World Baseball Network
Have you ever flipped over a baseball card to see where a player was born, only to think, “Where’s that?” or “How did he get from there to the major leagues?” There have been many major leaguers with unique birthplaces, most of them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the children of immigrants frequently took up baseball upon arrival in America.
But the most unique? It’s an easy choice.
10. Jesus Luzardo – Born in Lima, Peru, Sept. 30, 1997 – Oakland, 2019-21; Miami, 2021-22
Luzardo, the only active player on this list, is also the only Peruvian-born player in majoe league history. He’s appeared in 61 career games with the Athletics and Marlins. Nicknamed “The Lizard King,” he grew up in South Florida and was drafted out of Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas High School by Washington in the third round of the 2016 MLB draft. He’s eligible for salary arbitration for the 2023 season under the ‘Super 2’ category, despite not yet having three years of Major League service time.
9. Danny Graves – Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 1973 – Cleveland, 1996-97, 2006; Cincinnati, 1997-2005; New York (N.L.), 2005.
Graves, a solid pitcher from Cleveland, Cincinnati and the Mets in the 1990s and early 2000s, was born Jim Graves, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and Thao in Saigon in 1973 during the Vietnam War. A two-time all-star who led the Reds in saves from 1999-2004, Graves pitched in the minor leagues for four more seasons after his final major league game, retiring in 2009.
8. Al Campanis – Born in Kos, Greece, Nov. 2, 1916, – Brooklyn, 1943.
Campanis was born on what is now the Greek island of Kos, but at the time of his birth, Kos was part of the Kingdom of Italy. The Campanis family moved to New York City in 1922, when Al was six, and he went on to play college baseball at New York University before making a brief appearance in the Major Leagues with Brooklyn in 1943. Campanis later served as general manager of the Dodgers from 1968 to 1987, when he was fired after making racially charged comments on the ABC News program Nightline.
7. Jimmy Wiggs – Born in Trondheim, Norway, Sept. 1, 1879 – Cincinnati, 1903; Detroit, 1905-06.
Nicknamed “Big Jim,” Wiggs was 6-foot-4, extraordinarily tall for his era. He appeared in 13 major league games over three seasons. Wiggs is one of three Norwegian-born players to have appeared in the bigs, but he’s the only one from Trondheim, which was the capital of Norway during the Viking Age. It’s now athe third most populous city in Norway and a hub for research and technology.
6. John Michaelson – Born Taivalkoski, Finland, Aug. 12, 1893 – Chicago (A.L.), 1921.
Michaelson appeared in two games for the White Sox in 1921, but he’s still the only major leaguer born in Finland. Taivalkoski is a small town in the Province of Oulu in northern Finland with a population around 4,000. It’s also the hometown of 1978 world champion ski jumper Tapio Räisänen and retired NHL defenseman Joni Pitkanen.
T-5. Bill Cristall, Reuben Ewing & Izzy Goldstein – Odessa, Ukraine
Cristall, a left-handed pitcher, appeared in six games with Cleveland in September 1906. Ewing, an infielder, appeared in three games with the Cardinals in 1921. Goldstein has the unique distinction of having the longest major league career of any player born in Ukraine, pitching in 16 games for Detroit in 1932. All three were born in Odessa, a port on the Black Sea that saw significant Jewish emigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
4. Dovydas Neverauskas – Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, Jan. 14, 1993 – Pittsburgh, 2017-20.
When one thinks of Lithuanian sports, the first thing that usually comes to mind are the Grateful Dead-inspired basketball uniforms of the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team. But former Pirates reliever Dovydas Neverauskas put Lithuanian baseball on the map after learning the game from his father and traveling to Italy as a child to go to baseball camps. He’s still active, pitching in the German Bundesliga for the Bonn Capitals, and pitched in the NPB in 2021 with the Hiroshima Carp.
3. Victor Cole – Born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R., Jan. 23, 1968 – Pittsburgh, 1992.
Neverauskas, Goldstein, Cristall, and Ewing were all born in future or former constituent states of the Soviet Union, but former Pirates pitcher Victor Cole is the only major leaguer who was born in the Soviet Union. His father, from Sierra Leone, moved to the Soviet Union to study medicine, married a Russian woman, and Victor was born. The family left Russia, moving to Sierra Leone, Canada, and eventually the United States, where Cole took up baseball. He’s played and coached for the Russian national team after his professional career ended.
2. Jeff Bronkey – Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 18, 1965 – Texas, 1993; Milwaukee, 1994-95.
Bronkey, born in Kabul to an American mother and an Afghani father, is, as you could guess, the only major leaguer ever born in Afghanistan. He appeared in 45 games over parts of three seasons with the Rangers and Brewers.
1. Ed Porray – Born on a ship on the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 5, 1888 – Buffalo (P.L.), 1914.
If you were alive at the time and blinked, you missed Ed Porray’s three-game career with the Buffalo Buffeds of the Players League that ended the day the second month of the season started. But if you come across his Baseball Reference page, you’ll never forget where he was born. He later toured as a vaudeville pianist, and remains the only major leaguer born at sea.