By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The Aloha State has contributed some big-league talent to the game of baseball over the years. I’ve come up with my Top Ten “Big League Bruddahs” (with apologies to Rob DeMello!), using the criteria of major accomplishments, championships and longevity. The list is in descending order. Let me know if you agree with my picks. Send your comments to [email protected].
1. SHANE VICTORINO: The Saint Anthony HS alum has two World Series rings – one with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 and one with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. A 2x All-Star outfielder with the Phillies, Victorino had a .275 batting average with 108 home runs and 489 RBIs over his 12-year career. Also earned four Gold Glove Awards. He was the recipient of the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award 2008 (given to the MLB player that “best exhibits the character and integrity of Lou Gehrig) and the Branch Rickey Award in 2011 (in recognition of “exceptional community service”).
2. SID FERNANDEZ: “El Sid” was a starting pitcher on the star-studded 1986 New York Mets team that won the World Series. In the deciding Game 7 against the Red Sox, Fernandez retired even consecutive batters, striking out four. The Kaiser HS product was a 2x All-Star with the Mets. He played 15 seasons in the majors, finishing with a 114-96 win-loss record, a 3.36 ERA and 1,743 strikeouts.
3. KURT SUZUKI: The Baldwin alum is still going strong in his 15th MLB season. Won a World Series ring as a member of the Washington Nationals and is now catching for Shohei Ohtani with the L.A. Angels. The one-time All-Star (2014) is the only Hawaii player to win both a College World Series and a World Series championship. His career MLB stats so far: .258 batting average with 136 homers and 708 RBIs.
4. KIRBY YATES: The Kauai HS alum made his MLB debut in 2014 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Found his stride with the San Diego Padres, leading the majors in saves (41) and posting a 1.19 ERA in 2019. Yates was named an All-Star that year. Injuries have curtailed his 2020 and 2021 seasons. Thus far in his career, he has 57 saves and 400 strikeouts in 282.1 innings pitched.
5. KOLTEN WONG: Wong made his big league debut in 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals and collected a base hit in that season’s World Series (the Cards fell to the Red Sox in six games). The former Kamehameha-Hawaii and University of Hawaii was a 2x All-Star second-baseman with St. Louis and earned two Gold Glove Awards. Signed with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this year: Career stats thus far: 9 seasons, .263 batting average, 61 home runs and 303 RBIs.
6. MIKE LUM: When he debuted with the Atlanta Braves in 1967, Lum became the first American of Japanese ancestry to play in the major leagues. The outfielder/first baseman wound up playing 15 seasons with three different clubs (Braves, Reds and Cubs), batting .247 with 90 homers and 431 RBIs. He was a role player on the Cincinnati Reds team that beat the New York Yankees in the 1976 World Series.
7. GLENN BRAGGS: The former UH standout played seven seasons as a major league outfielder. In 1990, he helped the Cincinnati Reds capture the World Series championship over the favored Oakland A’s. His career numbers include a .257 batting average, 70 homers and 321 RBIs. Braggs hit a home run in his final career at-bat.
8. BENNY AGBAYANI: The Saint Louis School and HPU alum spent five seasons in the majors. Agbayani played for the Mets for four seasons, with short stints with both the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox to round out his career. The outfielder appeared in the 2000 World Series and drove in the winning run in the only victory the Mets had. (The New York Yankees win that series, 4-1.) His career stats: .274 batting average, 39 home runs and 129 RBIs.
9. LENN SAKATA: Although his career numbers were modest – .230 batting average, 25 homers and 109 RBIs – the Kalani HS grad always found ways to contribute during his 11 seasons in the majors. Although he primarily played second base, he also played shortstop for a time. In fact, Sakata was the Baltimore Orioles’ SS Before Cal Ripken, Jr. took over the position and became baseball’s “iron man.” Sakata was a member of the Orioles’ 1983 World Series championship team.
10. JEROME WILLIAMS: Williams was selected in the first round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants. As it turned out, San Francisco was just the first of many stops for the former Waipahu Marauder. Williams would pitch for eight different teams in his 11-year major league career. He had a 52-66 record as a pitcher, collecting 655 strikeouts and posting a 4.59 ERA.
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