As kids, we were all taught about the importance of good sportsmanship. Some kids listened and took those lessons to heart, others just didn’t give a fuck.
Today, we remember those athletes.
The biggest hitters. The best on-field fighters. The players who pushed the boundaries so far it forced their league to change the rules. The players who just ignored the boundaries entirely. The dudes you simply wouldn’t want to fuck with.
In making our list, we only had one rule: we weren’t going to include any athletes where fighting is a primary function of the sport. No boxers, MMA fighters, or wrestlers.
31. Mike Ditka | Matt Drufke
Tight End: 1961-1972
Teams Played For: Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys
Head Coach: 1982-1999
This was a tough call for me, because I think almost every player on the Bears 1985 Super Bowl roster is probably tougher than Mike Ditka. But, there’s something to be said about that. There are few people who could probably handle that group of people, and Mike Ditka was absolutely one of them.
Ditka is like the racist uncle you never want to see, but also if you were constantly afraid that uncle would fucking murder you. He never seemed to like anyone: not the press, not the fans, not even his own players.
Oh, and once as a player, he absolutely leveled a fan who thought it would be fun to run across the football field in-between plays. He told the press that he destroyed the dude because he’s a football player and football players hit people; it’s what they do. Never mind that he played offense.
No one was ever going to point that out to Iron Mike.
32. Rickey Henderson | Brandon Andreasen
Out Fielder: 1979-2003
Teams played for: Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers
Who is the greatest baseball player of all time? It’s Ricky Henderson, of course. Just ask Ricky. In fact, by Baseball Reference WAR, Ricky is the 4th greatest living player of all time. He’s the 19th greatest player of all time, and the 8th greatest player to debut after World War II. Tom Verducci once wrote that Ricky Henderson existed in a narrow margin between fact and fiction.
Stories of him are legendary. Some true. Some untrue. The facts are, though, that Henderson broke the record for most stolen bases of all time, then played for another 12 years. He has quite possibly the most unbreakable offensive career record in baseball. If you asked Ricky Henderson if he could still play today, Ricky would tell you “Ricky is ready.”
33. Jackie Robinson | Jack Baker
First Base, Second Base: 19745-1956
Teams played for: Kansas City Monarchs, Brooklyn Dodgers
Any list of sports badasses would be woefully incomplete without the icon that is Jackie Robinson. He stood up to the entire system of racism that is America, took the whole brunt of it with dignity and grace, and then dominated its national past time. Many teammates, opponents, opposing managers and fans hated him. The St. Louis Cardinals wanted to forfeit rather than play against him (as always, the Cardinals are the worst). But none of it mattered, he was a superstar and one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived, while dealing with more than any of us could possibly imagine.
He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, was an All-Star six times, and won an MVP in 1955. His number, 42, has been retired by every team in baseball. Except on Jackie Robinson Day every year, where every player in the sport wears 42 so we never forget his courage, sacrifice, talent, and general badassery.
34. Albert Belle | Michael Grace
Outfielder, pariah: 1989-2000
Teams played for: Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles
Albert Belle used a corked bat, was a noted alcoholic, chased some trick-or-treaters in his car after they egged his car, stalked his ex-girlfriend, and once got nabbed for indecent exposure.
My earliest memory of Albert Belle was when he was held in the dugout in the All-Star Game because he was so hated. He probably should have been the 1995 American League MVP but likely lost votes because he was just so damn unlikeable. But of course, he’ll be remembered for this absolute prime act of douchebaggery:
Vina coughed up blood after that play.
He was a hockey goon playing baseball. Nobody liked him. He was like a Clinton Era Ty Cobb.
35. Jack Tatum | Jake Breunig
Teams played for: Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers
I mean, come on, the guy was nicknamed “The Assassin”! How do you turn that down in a shit-kicking contest?
If you asked former Vikings receiver Sammy White how hard Tatum hit him in the Super Bowl of 1977, he wouldn’t be able to hear you, because his bell is still ringing from it:
Not only was he nicknamed the Assassin, he basked in the glory of the title, using the name as autobiography titles. Not only were his hits brutal, they were often targeted. He would go out of his way to put players into the ground.
The poorest of Tatum’s victims by far was New England receiver Darryl Stingley, who thanks to Tatum, lost his ability to walk, a move Tatum never really apologized for.
He was a big, bad dude. Plain and simple.
36. Dock Ellis | Jake Breunig
Teams played for: Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, New York Mets
Really, Jake? You closed out your draft with a pitcher with a substance abuse problem?
Hell fucking yes, I did.
As most sports fans know, Dock Ellis famously pitched a no-hitter against the Padres in the summer of 1970. After the game, he went ahead and let people know that he was tripping balls the entire time, going as far as to say he couldn’t feel the ball in his own hand or see the batter and catcher clearly. Though he never did LSD during the season after that, he stayed pretty loyal to booze and amphetamines. He also used his spare time to be an outspoken civil rights advocate, which is bad-ass in its own right.
There’s been much debate as to the validity of this occurrence, with Ellis having no teammates to corroborate his claims, outside of good friend and fellow pitcher Scipio Spinks, who basically said something along the lines of, “Yeah, my boy likes getting fucked up.”
I can’t speak for Dock, but if his claims are true, I absolutely want him on my side in a rumble. A no-hitter on acid is some drunken master shit. Who knows what else he would’ve been capable of when he was all sauced up? Dock Ellis is the wildest of wild card picks to be made in this arena.
