Baseball may be America’s pastime, but its popularity spans the globe. The game’s reach will be on display in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, with the first round of pool play beginning March 8.
The rosters aren’t finalized yet, but the United States has loaded up as it prepares to defend its 2017 title. And this 20-team tourney is just a snapshot of baseball’s worldwide impact. Fifty-seven countries and territories have provided at least one Major League player throughout the history of the game.
So let’s rank them, from most to least populous by MLB standards. Let’s also put a little spotlight on the bWAR leader from each part of the world. Ties are broken alphabetically.
There are just a few notes before we jump in:
1) United States: 18,902 players (277 HOFers)
WAR leader: Babe Ruth (183.1)
Before anything was described as “Ruthian” or anyone was lauded as “The Babe Ruth of” their respective field, the Babe Ruth was one of the most legendary figures in 20th-century America.
2) Dominican Republic: 864 players (4 HOFers)
WAR leader: Albert Pujols (101.6)
The likes of Pujols, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and David Ortiz aren’t just Hall of Fame players; they are national heroes who inspire the masses in a country where baseball is a way of life.
3) Venezuela: 462 players (1 HOFer)
WAR leader: Miguel Cabrera (67.7)
The newest member of the 3,000-hit, 500-homer club, Cabrera appears destined to become the second Venezuelan player inducted into the Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of Luis Aparicio.
4) Cuba: 383 players (6 HOFers)
WAR leader: Rafael Palmeiro (71.9)
Cuba has the most Hall of Famers of any country other than the U.S.: Tony Perez, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva, Cristóbal Torriente, Martín Dihigo and José Méndez. Trying to decide which player is the best can lead to a fun debate.
5) Puerto Rico: 302 players (4 HOFers)
WAR leader: Roberto Clemente (94.8)
Thirty-two Puerto Rican-born players reached the Majors before Clemente debuted with the Pirates on April 17, 1955. Few players, regardless of nationality, have made as profound an impact on and off the field since. Roberto Alomar, Iván Rodríguez and Orlando Cepeda represent the rest of Puerto Rico’s Cooperstown quartet.
6) Canada: 262 players (2 HOFers)
WAR leader: Fergie Jenkins (84.1)
You can’t help but marvel at Jenkins’ 1971 season. On the mound, he produced a 10.1 bWAR over an NL-best 325 innings en route to taking home his only Cy Young Award. But he was also a threat at the plate as he hit six homers and logged a 102 OPS+ in 113 at-bats. Twenty years later, the Chatham, Ontario native became the first Canadian to make it to Cooperstown. The second was Larry Walker.
7) Mexico: 145 players
WAR leader: Fernando Valenzuela (41.5)
Raised in the small village of Etchohuaquila as the youngest of 12 children, Valenzuela transcended the sport and became MLB’s first Mexican superstar before his 21st birthday.
8) Panama: 78 players (2 HOFers)
WAR leader: Rod Carew (81.2)
Carew was born on a train in Panama and given the name Rodney in honor of the delivery doctor. One of the finest hitters in MLB history, Panama’s national baseball team plays its games inside a stadium named after Carew. Mariano Rivera was the Hall’s first unanimous inductee in 2019.
9) Japan: 73 players
WAR leader: Ichiro Suzuki (60.0)
Nearly all of these players have arrived since Hideo Nomo’s 1995 signing with the Dodgers changed the baseball landscape forever.
10) United Kingdom: 49 players (1 HOFer)
WAR leader: Jim McCormick (76.2)
McCormick’s WAR is near the top among players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Harry Wright recorded only 0.9 WAR as a player, but his role in founding the first all-professional baseball team – the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings – is one reason why he earned induction in 1953.
11) Ireland: 47 players
WAR leader: Tony Mullane (66.6)
There has been only one MLB player from Ireland in the past century; his career was rather inglorious. Mullane won 284 games in the bigs and is the AL/NL record holder with 343 wild pitches. His last game came in 1894.
12) Germany: 44 players
WAR leader: Glenn Hubbard (19.2)
Hubbard played most of his 12-year career in Atlanta. But prior to his decade with the Braves, he and his family lived a nomadic existence, settling in a dozen different cities during Hubbard’s childhood due to his father’s career in the Air Force.
