Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: The top 10 MLB players from Tucson high schools:
Forty-two Tucsonans have reached the big leagues, from Tucson High pitcher Lum Davenport of the 1921 Chicago White Sox to Salpointe’s Dan Slania of the 2017 San Francisco Giants.
Three became All-Stars: Rincon catcher Tom Pagnozzi of the St. Louis Cardinals, Canyon del Oro second baseman Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, and Sabino shortstop J.J. Hardy of the Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles.
Most were journeymen, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Tucson High catcher Willie Morales played three games for the Orioles; Amphitheater pitcher Walt Kellner pitched three games for the Philadelphia Athletics; and Sahuaro High outfielder Tom Wiedenbauer played four games for the Houston Astros.
But it’s getting to The Show that counts. Longevity has been elusive for most.
Early in the 2004 season, Tucson High and Pima College grad Chris Saenz, a BBs-throwing right-hander who played at TCU, was summoned from Class AA Hunstville to start for the Brewers on April 24.
Saenz carried an impressive minor-league history, striking out 397 in 386 innings, and on that day against the Cardinals, pitched six scoreless innings, striking out seven in his big-league debut.
Unfortunately, that remains Saenz’s career record: 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. A few weeks later he injured his elbow, required Tommy John surgery and sat out the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In 2007 and 2008, Saenz attempted to revive his career in two independent professional leagues, but the zip on his ball was gone. By 2008, at age 27, he was out of baseball. He now lives in Chicago.
Here are my rankings of the top Tucsonans to reach The Show: