Thursday, June 3, 2010

Would you ask these men for an autograph?

More on these guys later.

Last week, in a fit of laziness/writer's block, I wondered who the scariest-looking players in baseball history were.

I received a variety of responses. I will try to show most of them here.

As I clarified in the comments, by "scary" I meant, "this guy looks like he wants to kill me" scary. So, although folks like Otis Nixon and Willie McGee and Zane Smith, look "scary" in an "unfortunate-but-his-mom-still-loves-him" kind of way, that's not what I was going for.

What I was going for is this:

Maybe Randy Johnson is "ugly scary," too. But there is no doubt that there were a few batters that feared for their life facing him. He had the ability, and he definitely had the look, which is the main point of this post. The intent was to find players so frightening-looking that it set the "human fear response" into motion.

Like this guy. He certainly featured an intense look on the mound. The funny thing is that with just about all of the cards I have of Bob Gibson, he is smiling. Talk about shattering a reputation. At least with this card, it looks like Gibson has only one arm. Now that is some kind of bad-ass pitching!

The Mad Hungarian was mentioned by a couple of folks. I remember Hrabosky's mound routine well. It did seem a little frightening. I'm sure if I was a batter at the time, it might freak me out a little. As a youngster, I thought it was more entertaining in a "this guy is crazy" kind of way. It made me laugh. Fear doesn't make you laugh. But again, I was about 13 at the time.

I wish there were cards showing Hrabosky going through his ritual. That's something that would never escape card makers these days. Unfortunately, we don't have cards of Hrabosky's antics or Mark Fidrych smoothing the mound.

The Goose is another fine choice. When he was a Yankee, he irritated the hell out of me, mostly because no batter could touch him. I'm sure a lot of it was because that mustache freaked out hitters.

Gossage's stache didn't reach full bloom until he went to the Padres. The Yankees, as you know, have a policy against that kind of stuff. It surprises me to see some of the old photos of Gossage with the Yankees and to see him without any facial hair. It takes away his ferocity.

Have you looked closely at Gossage's baseball cards? There seem to be a few in which he's wearing memorials to deceased players or owners, etc.

That'll make you fearful. He throws in the high 90s and wears death on his jersey.

Cecilo Guante was mentioned. That surprised me a bit. I'm sure there is a good reason for it. I love random relievers who will scare the crap out of a hitter. Every team needs one of those.

But pitchers don't have a monopoly when it comes to fear factor. There are a few hitters that will freak a pitcher out.

My thoughts immediately go to Gary Sheffield and Bo Jackson. They weren't mentioned. Maybe because they were caught smiling a few times.

I also think of Kevin Mitchell, only because of Darryl Strawberry's quote. He said that Kevin Mitchell was a gangster through and through. A gangster that wore a baseball uniform.

As for the hitters that were mentioned:

Joe Torre certainly has a mafia look about him. Of course, he is a rather pleasant individual, which kind of kills the effect. Scary stare though.

Donn Clendenon looks more than a little cranky on his 1968 card.

Admittedly, Dave Cash appears a bit miffed in this photo, probably because he's airbrushed into an Expos uniform. But as a kid, I thought Cash was the epitome of cool. In my mind, he was a jazz-loving, funky base-stealer. And I didn't even know what "jazz" or "funk" was at the time.

Albert Belle, on the other hand, was as frightening and angry as they come. Not only could he club a baseball, but there seemed to be no end to the number of things he wanted to club. TV reporters, second basemen, trick-or-treaters. You name it.

Belle is everything Barry Bonds could have been, except Bonds started whining about his family and how he was treated. Belle was a man of action. A crazy, frightening, pissed-off man of action.

All right, I've mentioned just about everyone listed in the comments, except for two people, one brought up by me and one brought up by MattR. To me, those two players are linked together. They are the two guys pictured at the top of the post.

They are two menacing-looking individuals, I have to say. I saw their pictures for the first time in 1978. They appeared in this publication:

It's the first team yearbook I ever received. Isn't that a great cover?

As in just about every yearbook (do they still issue yearbooks?), there is a section that lists prospects. Often a photo accompanies the write-up and stats of the prospects. Here is one of the two prospect pages in the 1978 Dodger yearbook:

You can see that the two photos pictured at the top of the post are here in the yearbook and they belong to Jeff Leonard and Dave Stewart.

Both of them were Dodger prospects in 1978 and both had impressive stats. These were the glory days of the Dodger farm system (also in the list of prospects in this yearbook was Pedro Guerrero). And because of that both Leonard and Stewart seemingly took forever to make a mark in the major leagues. There wasn't room with all of the home-grown players.

I really wanted the two of them to succeed, not just because of their stats, but because of how they looked. I thought that anyone who looked as tough as those two could conquer baseball.

Let's look at both of them:


Dave Stewart is known for a lot of things -- winning a few World Series titles, winning 20 games four straight seasons, calling out Roger Clemens, getting arrested a couple of times (including one ugly affair with a prostitute), becoming a sports agent, etc.

But I'll remember him for his deadly stare that he would give the hitter. He looked like he could knock you over with his eyes.

It was my hope that Stewart would become a consistent part of the Dodgers' rotation for years. But he didn't. After bouncing between the Rangers and Phillies, he became a consistent part of the A's rotation. Wearing green-and-gold, he was everything I hoped he would be with the Dodgers.

If there was one thing that didn't go with his menacing presence on the mound it was his squeaky voice. Fortunately, he didn't have to talk his way through a game. His arm and his eyes did the work for him.


The day in 1978 that Leonard was traded to the Astros for Joe Ferguson was a sad one for me. I knew Leonard was going to be great, and he was eventually -- for the Giants, the team that I hated most of all.

Leonard, as I recall, faired pretty well against his old team, but I couldn't quite loathe him like I did other Giants. He did begin as a Dodger after all.

So I didn't mind the "one-flap-down" routine and I laughed when he was called "Penitentiary Face." I mean the man could look scary:

Even with the cap backwards, he looks a little scary.

And then there's this one. Black bat. Sweat dripping down his face. Mournful look. I think the photographer needs to get out of there.

More sweat and mournfulness on the little inset mug of this '84 Topps card.

Then Topps released this Fan Favorites card in 2005. Leonard looks to be in full bludgeon mode.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers were just a small part of the careers of Leonard and Stewart by the time they were through. I console myself by remembering that they began as Dodgers and played their first major league games as Dodgers.

And I won't let that prevent me from naming both of them to the "I'm Badass and You're Not" Club. They are both official members now.

Perhaps you're thinking that all of my previous selections were folks who played in the 1970s. Leonard and Stewart were more '80s kind of guys. They even played into the 1990s.

True. But both DID play in the '70s (in Stewart's case, it was one whole game). They were bad-ass enough to make the cut regardless.

That's because they were scary good.


  1. Got Jeffrey Leonard's autograph a few years back when he was a manager of a team in an independent league.

    FYI - Stewart is Matt Kemp's agent.

  2. It's tough to look like a tough guy in those Astros technicolor unis, but Leonard pulls it off. Stewart is "scary" scary. I'm scared just thinking about him.

  3. Love the 1978 references, but then, I'm a Yankee fan.

    And there's a picture somewhere of Sheffield smiling? Sorry, I'd have to see that to believe it. One Yankee I always had a tough time rooting for.