When we think of athlete arrests and criminals in the sports world, there are a few names that immediately come to mind. For the past few years, it has been several NFL players who have dominated the conversation over dirtbags in sport. Aaron Hernandez and Ray Rice are arguably the most notorious and according to a report from Vocativ from a couple of years ago, it isn’t just a case of NFL player arrests getting the most publicity. The report indicates there are actually more arrests of football players than other athletes.
The report looked at records for athletes in four major sports leagues: the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. The results are pretty much what any fan who watches the news might expect, as the NBA and NFL had the highest arrest rates. Vocativ’s report took arrest stats and then did the math to come up with arrest rates per 100,000 people to create an even playing field. Obviously, because NHL players are all saints (they’re not), they had an arrest rate of about 175 per 100,000 people. On the other end of the scale, over the course of the years between 2010 and 2014, the NBA had an average arrest rate of 2156.6 and the NFL had a rate of 2465.8. For some interesting fun facts, domestic violence is more prevalent among NBA players, and DUI rates are off the charts for both NBA and NFL players. In third place among these three leagues, is of course Major League Baseball. Over the years that were considered for Vocativ’s report, MLB had an arrest per 100,000 rate of 552.8. With NFL criminal names like O.J. Simpson, Ray Rice and Aaron Hernandez, it’s not surprising that we often forget that MLB players get arrested and tossed in prison from time to time.
Here are the 15 longest prison terms for Major League Baseball players.
Honorable Mention: Doug DeCinces (Awaiting Sentencing)
If you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, you’ll probably recognize this name. Doug DeCinces started his professional career with the Orioles in the 1973 seasons and stayed there until 1981. About a decade ago he was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. After getting traded prior to the 1982 season, he spent six seasons with the California Angels, a single year with the Cardinals, and then a year with a Japanese team before calling it a career. He got into the world of business after baseball, but got into some trouble for insider trading several years ago and was found guilty on seventeen charges, each of which could land him in prison for a maximum of twenty years. There may be a retrial and right now DeCinces’ future is unclear.
15. Brien Taylor (3 Years, 2 Months)
North Carolina native pitcher Brien Taylor looked like something special coming out of high school, rocking a high 90s fastball and a curveball with a ton of movement. He was the first overall pick in the 1991 MLB draft, and was picked up by the New York Yankees. While he never actually pitched an inning in the league, he spent most of the 1990’s in the Yankees’ organization and then brief stints in the minors with the Seattle Mariners’ and the Cleveland Indians’ minor league teams. His career in the minors was derailed when he destroyed his shoulder in a fight and needed surgery. He was wildly inconsistent after this 1994 event and by 2000 he couldn’t get a minor league contract with any teams. After baseball his life has been rough, and in 2012 he was convicted of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to just over three years in prison. He was released in 2014.
14. Matt Bush (4 Years, 3 Months)
Matt Bush’s professional career started last year when he was 30 years old. He was the first overall pick in the 2004 draft after an amazing high school career that had him looking like a promising five-tool prospect. He was drafted by the Padres as a shortstop, but in his 2016 debut at the MLB level with the Texas Rangers, he’s been used as a pitcher. His high school play didn’t immediately translate at the higher level and he had disciplinary issues which included a couple of drunken brawls and arrests that led to his being labeled a liability and being cut by the Blue Jays in 2009. In 2012 he ran over an elderly motorcyclist (who survived the ordeal) while driving drunk. He was sentenced to over four years in prison for this offense.
13. Orlando Cepeda (5 Years)
A 1999 inductee to the Hall of Fame, Puerto Rican first baseman Orlando Cepeda played from 1958 until 1974. Among his career’s memorable events are the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year award, two seasons leading the NL in RBI’s, eleven total All-Star seasons, and a World Series win in 1967 with the Cardinals. After retirement, he went down to Colombia to teach at a baseball clinic, and got persuaded to bring five pounds of marijuana back to the United States. He was arrested at the airport, and taken into police custody. At the trial in 1978 he was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. He served just ten months and did the rest of his time on probation.
12. Lenny Dykstra (6 Years)
Lenny Dykstra’s twelve year career was split between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, with highlights including three All-Star years and a World Series Championship with the Mets in 1986. Dykstra initially did really well for himself in retirement, starting numerous businesses, many of which did well. He bought Wayne Gretzky’s former house at one point with the intention of flippingit, but ended up taking a huge loss on the property. His businesses ended up collapsing however, and between 2010 and 2012 he pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including grand theft auto, money laundering, and bankruptcy fraud; earning him multiple sentences that added up to about six years, of which he served just over one year.
11. Ricardo Jordan (7 Years)
Floridian lefty Ricardo Jordan first played in 1995 for the Blue Jays. Between that year and his de facto retirement in 1998 he played for four teams, with the last being the Cincinnati Reds who cut him in ’98. After his retirement, he wanted to keep up the lavish lifestyle he had enjoyed while playing ball and ended up selling marijuana and cocaine. He wasn’t slinging grams on street corners either, he was throwing around pounds of the stuff on a regular basis, but made the mistake of meeting with undercover cops three times to sell dope. In 2007 he was sentenced to seven years behind bars for drug trafficking charges. Not too bad considering he was facing a maximum of over two centuries.
10. Hank Thompson (10 Years)
Hank Thompson played back in the 40s and 50s for the St. Louis Browns and then the New York Giants. A gifted player, he was primarily a third baseman, but played all over the field, combining a strong arm from the outfield with great percentage hitting and the speed to steal bases. He won a World Series with the Giants in 1954. He was also the third black man to play in the Major Leagues, doing so in mid-July, 1947, just a few months after Jackie Robinson. In his retirement years, Thompson was sentenced to ten years for his part in an armed robbery. He served only three years of his sentence, but ended up tragically dying from a seizure in 1969 at age 43.
9. Jim Mahady (Maximum of 12 Years)
Jim Mahady played in just a single professional game in his baseball career. In October 1921, he played second base for the New York Giants, fielding a single ball, and not even getting a chance to hit. The rest of the 1920s would see Mahady play with multiple minor league teams until his retirement in 1929. About a year after leaving baseball, he was drunk behind the wheel and ended up hitting and killing a woman. For his crime of second degree manslaughter he was sentenced to a maximum of twelve years in prison. His sentence was commuted three years later. In 1936, Mahady was found dead in his home at age 35.
8. Julio Machado (12 Years)
Julio Machado was a Venezuelan reliever who played in the late 80s and early 90s. He played for the Mets to start out in 1989, and for the 1990 season he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. During the 1991 offseason he was back in Venezuela when he got into a car accident. While most people just exchange insurance info and get on with their day, Machado whipped out a pistol and shot the woman in the other car, killing her. He claimed that during the verbal exchange with the occupants of the other car, he thought he was in danger of being robbed, but he ended up being convicted of murder and got a sentence of 12 years. He served just four of the twelve.
7. Ugueth Urbina (14 Years)
Our second Venezuelan on the list, and definitely the better known of the two, Ugueth Urbina’s career started out in 1995 with the Montreal Expos. He went on to become a one time save leader for the National League, and played for the Florida Marlins when they won the World Series back in 2003. Urbina was a pretty solid closer and performed well when used as a reliever. A month after the end of the 2005 season, Urbina apparently attacked several workers at his home, accusing them of stealing from him. He went at them with a machete and allegedly poured gasoline on one of them, threatening to kill them if they didn’t admit to the theft. He was sentenced to 14 years for attempted murder, but served about half that, being released in 2012.
