With action from the 2012 presidential campaigns heating up and the November 6th election right around the corner, your pleasant and care-free daily internet musings are soon likely to be inundated with images of electoral maps and 'battleground' strategies marked by smatterings of red, blue and undecided purple states. To comfort you during all this, I've prepared a map of America that mercifully is not color-coded along the lines of pointless partisan-bickering, but instead according to baseball's most prestigious and elegant statistic, WAR.
Using both batter and pitcher WAR totals from the infinitely-resourceful Baseball-Reference, I've grouped the career WAR of each player in MLB history by their birth state in an effort to see which states are strongest in the Union and which states should secede from the nation in shame...
WAR Across America
Roll over the desired state to reveal it's combined WAR total. Not visable? try the image only.
Montana (26.2), you may have noticed, is home to the fewest WAR in the nation and has produced just 7 players with career WAR totals above 0 and 15 additional players with career totals at or below replacement level. Dave Mcnally was Big Sky Country's best offering to date with a combined 22.2 WAR from 1962-1975. John Lowenstein of Wolf Point and Ed Bouchee of Livingston added just 8.1 and 7.1 WAR respectively, yet they still rank 2nd and 3rd amongst Montana's top contributors.
One might have expected a state like Alaska (87.2) to have fared just as poorly in this sort of contest considering it is much colder, crueler, and lonelier. As it turns out, your tempered expectations would not have been misguided at all were it not solely for the efforts of a one Curt Schilling of Anchorage and the 76.1 lifetime WAR he added to his home state. The next highest contributor for The Last Frontier is Shawn Chacon, also of Anchorage, at 5.4 WAR. Interestingly, there have been just two non-Anchorage, Alaskan-born ballplayers in baseball's past-- Tom Sullivan (0.0) of Nome and more recently Chad Bentz of Seward (-0.7).
California (9119.4) is overwhelmingly the largest producer of baseball talent in America, while New York state is a distant second at 5153.7 total WAR. Naturally these states owe most of their inflated WAR totals to the largest cities within them, New York and L.A., which happen to rank 1st and 2nd among America's cities.
WAR in America
As you'd expect, the usual suspects all make their appearances near the top of the list, but there are a few notable surprises in the top 20.
Riverside, CA, for instance, leaps all the way to 17th on the list mainly due it's claim as the birthplace of Barry Bonds and his interstellar 158.1 Career WAR. Riverside also boasts a strong supporting cast, however, as the hometown of Barry's father Bobby Bonds (55.7 WAR), Dusty Baker (34.2), and even Chief Myers (23.1) who put Riverside on the map in his debut all the way back in 1909.
Mobile, Alabama at #16 will likely surprise many of you with 385 total WAR primarily achieved on the coattails of another one of baseball's greatest, Hank Aaron, and his 137.3 career WAR. Hammerin Hank isn't alone, however, as Ozzie Smith (73.0) and Willie McCovey (60.7) also do their own part on Mobile's behalf.
Residents of Dayton, Ohio should be proud to hear that their town ranks 22nd overall with a combined 310.8 WAR. The bulk of this total was contributed by Dayton's two favorite sons, Roger Clemens (133.9) and Mike Schmidt (103). This is remarkable considering the two largest WAR-states, New York and California, each have only 3 players with 100+ War, while Dayton itself has two.
And just in case you were wondering, the Worst Baseball Town in America (as far as WAR is concerned anyway) is a quiet little place called North Brookfield, Massachusetts:
Worst Cities Ever
This really is rather unfortunate for North Brookfield, as it seems to be quite a quaint and lovely town out there in beautiful Worcester County. North Brookfield owes it's poor showing almost exclusively to one player, Bill Bergen, who caught for the Cincinatti Reds and the Brooklyn Superbas from 1901 to 1911. In that time he managed to compile 14.7 negative WAR by hitting .170/ .194/ .201 and setting a variety of record lows. In a sterling display of sibling solidarity, Bill's brother Marty pitched in an additional -0.5 WAR in his time with the Boston Beaneaters bringing the legacy of North Brookfield to a -15.2 total WAR.
It is, perhaps, a bit unfair to shame the legacy of an entire town on the deeds of just one man, however. Which is why I much rather prefer anointing Haverhill, Massachuchettes as baseball's Worst City Ever as its path to -13 total WAR was so much more of collaborative effort from seven it's native sons, spanning the course of the century:
WAR in Haverhill, MA
My hometown, incidentally, ranks 3rd all-time, although technically I was born in a hospital just outside the city-limits in the 1,364th most valuable baseball town of which Rob Mackowiak was the biggest WAR contributor at 4.5.
You can search for your hometown on this google doc I've prepared that includes 5,257 towns from across the globe. If you'd like to know which players are from your town and how much WAR each has contributed, just leave a comment and I'll happily oblige you.
(*The database separates "Brooklyn" from "New York" for some reason. I'm not sure if that is 'a thing' with some New Yorkers but I combined the two in the chart above.)
Follow James Gentile @JDGentile on twitter.