“Manny Ramirez is retiring after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs (PED) for a second time. Instead of letting Major League Baseball have a field day with his already less than flattering reputation, the former Indian, Red Sox, White Sox, and Dodger star decided to hang up the cleats for good.
Yet, even with PED allegations hitting him hard for a second time, Manny Ramirez is still a player that people would love to watch. His fan base is still vocal and undeniably large. A lot of it is that big smile and crazy hair. He’s a cool-looking cat, no question. And let’s face it: Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest right handed hitters in the history of the game.
He doesn’t play defense worth a lick, he gives zero effort in the field, and he’s now tested positively for PEDs twice. But baseball fans love the bad boys. They always have. Besides, that’s just Manny being Manny. From Pete Rose to Ty Cobb up until the present day with players like Ramirez, baseball has always been a game of grit. With the steroid issues forever linked to him, it is unclear if Ramirez will ever get into the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the real question is this: Was Manny dirty enough to be one of the greatest “dirty players” of all time? Below is the starting lineup for the best of the worst. The dirtiest of the dirty. The greatest baseball bad boys of all time.
Manager- Billy Martin (Most notably a Yankee as a player and manager)
“Cheating is just as much a part of baseball as hotdogs and scorecards,” Billy Martin once said. Billy Martin may be the last of his kind. Martin, who played or managed for eight different pro franchises, was a modern day Ty Cobb. He was the “enforcer” and that meant starting fights, ending fights, and everything in between as a player. Of course, as a manager, he took dirty to a whole new level. In Detroit, some of his pitchers said that Martin ordered them to throw spit balls. Pitchers throughout Billy Martin’s run as a manager were told to throw at batters in retaliation or for intimidation. There have been allegations that Martin even tried to use cameras in order to steal the catcher’s signs to the pitcher so that he could relay the information the batter. Oh, that Billy Martin was a wily one indeed. Nobody can forget the dirt kicking antics that Martin would use on umpires. Those unforgettable trips to home plate are as much a part of baseball lore as the Babe calling his shot. Billy was a dirty player and a dirtier manager, but he was all kinds of entertaining.
First Base- Mark McGwire (Oakland A’s, St. Louis Cardinals)
We all know the story. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are in a tug of war battle for winning the home run crown in 1998. By the All-Star Break it was pretty clear that someone was going to break Roger Maris’s single season home run record. Both players broke the record, though McGwire did beat Sosa to the punch. The Cardinal slugger added nearly 20 more to finish with 70 homeruns for the year, besting Sosa by four. The story was great for baseball and played a large part of bringing fans back to the game of baseball after the player strike in 1994-1995. Of course, only later do the fans find out the players were a sham. McGwire has now admitted that he was juicing, and the general consensus is that Sosa was as well. The question of how many of his 586 career home runs McGwire would have hit had he never used steroids will forever remain a mystery. But I’m pretty sure it would have been a bunch.
Second Base- Pete Rose (Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos)
“Charlie Hustle” will always be remembered for gambling on baseball while he was the manager of the Reds. Depending on who you ask, Rose wagered somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000 a game over 52 games in 1987. While it hasn’t been proven that Rose ever bet against the Reds while he was managing, betting on baseball is a big no-no. In addition to the gambling scandal, Rose was also indicted for and pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1990. Of course, his on the field exploits are chronicled as well. Plowing into catchers (and injuring them) during an All-Star game doesn’t go over very well with the rest of the league. As if that wasn’t dirty enough, Pete Rose has also been involved in multiple Wrestlemania WWE Pay-Per-Views. The good news for the all-time MLB hits leader is that while he may never enter the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, he can rest easy knowing that his shining star will forever be remembered in the WWE Hall of Fame. Rose was introduced as the first celebrity to gain entrance into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
Shortstop- John McGraw (Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants)
With nicknames like “Mugsy” or “Little Napoleon,” you know you have a scrapper. McGraw played in the “dead-ball” era where runs were scarce and fair play all but extinct. Some baseball historians have theorized that John McGraw is the man most responsible for having more than one umpire on the field. In addition to having a reputation as a man with a quick temper and quick to throw hands, he also had a reputation as a dirty cheat. McGraw constantly used the single umpire system to his advantage. As umpires were looking at the flight of the ball or had their attention elsewhere, McGraw would trip, hit, stomp, and block opposing base runners. Even as a manager, McGraw drew the ire of the opposition. He was known for whipping the opposing crowds and teams into a frenzy with his trash talk and colorful antics. Through it all, McGraw is also one of the smartest players of the game. He was one of the very best in history at getting on base and scoring runs.
Third Base- Graig Nettles (Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Montreal Expos)
Even Graig Nettle’s first name is dirty. In fact, the name originated from two names- Craig and Greg- both of which were so disgusting to his mother that she couldn’t name him either one. So she did what any mother would do, combine the two names she hates into one slightly more tolerable name. But Nettles has earned a reputation beyond just his name. In a 1974 game with the Yankees, Nettles was caught using an illegal bat. How illegal? The bat was so illegal that even Sammy Sosa and Albert Belle have to think Nettles crossed the line. It had six Superballs stuffed into a hole drilled in the bat. Anyone who will go to such extreme measures for some extra pop in the bat is probably a dirty fighter as well. Indeed, Nettles is that. In a bench-clearing brawl with the Red Sox, Nettles spear-tackled pitcher Bill Lee from behind. The result was a broken collarbone for Lee. Of course, Nettles was also a tremendous third baseman. His All-Star appearances and Golden Gloves are evidence enough of that.