6. Ron LeFlore (Maximum of 15 Years)
For the most part, the players featured on this list got into their trouble after their baseball careers, whether it be financial crimes, violent crimes, or selling drugs to pay the bills. Ron LeFlore was a great baseball player in his youth, but got thrown in prison after being involved in an armed robbery. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but got discovered by a Detroit Tigers manager who was impressed by LeFlore’s performance on a prison ball team. That manager got LeFlore day parole so he could tryout for the team, and after his successful tryout, the team was able to get him parole. Within a couple of years of his discovery, LeFlore was playing center field for the Tigers. He had great speed that made him an asset in the field but also allowed him to lead the league in stolen bases twice. In recent years he’s been in trouble for not paying child support, and in 2011 he had to have his right leg amputated because of blood vessel problems attributed to decades of a cigarette habit.
5. Chad Curtis (Maximum of 15 Years)
Outfielder Chad Curtis played for six different teams throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He was a member of the New York Yankees when they won back to back World Series in 1998 and 1999. Throughout his career he was known for being a strict Christian; stressing the importance of worship, never drinking or using drugs and adhering to other “straight edge” characteristics. In his retirement he started teaching physical education at the high school level. He had been working for a high school as a coach, weight training instructor, and volunteer for a couple of years when it was discovered that he had inappropriately touched several girls who were in their early and mid teens. He was convicted and sentenced to a maximum of fifteen years back in 2013. His earliest release date is 2020.
4. Denny McLain (20 Years Over Two Separate Sentences)
Denny McLain is in his 70s now and has been sentenced to a total of twenty years in prison after his retirement from baseball. Back in the 1960s and early 70s he was a star pitcher who won two Cy Young Awards, a World Series and had three All-Star seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He holds the record (tied with two other pitchers) for most wins in a season, with 31.
His first conviction, which was linked to organized crime, was for drug trafficking, racketeering, and embezzlement, and initially got him 12 years, but he was released after just two. In the mid 90s he co-owned a few small companies but they went bankrupt. He was then tried and convicted of conspiracy, fraud, and embezzlement for stealing from the pension funds of those companies. He served six years of an eight year sentence in this case.
3. Willie Mays Aikens (20 Years, 8 Months)
Willie Mays Aikens looked like a promising hitter in the minors and finally got his shot in the big leagues in 1979 with the California Angels. He was traded after that season and spent four years in Kansas City. He spent a couple of years in Toronto with the Jays, but was sent down to the minors in 1985. During the final years of his baseball career and after, he was a heavy cocaine user. By the early 90s he was selling the stuff, and eventually got arrested while dealing to undercover cops. He was sentenced to 20 years and 8 months, and was released in 2008. His sentence would have been 15 years, but a loaded handgun was found in the hotel room in which he sold the blow, adding five years to his penalty. Since his release he has spent a great deal of time talking to school children and young baseball players about his experience with drugs.
2. Mel Hall (45 Years)
Mel Hall played 16 years of professional baseball in both the United States and Japan. He spent four years with the Chicago Cubs, followed by five seasons with the Cleveland Indians and then four with the Yankees. From ’93 to ’95 he played for two teams in Japan, and then returned for about a month of the 1996 season, playing for the San Francisco Giants. He was a very decent hitter and could field, but was also known for being a difficult player to handle off the field.
In 2007 he was found guilty of forcing himself on multiple girls under 17 years of age. For these crimes he was sentenced to 45 years in prison, and must serve 22 of those years. There are additional stories of Mel Hall having committed many more sexual crimes than those for which he is now in prison. His earliest parole date is 2031.
1. Blackie Schwamb (Life in Prison)
Ralph “Blackie” Schwamb played just a few months of professional ball back in 1948. Between July and September of that year, he pitched in 12 games, and put up some unfortunate stats. Prior to baseball he was in the Navy, but frequently got into trouble while there. Early in his baseball career, he was considered a top prospect in the Los Angeles area, but it was never determined whether or not his skill in the minors would translate at the professional level. During the offseason after his rookie year, he killed a doctor on orders from a local L.A. organized crime boss, which earned Schwamb a life sentence. He played baseball in prison, and was granted parole in 1960. The book Wrong Side of the Wall details the interesting events of Schwamb’s life before and after baseball. He died in 1989.
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