Pro Athletes Who Became Stars in Their Hometowns

How many pro athletes can you think of who’ve become big stars playing in their hometowns?

Among the people who come to mind are

  1. Lou Gehrig and Whitey Ford, native New Yorkers who played for the Yankees

  2. Pete Rose, a Cincinnati native who played for the Big Red Machine

No need to stick to baseball- any team sport works for me.

Rodney Marsh of Queen’s Park Rangers grew up in northwest London. Then again, I think that about 50% of UK soccer stars both grew up and played for London teams.

Don Drysdale, who was from Van Nuys, California, started out with the Dodgers in Brooklyn but moved to his hometown when the team relocated to Los Angeles.

This one is debatable:

Doug Flutie grew up in Natick MA outside of Boston (although he wasn’t born there) and acheived national fame while playing for Boston College.

Cal Ripken, Baltimore.

Barry Bonds, of the San Francisco Giants.

Lee Mazzilli, a native New Yorker, became a big star for the NY Mets: yearbook cover and everything, even if he wasn’t well know elsewhere.

Joe DiMaggio gained fame as a member of his hometown San Francisco Seals before he became a Yankee.

LeBron James.

Born and raised in Akron, which is a Cleveland sports town. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll go the way of Rose and Ripken and stay with us for life.

Maurice “The Rocket” Richard starred for the hometown Montreal Canadiens.

Waite Hoyt was born in Brooklyn and made it into the Hall of Fame primarily with the Yankees (Brooklyn had been consolidated into New York city the year before his birth, even though Brooklynites still considered them to be separate as far as baseball was concerned). He also had a couple of brief stints with the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Sandy Koufax was from Brooklyn and played for the Dodgers before they moved west, but actually became a star after the move.

Johnny Murphy, from NYC, was the ace reliever for the Yankees in the 30s (one of the first real relief specialists).

Phil Ruzzuto was originally from Brooklyn.

Though he only became a Yankee a few years ago, Alex Rodriguez is New Yorker. has a list of players by birthplace.

I was going to say that. He’s actually from Aberdeen MD, which is 40 miles up from Baltimore. Closest ball city, though.

You could pretty much fill half the thread with hockey players who gew up in or around Montreal or Toronto and went on to play for the team.

Dick Butkus was born and raised in Chicago before going to the Hall of Fame as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Mike Shannon, born and raised in St. Louis, played for the Cardinals. Funny thing, it wasn’t really his major league career that made him a big celebrity. Illness cut his baseball career short and he became an announcer for the Cardinals. Now in his 37th year as announcer, he’s about as big as it gets around here.

For a non-announcer star, soccer player Pat McBride hit the big time (well, as big as an American scoccer player can get) playing in his hometown of st. Louis.

They’re not exactly “big stars” yet, but the Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur are both from the metro Atlanta area, and played with and against each other in youth baseball. Pitcher Chuck James is currently on the DL, but is from Mableton, and Blaine Boyer, now back in the minors, is from Atlanta also. Mark Teixeira, whom the Braves recently acquired from the Texas Rangers, went to college locally at Georgia Tech, and Willie Harris is from Cairo, GA (also the birthplace of Jackie Robinson) and went college at Kennesaw State University in the metro Atlanta area. Until they traded him to Kansas City, they also had Kyle Davies, another metro product about the same age as McCann and Francoeur.

All of that’s not really accidental – the Braves have made it a point to scout and draft players from Georgia over the last decade or so.

I don’t know exactly if this counts, but Clyde Drexler & the Houston Rockets comes to mind.

Also, Nolan Ryan on the Houston Astros ought to count… he’s from Alvin, which is about 30 minutes south of Houston.

Wilt Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia and first achieved professional glory with the Philadelphia Warriors.

Rickey Henderson grew up in Oakland (although he was born in Chicago). He broke the season record for stolen bases with the Oakland A’s, his first major league team. He returned to the A’s after playing for the Yankees, and in his second stint in Oakland he helped the team win the World Series and won an MVP award. He also broke the career record for stolen bases while with the A’s.

I’ll submit these two. Although they played for teams other than their hometowns, they achieved post-season successes in their birthplaces.

Terrell Davis, running back for the Denver Broncos, 1995-2001. He was the Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XXXII, played in his hometown of San Diego.

Jerome Bettis, Steelers running back. In his hometown of Detroit, “The Bus” ran for 39 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XL for his victorious Steelers.