Baseball may be America’s pastime, but its popularity spans the globe. The scope of the game 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 tournament is just a snapshot of baseball’s global impact. Fifty-seven countries and territories have provided at least one major league player throughout the game’s history.
So, rank them, from largest to smallest population based on MLB standards. Let’s also pay some attention to the WAR leader of each part of the world.
There are just a few notes before jumping in:
Territories are listed independently.
There are 981 players in the Baseball-Reference database who have an unknown place of birth. They are obviously not included.
1) United States: 18,902 players (277 Hall of Famers)
WAR leader: Babe Ruth (183.1)
Before anything was described as “Ruthian” or someone was lauded as “The Babe Ruth of” his respective camp, Babe Ruth was one of the most legendary figures in 20th century America.
2) Dominican Republic: 864 players (4 Hall of Fame)
WAR leader: Albert Pujols (101.6)
Pujols, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martínez, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and David Ortiz aren’t just Hall of Famers; they are national heroes who inspire the masses in a country where baseball is a way of life.
3) Venezuela: 462 players (1 Hall of Fame)
WAR leader: Miguel Cabrera (67.7)
Cabrera, the newest member of the 3,000-hit, 500-homer club, seems destined to become the second Venezuelan player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of Luis Aparicio.
4) Cuba: 383 players (6 Hall of Fame)
WAR leader: Rafael Palmeiro (71.9)
Cuba has the most Hall of Famers of any country other than the United States: Tony Pérez, 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 Hall of Fame)
WAR leader: Roberto Clemente (94.8)
Thirty-two Puerto Rican-born players made it to the Majors before Clemente made his debut for the Pirates on April 17, 1955. Few players, regardless of nationality, have had such a profound impact on and off the field since. Roberto Alomar, Iván Rodríguez and Orlando Cepeda represent the rest of the Cooperstown quartet from Puerto Rico.
6) Canada: 262 players (2 Hall of Fame)
WAR leader: Fergie Jenkins (84.1)
You can’t help but marvel at Jenkins’ 1971 season. On the mound, he produced a NL-best 10.1 bWAR in 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 home runs and posted a 102 OPS+ in 113 at-bats. Twenty years later, the Chatham, Ontario native became the first Canadian to come to Cooperstown. The second was Larry Walker.
7) Mexico: 145 players
WAR leader: Fernando Valenzuela (41.5)
Raised in the small town 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 Hall of Fame)
WAR leader: Rod Carew (81.2)
Carew was born on a train in Panama and given the name Rodney after the birthing physician. One of the greatest hitters in MLB history, the Panamanian national baseball team plays its games inside a stadium named after Carew. Mariano Rivera was the first unanimous member of the Hall in 2019.
Latvia: Joe Zapustas. He appeared in two games for the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants.