The best players in baseball gathered in Washington on Tuesday for the 89th Major League All-Star Game.
None of them, however, are from North Carolina.
It’s an anomaly that belies the quality of baseball that has traditionally been played around our state. Some of the greatest players in the game, including seven Hall of Famers, have come from the Old North State.
Here is a look at the best at each position, the all-time North Carolina all-star team:
First base: Buck Leonard (Rocky Mount) — Leonard spent 17 seasons playing for the Homestead Grays of the old Negro League, leading the team to four straight championships from 1942-45 and playing in 11 league all-star games. He became one of the first Negro League alumni to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame when he was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1972. Though his exact statistics for home runs and RBI are not known, Leonard was consistently one of his league’s top hitters with a career batting average of .320.
Second base: Brandon Phillips (Raleigh) — Phillips has amassed 2,026 hits and driven in nearly 1,000 runs in a 16-year Major League, the majority of which has been spent with the Cincinnati Reds. Phillips has won four Gold Glove awards and a Silver Slugger award as the best hitter in the league at his position, along with three All-Star Game selections. He has a career batting average of .275 with a .320 on-base percentage and .421 slugging percentage.
Shortstop: Luke Appling (High Point) — One of the great hitters of all time, Appling won two American League batting titles and amassed 2,749 hits. He hit .310 over 18 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964, but he may be best known to many fans for the home run he hit in 1982 at the age of 75, at the Cracker Jack Old Timer’s Game in Washington, D.C.
Third base: Billy Goodman (Concord) — A two-time All-Star and the 1950 American League batting champion with a .354 average, Goodman was an effective leadoff hitter over his 11 Major League seasons. A jack-of-all-trades who played numerous positions, Goodman hit better than .300 five times in his career and finished with 1,691 hits and an on-base percentage of .376. He was inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004.
Outfielder: Enos “Country” Slaughter (Roxboro) — A hard-nosed player famous for his hustle, Slaughter played 19 seasons, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals, piling up 2,383 hits. Slaughter drove in 130 runs in 1946 while leading the Cardinals to the World Series title. His most memorable moment came in the eighth inning of Game 7, when he scored what turned into the winning run all the way from first on a single by Harry Walker. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Outfield: Otis Nixon (Evergreen) — Nixon was one of the premier base stealers in baseball history over a 17-year career that saw him play for nine different teams. His 620 steals rank 16th all-time and are the most by a player who never appeared in an All-Star Game. His career batting average was .270 with 1,379 hits and 878 runs scored.
Outfield: Buddy Lewis (Gastonia) — As impressive as Lewis’ career numbers were — he hit .297 with 1,563 hits, 607 RBI and 93 triples over 11 seasons and 1,349 games — there’s no telling how much better they might have been had he not missed three seasons in his prime because of World War II. A left-handed slugger for the Washington Senators, only Ty Cobb had more hits by his 24th birthday than Lewis before his career was put on hold to serve as a transport pilot flying more than 500 missions in the Pacific.
Catcher: Rick Ferrell (Durham) — A Hall of Famer regarded as the best catcher in baseball during the 1930s and early 1940s, he was a starter for the American League in the inaugural 1933 All-Star Game. He hit .281 over 18 seasons and went on to become an eight-time All-Star who played in 1,806 games — an MLB record for catchers that stood for more than 40 years. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1984.
Starting pitcher: Gaylord Perry (Williamston) — A five-time All-Star who earned fame for allegedly doctoring the balls he threw to opposing hitters, Perry was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues. He won 314 games and recorded 3,534 strikeouts during a 22-year career that earned him induction into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
Starting pitcher: Jim “Catfish” Hunter (Hertford) — An eight-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, Hunter was the first pitcher since 1915 to win 200 games by the time he was 31. He became one of baseball’s first big-money free agents when he signed with the New York Yankees in 1974. He ended up with 224 wins in a career cut short by arm problems in 1979 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Relief pitcher: Hoyt Wilhelm (Huntersville): — Wilhelm was nearly 30 years old when he made his MLB debut, but went on to pitch for 20 seasons. Relying mostly on a knuckleball, the right-hander won 124 games, still the most ever by a reliever, and was the first pitcher to record 200 saves while appearing in more than 1,000 games. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.