Joe Blanton Named 2023 SEC Baseball Legend
Joe Blanton, who is one of the most accomplished pitchers in Kentucky baseball history, has been named to the 2023 class on the Southeastern Conference Baseball Legends presented by T-Mobile, the league announced Wednesday.
Blanton joins Auburn’s Frank Thomas, Georgia’s Derek Lilliquist and LSU’s Todd Walker, all four of whom had established Major League Baseball careers. The class will be recognized at the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama May 23-28.
Blanton pitched in 55 games during his Kentucky career from 2000-02. During his junior season, Blanton tallied five wins with 133 strikeouts in 100 innings. After his 2002 season, Blanton became the second Wildcat player all-time to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft, as the Oakland Athletics nabbed him with the 24th overall pick.
A native of Brownsville, Ky., Blanton led the UK pitching staff in starts (14), complete games (3), innings pitched (100.0) and strikeouts (133) in 2002. His 133 strikeouts exceeded Brandon Webb’s (1998-2000) previous single-season high of 123 set in 2000, while his 231 career strikeouts rank fourth on the all-time list, surpassing Jay Ray’s 230 set from 1982-85. He also awarded national player of the week honors by Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association when he outdueled Ball State’s Bryan Bullington, the first pick in the 2002 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2008 Blanton became the first Wildcat pitcher to win a game in the World Series, tossing six innings and hitting a home run in a 10-2 Philadelphia Phillies win over the Tampa Bay Rays in game four of the 2008 World Series. In addition to his time with the Athletics and Phillies, Blanton also had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. He retired following the 2017 season and finished his major league career with 101 wins and 1,284 strikeouts.