Of course, we like to root, root, root for the home team, but there’s a special connection and level of pride we feel when homegrown talent makes it to the show, no matter what team they play for.
Maryland has been somewhat of an under-the-radar factory for elite talent throughout the years and has produced some of the best athletes to ever don a uniform or jersey. Here’s a look at nine of the absolute best to hail from the Old Line State.
9. Stefon Diggs
This local product, who is the youngest athlete on our list, was born in Gaithersburg and went on to play his high school ball at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Montgomery County before moving on to play for the Terrapins at the University of Maryland.
Diggs will forever be remembered for the “Minneapolis Miracle” after he made a logic-defying 61-yard touchdown catch as time expired to give the Minnesota Vikings a playoff win over the New Orleans Saints.
It was the first time in NFL playoffs history that a game ended on a touchdown when time expired. Diggs, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills, has been one of the NFL’s premier wide receivers and led the league in 2020 with 127 receptions and 1,535 yards.
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8. Doug Flutie
This pint-sized quarterback paved the way for vertically challenged QBs and has a resume that includes a Heisman Trophy, three Grey Cup championships, three Grey Cup MVPs, six CFL Most Outstanding Player awards, an NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and a Pro Bowl. And let’s not forget about Flutie Flakes.
Doug Flutie, who was born in Manchester, Md., and spent the first five years of his life in the state, had the “It” factor that helped him become a household name and one of Maryland’s finest. You can say he was all that and a box of cereal.
7. Al Kaline
The man they called “Mr. Tiger” was born and raised in Baltimore and signed with the Detroit Tigers directly out of high school.
He made his MLB debut in 1953, and two years later, he became the youngest player ever (20) to win the American League batting title (.340). The outfielder had a stellar career with the Tigers, appearing in a mind-blowing 18 All-Star games.
He was also a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a Roberto Clemente Award recipient, and a World Series champion. Kaline was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.
6. Lefty Grove
Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove is a Lonaconing native and was one of the best pitchers that Major League Baseball has ever seen.
Grove spent his 17-year career with the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox between 1925 and 1941. He led the American League in strikeouts seven years in a row, was the AL wins leader on four occasions, and had the league’s lowest ERA a record nine times.
He’s also a two-time Triple Crown winner, leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA in the same season. Grove won two World Series titles, was a six-time All-Star and owns an AL MVP award.
In 1947, he was immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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5. Jimmy Foxx
Sticking with the old-timey theme, we come to Jimmy Foxx. Foxx was born in rural Sudlersville on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1907.
After excelling in sports in high school, Foxx was dubbed “the most promising athletic prospect in Maryland.” Fox made his MLB debut in 1925 for the Philadelphia Athletics, where he would spend the first half of his career before moving on to Boston.
Foxx’s highlight-reel career includes nine All-Star games, two World Series titles, two AL batting titles, and a Triple Crown.
He also led the league in home runs on four occasions and finished first in RBIs thrice. Foxx finished his career with a .325 batting average and 534 home runs. He was inducted into the Hall in 1951.
4. Kevin Durant
The only NBA player on our list is the living and still playing legend, Kevin Durant. Durant grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, on the eastern outskirts of Washington, D.C.
The future Hall of Famer had reached six feet tall by middle school, destining him as a high school basketball star before committing to the University of Texas.
After an outstanding career with the Longhorns that lasted one season, Durant was selected with the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. It was an unfortunate miss for the Portland Trail Blazers, who took Greg Oden with the No. 1 pick.
While Oden has gone down as one of the biggest busts in NBA Draft history, Durant has piled up a truck full of accolades, including two NBA titles (winning MVP in both NBA Finals appearances), 12 All-Star appearances, NBA Rookie of the Year, and an NBA MVP in 2014.
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3. Sugar Ray Leonard
Ray Charles “Sugar Ray” Leonard grew up in Palmer Park, where he attended Park Dale High School. He began his boxing training at the local recreation center.
Known as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Leonard won world titles in five weight classes and won the Lineal Championship in three weight classes during his 20-year career.
Leonard was the first boxer to win over $100 million in purses and was awarded “Boxer of the Decade” in the 1980s. His Hall of Fame career also included a Gold Medal at the 1976 Olympics and a Gold at the Pan American Games in 1975.
Leonard finished his career with a record of 40-3-1 with 25 knockouts.
2. Cal Ripken Jr.
Maybe the nearest and dearest to the hearts of Marylanders on this list is The Iron Man, Cal Ripken Jr. The Havre de Grace native played his entire fabled career in the Old Line State and gave Baltimore a sense of pride like no other.
While he’s obviously known for breaking Lou Gehrig’s record streak, which Gehrig owned for 56 years, of 2,130 consecutive games played, the shortstop and third baseman also had 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 RBIs in his illustrious career.
Ripken Jr. was an All-Star a ridiculous 19 times, an AL Rookie of the Year, a two-time MVP, and a World Series champion. The first-ballot Hall of Famer was inducted in 2007.
1. Babe Ruth
If there’s one Marylander that Cal Ripken Jr. could play second fiddle to, it’s the Sultan of Swat – Babe Ruth.
George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr., widely considered the greatest baseball player of all time, is unquestionably Baltimore’s finest sporting export.
The Bambino played for 22 seasons, splitting his time between Boston and New York. The dual-threat pitcher and outfielder was a ground-breaking force in baseball and not only led the league in ERA as a pitcher in 1916 but also led the league in home runs on 12 occasions.
Ruth was a seven-time World Series champion, an AL MVP, and an AL batting champion. He finished his career with a .342 average with 714 home runs. Ruth was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 as one of the first five members.
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