Lum Davenport who debuted on May 3, 1921, again with the White Sox. The University of Arizona product lasted 30 games over three seasons. When the Diamondbacks took the field for the first time in 1998, there had been 51 Arizona-born players. In just the past 16 years, 48 more have added their lines to the record books.
On April 11th of this year, the number of Arizonans to play in the major leagues reached a milestone when Brett Nicholas of Phoenix became the 100th player to reach the show. Nicholas, a graduate of Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, went 2-4 in his debut as the starting catcher for the Texas Rangers.
Number 101 would follow on May 13th when Tommy Joseph of Horizon High School in Scottsdale made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies, going 0-2 with a walk in the Phillies 3-2 win over Cincinnati.
The first star that the state produced was Phoenix born Hank Leiber who made his debut with the New York Giants in 1933. In a 10-year career Leiber was named to three all-star teams and blasted 101 home runs. The long ball total was an Arizonan best until surpassed by Jack Howell in 1997, who has since been passed by three players and tied by one. The current career leader is Tucson’s Ian Kinsler, who needs just six homers to reach the 200 mark for his career. Other desert dwellers to have all-star appearances were Alex Kellner, Tom Pagnozzi, Shea Hillenbrand (2), J.J. Hardy (2), Andre Ethier (2), and Ian Kinsler (4).
Among pitchers, only two have reached the century mark in wins; John Denny (123) and Alex Kellner (101). The Prescott-born Denny won the National League Cy Young Award in 1983 when he went 19-6 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Reliever Jeremy Affeldt is the career leader in games pitched with 774 and Tom Wilhemsen recently passed Bobby Howry as the save leader with his 67th.
More players have been born in Tucson than any other place in the state. In all, 27 different cities have been birthplaces for our big league heroes.
Tucson (30); Phoenix (22); Mesa (13); Scottsdale (5); Glendale (2); Miami (2); Safford (2); Williams (2); Flagstaff (2); Gilbert (2); Buckeye; Eloy; Florence; Globe; Harqua Hala; Hayden; Jerome; Kingman; Lowell; Maryvale; Nogales; Paradise Valley; Prescott; Ray; San Manuel; Tempe; Yuma.