Didi Gregorius

Best European baseball players of all-time

Home » MLB » European Baseball Players: Top European MLB Players of All Time

When we think of the greatest foreign-born MLB players ever, most of us probably think about players from Latin America, but what about European baseball players?

While the best European MLB players don’t exactly outnumber the great American players or Latin players, there have been a surprising number of European baseball players to make an impact in the majors. The only problem is the best European MLB players often get lost in the shuffle because not all fans know that they come from a European country.

Best European baseball players

Well, we thought it was time that the best European baseball players to make it to the big leagues finally got some recognition.

The countries that produced those players also deserve some credit. While we can’t guarantee that we remembered everyone, here is our list of the best European baseball players in big league history.

Bert Blyleven

As a Hall of Famer who spent 22 seasons in the majors, the Dutch-born Bert Blyleven surely deserves to be considered among the greatest foreign-born MLB players ever. He got to the majors when he was just 19 and quickly gained a reputation for having one of the best curveballs in the majors.


Surprisingly, he only made the All-Star Team twice. However, Blyleven did earn two World Series rings, one with the Pirates in 1979 and another during his second stint with the Twins in 1987. His impressive longevity despite some injury issues late in his career allowed Blyleven to rack up 287 wins and 3,701 career strikeouts to go along with his 3.31 ERA.

Jack Quinn

In 1883, Jack Quinn was born in Austria-Hungary in a village called Stefuro in what is now Slovakia. A couple of weeks before his first birthday, Quinn’s parents emigrated to the U.S., opening the door for him to become a big-league pitcher.

His family settled in Pennsylvania, which is fitting because Quinn is best known for helping the Philadelphia Athletics win back-to-back World Series championships in 1929 and 1930. Quinn is also a legendary figure because his career lasted from 1909 to 1933. He pitched 15 innings for the Reds in 1933, the year he turned 50 years old.

As a pitcher, Quinn posted a career ERA of 3.29 with 247 wins and 56 saves. He was also a decent hitter, batting .184 in his career with eight home runs. In fact, he hit a home run at age 46 and remained the oldest player to homer in the majors until Julio Franco did so at age 47 in 2006.


Bruce Bochy

Before he was a three-time World Series winner as a manager, Bruce Bochy was one of the few baseball players to reach the majors after being born in France. Bochy’s father was in the Army at the time, which also meant that he spent part of his childhood in the Panama Canal Zone, among other stateside locales.

Like so many great managers, he spent his playing days as a catcher, spending time with the Astros, Mets, and Padres between 1978 and 1987. By no means did Bochy have a great career as a player, hitting just .239 with 26 home runs while playing primarily as a backup catcher. However, it did prepare him to be a manager.

Charlie Getzien

Charlie Getzien is perhaps best known for his nickname: Pretzels. He got it in part because he was born in Germany. But he got it mostly because he had a wicked curveball that was said to “follow the curves of a pretzel,” almost like a “double curveball.”

Naturally, Getzien had a funky delivery. His famous curveball was also the subject of magazine articles that aimed to explain the science of it, including Scientific American. Getzien ended up pitching from 1884 to 1892, helping the Detroit Wolverines win the 1887 World Series and finishing his career with over 1,000 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA.

Didi Gregorius

Born in Amsterdam, Didi Gregorius is one of the few contemporary players who can be considered among the best European MLB players.

While he was born in the Netherlands, he grew up in Curaçao, where he was introduced to baseball. He had the unique distinction of following Derek Jeter as the everyday shortstop for the Yankees the year after Jeter retired.

While not a superstar, Gregorius has put together a solid career and has represented the Netherlands multiple times in either the Baseball World Cup or the World Baseball Classic.

Jimmy Archer

The Irish-born Jimmy Archer has a unique story that helped him become one of the top European baseball players in big league history.

He fell into a vat of boiling sap when he was 19, but he had incredible arm strength after his burns had healed. As a catcher, Archer could throw out attempted base stealers while still in a crouched position.

Not many modern catches would even attempt such a thing. He even led the National League in assists one year.

As a hitter, Archer was nothing special, finishing his career with a .249 average and 16 career home runs. But he played over a decade in the majors, mostly with the Cubs, and his story is surely one worth knowing.

Patsy Donovan

Patsy Donovan was an Irish-born outfielder who played around the turn of the century, by which we mean he played from 1890 to 1907.

He racked up over 2,200 hits during his career despite a mere 16 home runs with a career batting average of .301. At one point, Donovan even set the major league record for the most games played in right field, showing his longevity.

It’s also worth noting that Donovan was a player-manager during the latter half of his career and then continued to manage after his playing days were done. A majority of his playing days were spent with the Pirates and Cardinals, although he played with a few others and managed five different teams.

Art Jorgens

Born in Norway, Art Jorgens played a role in the Yankees winning five world championships during the 1930s, earning him credibility as one of the best European MLB players of all time.

The catch is that he never appeared in any of those World Series games. He spent his career as the backup catcher to Bill Dickey, who would catch every inning during the postseason.

Nevertheless, Jorgens played on some truly great teams. He’s also one of just three Norwegians to play in the majors.

Charlie Lea

Appropriately enough, the French-born Lea spent most of his big league career playing for the Montreal Expos. He was with the Expos in the early 1980s, pitching a no-hitter in 1981 and making his only All-Star Game appearance in 1984. But after winning 15 games and posting a 2.89 ERA in 1984, Lea suffered through arm and shoulder issues that limited him to just one inning in the majors over the next three seasons.

He had one last hurrah with the Twins in 1988 but couldn’t get past his arm problems, finishing his career with eight shutouts in 144 career starts, a 62-48 record, and a 3.54 ERA.

Bobby Thomson

Most baseball fans know Thomson for the “Shot Heard Round the World,” but not everyone knows that he was born on the other side of the world in Glasgow, Scotland.

Outside of winning the 1951 pennant for the Giants with one swing, Thomson had a 15-year career in the majors, earning three All-Star selections.

His walk-off home run in 1951 was just one of 264 he hit during his career while racking up over 1,000 RBIs. While Thomson isn’t a Hall of Famer, the “Shot Heard Round the World” has forever made him a part of baseball lore and one of the best European baseball players to ever come across the pond.

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