13) Australia: 33 players
WAR leader: Dave Nilsson (10.6)
The best of Nilsson’s eight MLB seasons was his last. In 1999, he set career highs with 21 home runs and a 141 OPS+. At age 30, he chose to play the following year in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball so that he could represent Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. In 1993, Nilsson and relief pitcher Graeme Lloyd formed the Majors’ first all-Aussie battery while with the Brewers.
15) South Korea: 28 players
WAR leader: Shin-Soo Choo (34.6)
The owner of an impressive .377 career on-base percentage, Choo leads all Asian-born Major Leaguers in extra-base hits (586) and homers (218).
T-16) Curaçao: 16 players
WAR leader: Andruw Jones (62.7)
Hensley Meulens was Curaçao’s first MLB player, but it was Jones’ star turn as a teenager with the Braves that really inspired a generation of kids to take up baseball on the small island.
T-16) Taiwan: 16 players
WAR leader: Chien-Ming Wang (12.5)
A groundball artist, Wang won 19 games for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007. He was the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award in the former year and a member of TIME Magazine’s “Time 100” list during the latter.
T-18) Nicaragua: 15 players
WAR leader: Dennis Martinez (48.7)
Nicaragua’s first AL/NL player is also its best to date. “El Presidente” racked up 245 wins and finished one out shy of 4,000 innings pitched in the Majors. This nation has been playing baseball for more than 140 years and qualified for the World Baseball Classic for the first time in 2022.
T-18) U.S. Virgin Islands: 15 players
WAR leader: Horace Clarke (15.6)
A longtime Yankees second baseman, Clarke has the most hits of any player from the Virgin Islands (1,230). Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks is the only player from the country to win a World Series as a player and as a coach. Before his MLB career began, Hendricks was called “The Babe Ruth of Mexico” for his powerful bat while in the Mexican League from 1965-67.
20) Netherlands: 11 players (1 HOFer)
WAR leader: Bert Blyleven (94.5)
While Blyleven was born in Zeist, Netherlands, he ultimately spent most of his childhood in the U.S., attending high school in Garden Grove, Calif., before the Twins took the future Hall of Famer in the third round of the 1969 Draft.
21) Bahamas: 9 players
WAR leader: Andre Rodgers (6.2)
Rodgers was the first Bahamian to play in an AL or NL game and spent parts of 11 seasons with the Giants, Cubs and Pirates from 1957-67. Current star Jazz Chisholm Jr. is the face of the country’s burgeoning baseball culture.
T-22) France: 7 players
WAR leader: Charlie Lea (7.4)
Lea has an All-Star appearance to his name, but France’s most famous Major Leaguer is three-time World Series-winning manager Bruce Bochy. He was born while his father, Army Sgt. Major Gus Bochy, was stationed at Landes de Bussac.
T-24) Aruba: 6 players
WAR leader: Xander Bogaerts (34.9)
World Series champion. All-Star. Silver Slugger. Knight. In 2011, two years before he broke into the bigs, Bogaerts helped the Netherlands win gold in the Baseball World Cup. As a reward, all players and coaches on that team were knighted by the country’s governor.
T-24) Poland: 6 players
WAR leader: Moe Drabowsky (19.7)
A veteran of eight MLB teams over a 17-year career, Drabowsky was often overshadowed on the Orioles’ star-studded pitching staffs of 1966 and 1970, when Baltimore won the World Series. But he played a huge role in that first Fall Classic: His 11 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in Game 1 remain a record for a reliever in a World Series game.
T-24) Russia: 6 players
WAR leader: Eddie Ainsmith (6.3)
Nicknamed “Dorf,” Ainsmith spent the first half of his 15-year MLB career as Walter Johnson’s personal catcher; he caught 48 of Johnson’s 110 career shutouts. Ainsmith’s family moved to the United States when he was a child. He would go on to manage the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1947.
T-27) Brazil: 5 players
WAR leader: Yan Gomes (17.6)
Brazilian players followed Gomes’ lead as he became the country’s first AL/NL player upon his 2012 debut. He has made two All-Star teams and won the 2019 World Series with the Nationals.
T-27) Czech Republic: 5 players
WAR leader: Dad Meek (0.1)
An MLB player hasn’t emerged from the Czech Republic since 1952, but the country qualified for its first World Baseball Classic this past September. Meek, whose given first name was Franz, played in six games for the St. Louis Browns from 1889-90.
