St. Paul now home to 4 baseball Hall of Famers

Jim O’Neill was awaiting the results of the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting when he got curious.

Mauer was about to become St. Paul’s fourth player to get the call to Cooperstown, and Jim realized that all four were not only from the same city, but all grew up not far apart.

"I knew they were close, but not that close," O’Neill said in amazement.

So, he went to St. Paul’s Dunning Sports Complex and drove to each of their childhood homes. And the results:  another remarkable stat for a game that loves its numbers.

"Dave Winfield was less than a half mile.  Paul (Molitor) was an 8th of a mile. Joe Mauer was a 9th of a mile and Jack Morris was a long way: a mile and 7/10ths."

"All those players grew up within two miles of Dunning Field. It was kind of the epicenter of baseball in St. Paul back in those days!"

Jim O’Neill is also part of St. Paul’s rich baseball history.  Perhaps his biggest link is that he was Joe Mauer’s coach at Cretin-Derham Hall High School.’

And when Joe was asked to be in the 2009 Home Run Derby, he called Jim to come pitch to him.

"You know I’d been pitching to him for five years," he recalled. "So we were pretty acclimated to each other, and it turned out pretty fun."

Joe Mauer wore his catching gear out in the ninth inning for one pitch as he waved to the crowed at Target Field Sunday September 30, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN. ] The Minnesota Twins hosted the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Jim never played with Dave Winfield, who is older.  But they both had the same high school coach.

He was a teammate of Paul Molitor, also at Cretin-Derham Hall. And he played summer leagues with Jack Morris for a couple of years. So how did St. Paul produce four Hall of Famers when no other place in Minnesota has produced even one?

Jim chalks it up not only to the city’s wealth of good programs but to the fact that each of the four was truly a standout athlete.

"You know, they all played multiple sports in high school and growing up, spent a lot of time at the playground. Something simple as that has transpired into guys becoming Hall of Fame baseball players."

A couple of other stats: with Mauer and Molitor, it makes Cretin only the 9th school in the nation to produce multiple Hall of Famers.

Only 60 players have gotten into Cooperstown on the first ballot.  Mauer, Molitor and Winfield are three of them. 

O’Neill plans to attend Mauer’s induction ceremony this summer. And he figures St. Paul will be well represented.

"I know the last time – when Paul got in – I went, there was a big contingent of St. Paul people.  I think this one’s going to be even bigger."