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Upstate Ballers: Five Capital Region Natives Who Went on to Become Major League Baseball Stars

Hall of Famers Johnny Evers and George Davis—and three others—round out our list of regional MLB stars.

Relief Pitcher Tommy Kahnle, who starred for Shaker High, is on the current New York Yankees roster. (New York Yankees)

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it’s easy punching a ticket to the majors. According to Baseball America magazine, over the past nearly 40 years, less than one in five players drafted in the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft makes it to the big show. Those are pretty steep odds. Simply put, you need to be an indispensable superstar, with some je ne sais quoi that gets you the eventual call-up—not to mention a body that’ll survive the beating of a 162-game season (and possible postseason, if you’re lucky enough). Here are five baseballers from the Capital Region that ended up having respectable, if not stellar careers in the big leagues.

Johnny Evers, Second Base (1902-29)
Born in Troy in 1881, Johnny “The Trojan” Evers starred primarily for the Chicago Cubs and Boston Braves, racking up five National League pennants and three World Series championships in his illustrious career that ultimately led him to a bronze plaque at the baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. Evers was such a titan that he was even immortalized in the refrain of the famed Franklin Pierce Adams’ poem, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” with the line, “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Johnny “The Trojan” Evers, who hailed from Troy, starred in the majors in the 1900s.

George Davis, Shortstop (1890-1909)
Primarily starring for the New York Giants—the baseball team, which eventually moved to San Francisco in 1958—Cohoes native George Davis is among the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. He was also a force at the plate, slugging a career .295 batting average, with 2,665 hits, 1,545 runs and 1,440 RBIs. He was a late bloomer, though, at least for Hall voters: He wasn’t elected until 1998.

Tim Stauffer, Pitcher (2005-15)
Stauffer was actually born in Portland, ME, but played his high school ball at Saratoga Central Catholic in Saratoga. Back in those days, he put up Babe Ruthian numbers as a hitting pitcher for the Saints, finishing the ’00 season with a .455 batting average, 130 runs, 137 RBIs and 155 hits; and from the mound, 30 wins and 366 strikeouts. He was chosen No.4 overall in the 2003 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres, where he spent the majority of an injury-plagued career, before short stints with the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets.

Brendan Harris, Infielder (2004-13)
Born in Albany and starring for Queensbury High School, utility infielder Brendan Harris was drafted in the 5th round (138th overall) of the 2001 MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs. He’d end up a journeyman, seeing action not only with Chicago, but also the Montréal Expos, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Tommy Kahnle, Pitcher (2010-present)
Tommy Kahnle was a standout catcher and pitcher for Shaker High School in Latham, where he was born and raised. He would eventually be drafted in the fifth round in 2010 by hometown heroes the New York Yankees, but was later taken away in the Rule 5 draft by the Colorado Rockies. He was then traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he put up great numbers, which eventually put him back in the good graces of the Yanks, who picked him in 2017. There, he’s ping-ponged between the majors and the minors. Will he make the Opening Day roster, if there is one? We shall see.

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Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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