T-27) Jamaica: 5 players
WAR leader: Devon White (47.3)
White and Chili Davis were both born in the capital city of Kingston, about two years apart. That duo combined for 36 seasons, six All-Star selections and six World Series titles in the Majors. They also played together with the California Angels from 1988-90. Two current big leaguers with Jamaican heritage are helping to strengthen the country’s baseball legacy.
T-27) Sweden: 5 players
WAR leader: Eric Erickson (3.1)
Erickson’s three siblings were born in the United States, but he arrived into this world while his parents were visiting their home country. He spent the majority of his seven-year MLB career in the Washington Senators’ rotation, alongside Johnson.
31) Spain: 4 players
WAR leader: Alfredo Cabrera (0.0)
Cabrera played professional baseball between the ages of 20 and 46. His time in the Majors, however, spanned one game: He went 0-for-2 as the Cardinals’ starting shortstop on May 16, 1913.
T-32) Austria: 3 players
WAR leader: Frank Ulrich (8.1)
Franz Ulrich’s first name was Americanized to Frank once his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 8. A right-handed pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, Ulrich was listed on a couple of MVP ballots following his 1927 season. However, that would be his final one in baseball as he died less than two years later, at age 29, due to tuberculosis.
T-32) Norway: 3 players
WAR leader: John Anderson (28.6)
While Anderson was an accomplished hitter, countryman Arndt Jorgens might be the most decorated bench player ever. He won five World Series during an 11-year career spent entirely with the Yankees as catcher Bill Dickey’s backup. Arndt holds the MLB record for the most Fall Classic games in which he was eligible to play but never appeared (23).
T-32) Ukraine: 3 players
WAR leader: Reuben Ewing (0.0)
All three players didn’t last more than 20 games or one season in the Majors. The most recent Ukrainian big leaguer, Izzy Goldstein, pitched in 16 games for the Tigers in 1932. Following his baseball career, Goldstein spent three years fighting for the U.S. Army in the Pacific theater during World War II.
T-35) Guam: 2 players
WAR leader: John Hattig (0.3)
The Hattig family is all about baseball. John’s father, John Sr., and uncle Herbie both played on Guam’s national team. Another uncle, Keith, became the first Minor Leaguer from Guam when he signed with the Angels in 1994. John Jr. was the first to reach the Majors and played 13 games for Toronto in 2006.
T-35) Honduras: 2 players
WAR leader: Gerald Young (6.0)
Whereas Young spent most of his life in California, the only Major Leaguer to be born and raised in Honduras is 2022 World Series champion Mauricio Dubón.
T-35) Philippines: 2 players
WAR leader: Bobby Chouinard (1.4)
Chouinard’s debut with the A’s came 75 years after MLB’s first player from the Philippines, Claudio Manela, broke in with the Cincinnati Cubans of the Negro National League in 1921.
T-35) Saudi Arabia: 2 players
WAR leader: Alex Wilson (5.4)
Wilson spent only the first few months of his life in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked as a geologist for a natural gas company. The Red Sox selected Wilson in the second round of the 2009 Draft, and he spent seven seasons as a middle reliever in the Majors.
T-35) Slovakia: 2 players
WAR leader: Jack Quinn (58.7)
This durable spitballer compiled 247 wins and nearly 4,000 innings in the Majors from 1909-33. A two-time World Series champion, Quinn owns a lot of age-related records, including the oldest pitcher to start a Fall Classic game (Game 4 in 1929, at age 46). His final appearance on an MLB mound came about a week after his 50th birthday.
T-35) South Africa: 2 players
WAR leader: Gift Ngoepe (0.0)
Ngoepe became the first African-born MLB player when he debuted with the Pirates in 2017. His younger brother, Victor, was signed by Pittsburgh a year earlier and played four seasons in the Bucs’ Minor League system.
T-41) Afghanistan: 1 player
WAR leader: Jeff Bronkey (0.5)
A second-round Draft pick by the Twins in 1986, Bronkey was born in Kabul to an American mother and an Afghan father. He notched a save for the Rangers in his 1993 big league debut.
T-41) American Samoa: 1 player
WAR leader: Tony Solaita (8.0)
Solaita grew up playing Samoan cricket and then translated those skills to baseball, which he learned after his family moved to Hawaii when Solaita was 8. The left-handed hitter popped 50 homers in the Majors between 1974-79. But that paled in comparison to how he ended his baseball career: 155 dingers in just four years (1980-83) in NPB.
T-41) Belgium: 1 player
WAR leader: Brian Lesher (minus-1.1)
Lesher’s father, John, was a professional basketball player in Belgium when Brian was born in 1971. Nearly half of Lesher’s 288 plate appearances in the big leagues came with the 1997 A’s. Called up on Aug. 1, he hit .229 with a .275 on-base percentage.
T-41) Belize: 1 player
WAR leader: Chito Martinez (2.2)
Martinez put together a .259/.330/.445 slash line in three seasons with the Orioles. His best season was his first one – 1991 – as the outfielder registered 13 home runs and a 126 OPS+ over 216 at-bats.
T-41) China: 1 player
WAR leader: Harry Kingman (0.0)
A man who had correspondences during his life with Mahatma Gandhi and H.G. Wells, Kingman’s MLB career consisted of only three at-bats with the 1914 Yankees. One hundred and thirty years after Kingman’s birth to congregationalist missionaries, the next MLB’er born in China may not be too far away.
T-41) Denmark: 1 player
WAR leader: Olaf Henriksen (1.8)
Henriksen won three World Series with the Red Sox during the early 20th century. He hit .355 with a .455 on-base percentage through the first three seasons, although he never played in more than 75 games in a single year. In 1916, he once pinch-hit for Red Sox ace pitcher Babe Ruth.
T-41) Finland: 1 player
WAR leader: John Michaelson (minus-0.1)
Born August E. Mikkola, Michaelson appeared in two games as a reliever for the 1921 White Sox. Although Finland doesn’t have a rich MLB history, its citizens enjoy the country’s own brand of baseball.
T-41) Greece: 1 player
WAR leader: Al Campanis (minus-0.2)
As his playing career spanned just seven games with the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, Campanis is more known for his work as a scout and his long stint as the Dodgers’ general manager, which began in 1968 and ended infamously in 1987.
T-41) Hong Kong: 1 player
WAR leader: Austin Brice (minus-0.5)
Brice was raised in North Carolina but born in Hong Kong as his father did a lot of international construction work. The right-hander has pitched in 144 games split between four Major League franchises.
T-41) Indonesia: 1 player
WAR leader: Tom Mastny (minus-0.7)
Born in Indonesia and raised in Indiana, Mastny recorded a 6.13 ERA during a three-year MLB career spent entirely with Cleveland. He made 51 appearances and won seven games for the 2007 AL Central-winning squad. He added three more outings during the ALCS versus Boston and was credited with the win in Game 2.
T-41) Latvia: 1 player
WAR leader: Joe Zapustas (minus-0.1)
Zapustas appeared in two games for the Philadelphia Athletics and the NFL’s New York Giants in 1933. That covers the entirety of his career in either league. He went 1-for-5 with a single for Connie Mack’s team.
T-41) Lithuania: 1 player
WAR leader: Dovydas Neverauskas (minus-1.5)
Neverauskas made his Major League debut with the Pirates in 2017, eight years after becoming the first Lithuanian-born player to sign a pro baseball contract. In four big league seasons with Pittsburgh, Neverauskas had a 6.81 ERA through 80 2/3 frames.
T-41) Portugal: 1 player
WAR leader: Frank Thompson (minus-0.2)
Born Augustus Fernandez, Thompson’s MLB career lasted all of 12 games during his age-23 season in 1875. He played in one game for the Brooklyn Atlantics before spending the rest of his time with the Washington Nationals. A 5-foot-5, 135-pound catcher, Thompson went 6-for-46 at the plate.
T-41) Singapore: 1 player
WAR leader: Robin Jennings (minus-1.4)
Jennings had only 24 RBIs in 93 big league games spread across four seasons. But on Aug. 31, 2001, Jennings became the 20th Reds player since 1920 to record seven RBIs in a game.
T-41) Switzerland: 1 player
WAR leader: Otto Hess (8.0)
Hess accrued more than half of his career WAR (4.7) in 1906 with the Cleveland Naps. He won 20 games, saved three more and posted a 1.83 ERA over 333 2/3 innings that year. Following the season, Cleveland player-manager Nap Lajoie said, “I don’t believe there’s a pitcher in either league who has greater natural ability than Hess.”
T-41) Vietnam: 1 player
WAR leader: Danny Graves (5.6)
Graves, an 11-year Major League veteran, is the Reds’ all-time leader with 182 saves. He will be inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame in 2023. Born in 1973, Graves’ family fled Vietnam the following year, just before the fall of Saigon.