37. Claude Lemieux | Michael Grace
Right Winger, Shithead, Villain Extraordinaire: 1983-2009
Teams played for: Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks
Using my last pick to praise my most hated athlete of the 1990s. See, I grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan and the 90’s were a great time to be one. In 1995, they made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in my life. Lemieux’s Devils were there to end it. The following year, the Wings won 62 games, an absolutely bonkers amount. Ah, but there were the Avs and Claude Lemieux to end the dream season. Granted, the Wings won the next two Cups and the world was fine, but I really hated that dude.
Here’s a classic clip of one of the epic brawls between Detroit and Colorado in the mid-90s. Lemieux tries to kill Kris Draper and shit hits the fan.
38. Bronco Nagurski | Jack Baker
Defensive Tackle, Fullback, Wrestling World Champion: 1930-1937, 1943
Teams played for: Chicago Bears
Bronko Nagurski deserves a spot on this list just for his name alone. You can’t have a name like that and not be the toughest dude around. And there was no doubt about it, Nagurski was.
The legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice once wrote, “Who would you pick to win a football game – 11 Jim Thorpes – 11 Glen Davises – 11 Red Granges – or 11 Bronko Nagurskis? The 11 Nagurskis would be a mop-up. It would be something close to murder and massacre.”
In college, he was an All-American on both sides of the ball. In the NFL, he was so good that the Bears won 2 championships, THE BEARS! He was a one-man blocking, passing, tackling machine. He’s like if the Fox NFL robot was allowed to play in the puppy bowl.
Back in those days, you could only pass the ball from five yards behind the line of scrimmage. In the 1933 championship game, Nagurski threw the winning touchdown to Red Grange from fewer than 5 yards. They gave him the touchdown anyways and then just changed the rule, probably because they were afraid of him.
In 1943, the Bears lost so many players to World War II that Nagurski was asked to come out of retirement. He did and then promptly led the team to another championship.
Because NFL championships just weren’t enough for him, he also picked up wrestling, being recognized as the heavyweight champion of the world multiple times. Just because he could.
39. Cale Yarborough | Brandon Andreasen
NASCAR driver: 1957-1988
There is a very real chance that Nascar would have never really developed into more than a regional sport if it wasn’t for a seminal moment that didn’t even happen in a race car. In the closing moments of the 1979 Daytona 500, Donny Allison and Cale Yarborough were viciously battling for first place when they bounced off each other enough that they both crashed. As Richard Petty crossed the finish line with a surprise victory, television viewers on Wide World of Sports were shown Yarborogh and Allison fist fighting eachother in the grass on the backstretch. When Donny’s brother Bobby showed up for a fight, Yarborough up and fought both of them.
In racing, he is only one of two racers to win three straight season championships, and is tied for the sixth most wins of all time. He didn’t race in an era when people had all sorts of high tech gear to race in, like helmets. He raced in an era when cars were still barely evolved from the bootlegging days of Nascar’s infancy. The old school Nascar drivers were among the biggest bad asses of all time, and Yarborough is a great example of them.
40. Gus Weyhing | Matt Drufke
Teams played for: Philadelphia Athletics, Brooklyn Wonders, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Louisville Colonels, Washington Senators, St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Superbas, Cleveland Blues, Cincinatti Reds
Gus Weyhing is a name you may not know, but he’s the patron saint of baseball dudes you don’t want to fuck with. A 5’ 10” pitcher who was nicknamed both “Cannonball” & “Rubber Arm”, which seems contradictory, Weyhing was a pretty average pitcher. He was never going to be the ace of a staff, so he had to be the toughest guy on the mound. Hitting 277 batters in his career is a good way to do that. That’s been an unbroken record, and dudes have had over 100 years to try and break it. What can I say? You can’t beat the Cannonball.
And then there’s the pigeons.
In 1892, Gus Weyhing showed up in a courtroom in Louisville charged with grand larceny. Apparently, over the course of two days, Ol’ Rubber Arm kept stealing birds from the National Pigeon Show. Why? Because he was a “pigeon fancier”, as a news story described him.
So, that’s who Gus Weyhing was. He hit a lot of batters and stole things he fancied. He was baseball’s first badass, even if only I (and now you) know who he was.
- Ron Artest
- Tonya Harding
- Bob Probert
- Wayne Shelford
- Juan Jose Padilla
- Pete Rose
- Mike Ditka
- Gus Weyhing
- Charles Oakley
- Nolan Ryan
- Marvin Barnes
- Dick Butkus
- Evel Knievil
- Michael Jordan
- Rickey Henderson
- Cale Yarborough
- Ronnie Lott
- Lawrence Taylor
- Bill Laimbeer
- Albert Haynesworth
- Ty Cobb
- Bill Romanowski
- Jackie Robinson
- Bronco Nagurski
- Dennis Rodman
- Rasheed Wallace
- Tie Domi
- Kermit Washington
- Bo Jackson
- Bobby Knight
- Albert Belle
- Claude Lemieux
- Mike Wallely
- John McEnroe
- Marty McSorely
- Ted Williams
- Karl Malone
- Terrell Brown
- Jack Tatum
- Dock Ellis
Who do you think had the best draft? Leave your thoughts in our comments section.