Catcher- Craig Biggio (Houston Astros)
I have to admit, even I feel dirty for putting Craig Biggio on this list. The truth of the matter is that Craig Biggio is one of the great ambassadors for the game of baseball and is widely recognized as a very “clean” player when it comes to the rule of play. He’s a genuinely good guy. However, nobody gets beaned as much as Biggio did without crowding the plate and leaning into pitches. Still, he ranks second all-time in that category behind only Hughie Jennings. Then of course, nothing in the history of baseball is dirtier than Craig Biggio’s batting helmet. This was the deal-sealer. Biggio never washed his batting helmet. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Biggio was constantly rubbing his hands on the pine tar laden bat handles and then straightening his helmet. Biggio’s helmets ended up with as much pine tar as the bats he used. The sticky mess attracted every bit of dirt and debris in the Astrodome. A head shot of Biggio looked less like a Houston Astro baseball player and more like a member of Easy Company at the Battle of the Bulge. Biggio won the Golden Glove award four times, but his offensive numbers are absolutely stunning. He has to be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he is first eligible in 2013.
Outfield- Barry Bonds (Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants)
Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire headlined the steroids era for a while, but Barry Bonds quickly became the poster boy for PED’s. Barry Bonds started out as a skinny, fast, base hit-getting, base-stealing outfielder with the Pirates. But he grew into a guy that eventually had muscles popping up all over his face. His face! Bonds hasn’t appeared before Congress like Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, and Clemens, but has appeared before a grand jury…more than once. Bonds was indicted in the original BALCO scandal and more recently for perjury and obstruction of justice during his testimony in the BALCO court case. Bonds was also the first player to balk at the MLBPA (the pro baseball player’s union). He refused to sign with the union in order to negotiate the terms to use his name and likeness in video games, movies, and the like. Despite the historic numbers Barry Bonds posted over his career that spanned more than two decades, Bonds’s affiliation to BALCO and PEDs may keep him out of the Hall of Fame forever.
Outfield- “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Naps/Indians, Chicago White Sox)
The Black Sox scandal is arguably the biggest scandal in the history of sport- any sport. The extent of “Shoeless” Joe’s involvement in the 1919 World Series to hand the championship to the Reds is currently under dispute. Despite that, someone associated with the largest black eye in the sport’s history had to make this list, and Joe Jackson was the best of the bunch. Jackson reportedly admitted to a grand jury that he was involved with the plan and took money from the gamblers who were paying the Sox to throw the World Series. He later took that confession back. In addition, most baseball historians believe that Jackson was almost completely illiterate and was easily duped. Jackson is considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, but will not be eligible for the baseball Hall of Fame unless his name is removed from the Major League Baseball ineligible list.
Outfield- Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Athletics)
Milton Bradley, you got nothing on Ty Cobb. Ty Cobb was involved in more tirades than Milton Bradley and Lou Piniella could ever fathom. In addition to settling differences on the field with postgame fights, Cobb stabbed a man that tried to prevent him from beating up a doorman, beat up a disabled fan, has been labeled a violent racist by many, and like Jackson, was accused of fixing games. But it was Cobb’s dirty play on the field that has gained the most attention. Ty Cobb reportedly sharpened his spikes which he used purposefully to break up double plays against the legs of middle infielders. Cobb also would grab chalk and throw it in the face of an infielder attempting to make a tag on him as he started his slide. Cobb even used the lack of acumen against his good friend, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Cobb once yelled violently at Jackson before a game, shaking him for an entire ballgame. Jackson, easily duped, lost the mind game in which Cobb excelled in playing. Arguably the dirtiest player of all time, Cobb is also one of the greatest offensive players in history of the game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 with more than 98% of the vote.
Pitcher- Gaylord Perry (San Francisco Giants + 8 other teams)
When you write a book about your cheating exploits on the mound, you’re almost guaranteed a spot on the list. Jose Canseco wrote a book, but he’s not exactly Cobb, Bonds, or “Shoeless” Joe. No, Perry’s book entitled “Me and the Spitter” detailed how he cheated and the materials he used. Even more gutsy is that Perry wrote the book, and had it published in 1974. Perry continued pitching in the Major Leagues until 1983! Some believe the book was a hoax and that Perry wasn’t cheating. The idea would be to give him a psychological edge over the batters. Of course, Perry was actually ejected once for doctoring the baseball, so the book could be 100% accurate. But Perry was more than just a cheater. Gaylord Perry was a visionary at dirty pitching. Perry used the “puff ball” more than any pitcher in history. The “puff ball” was created by getting a hand full of rosin in the pitching hand. When the ball is released toward home plate, the ball gets lost in the cloud of white dust that leaves the pitchers hand. Because of Gaylord Perry, this technique is now against the rules of Major League Baseball. Longtime MLB manager, Gene Mauch once said of the cheating Perry, “He should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to his plaque.” Now that’s dirty.
“Dirty” Jack Doyle