The life of a professional athlete can seem very glamorous to those that are on the outside looking in. Not only do you get all of the fame from being a pro athlete (especially in baseball when your face is very visible), but there is also the big contracts that come into play. Many players that have reached Major League Baseball have had some easy lives after retiring due to smart financial decisions and staying out of trouble.
However, others have struggled to keep their personal lives as solid as their professional lives, heading down a wayward path. Sometimes we see it happen during their careers, but other times the real trouble doesn’t come until their playing days are over. Between financial problems, addiction and other demons, life isn’t always easy after baseball has come and gone.
Today, we take a look at the stories of certain MLB players that had worse post-playing careers than anyone else. There are a lot of tragic tales to learn from, even if a lot of it can be self inflicted. Here are 15 Major League Baseball players whose lives fell apart after they hung up their cleats for the last time.
15 Ugueth Urbina
Hard throwing Ugueth Urbina spent 11 seasons in Major League Baseball, with a bulk of his career coming with the Expos. Urbina would finish with a 44-49 career record and 3.45 ERA with almost all of his appearances coming out of the bullpen. His final season came in 2005 with the Phillies.
Urbina was already facing some tough times before his career even ended, as his mother was kidnapped in 2004 before being rescued in early 2005. Urbina would then retire after that season and was arrested just a month after his final appearance. Urbina was charged with attempted murder for attacking five men with a machete, then pouring gasoline on them. Urbina was convicted and was sentenced to serve 14 years, though he would serve just seven of those years.
14 Rod Beck
Another bullpen fireballer, Rod “The Shooter” Beck also played for several teams. Though most of his time was spent with the Giants, his most memorable stint came with the Cubs in 1998 to help the team make a Wild Card run with a 3.02 ERA and 51 saves. His final appearance was as a Padre in 2004.
After his career was over, Beck resigned to his mobile home. It was no secret that Beck had a fondness for beer, but his drug problem had not been public knowledge. Beck was found dead in his home in June 2007, and it became evident that he had a problem as there were drugs found inside of his home. Beck was buried shortly afterward wearing his Cubs uniform, saying the 1998 season was his favorite as a player.
13 Denny McLain
After making his debut as a teenager in 1963, Denny McLain spent eight seasons with the Detroit Tigers, posting a 117-62 record. McLain was a three-time All Star that also played for the Senators, Athletics and Braves.
McLain had a downfall during his career that would only get worse once his playing days were over. McLain got involved with some illegal activities that included drug trafficking that sent him to prison. It was also evident that his life was catching up to him as his weight basically doubled from his playing days and he would bounce in and out of prison for many years with his most recent arrest coming in 2012. Not only that, but he lost his daughter in a 1992 because of a drunk driver.
12 Mickey Mantle
One of the greatest sluggers of all-time, Mickey Mantle spent his entire 18 year career with the Yankees. Mantle made 16 All Star appearances during that time, hitting a total of 536 home runs with a .298 career batting average. His most famous season came in 1956 when he slugged 52 home runs.
Mantle’s post-playing career was defined by alcoholism and failed businesses. Mantle saw his chain of restaurants go under to the point where he was working as a casino greeter in Atlantic City. Mantle’s drinking problem caught up with him and his liver had been damaged due to excessive drinking. By the time he ended up seeking treatment, it was unfortunately too late as the damage had been done and Mantle passed away in 1995 at the age of 63.
11 Lenny Dykstra
Splitting his time with the Mets and Phillies, Lenny Dykstra played from 1985 to 1996, with a trio of All Star nods. Dykstra had a career .285 batting average with 81 home runs. He was also good on the basepaths, stealing 285 bases in his career which would come to an end after the 1996 season.
Dykstra would go into the car wash business after retiring while also getting involved in other business ventures. Dykstra managed stocks and even tried to flip Wayne Gretzky’s former home with little success. It turned out that Dykstra wasn’t a great business man and was indicted for bankruptcy fraud while also facing charges for drug possession and grand theft auto and was eventually sentenced to three years in prison back in 2012.
10 Darryl Strawberry
One of the greatest potential players in MLB history, Darryl Strawberry played for 17 season in the MLB, starting with the Mets. Strawberry was an eight-time All Star (all consecutive) that hit 335 home runs and 1,000 runs batted in during his career. In addition to the Mets, Strawberry played for the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees.
Strawberry has unfortunately had health and drug problems that stemmed back from his playing days, and it started in his final season when he tried to pick up a prostitute that was an undercover cop. Strawberry was arrested in 2000 for violating his probation and driving under the influence. Strawberry would be arrested several times over the next few years, with his most recent arrest coming in 2005 for filing a false police report. Strawberry seems to be better these days, but it hasn’t been easy.
9 Willie Aikens
Willie Aikens made his Major League debut with the Angles back in 1977 and had his breakout two years later with 21 home runs. Aikens spent the rest of his career with the Royals and Blue Jays afterward, playing through the 1985 season. All in all, Aikens would hit 110 home runs with a .271 batting average.
Another story about drugs, Aikens had sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer that led to his sentencing of 20 years in prison back in 1994. Aikens had been a crack user himself that was consistently selling to this undercover officer, which led to his long prison sentence as he had been watched for several years. Aikens has been trying to turn his life around ever since now that he has been released, working in construction and even back in baseball.
8 Steve Howe
Michigan native Steve Howe made his debut in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers back in 1980 and became an All Star by his third season. Howe stuck around in the bigs through the 1996 season, also playing for the Twins, Rangers and Yankees. He finished with a 47-41 record and a 3.03 ERA.
Howe was already struggling with drug and alcohol abuse during his career, and it didn’t get much better after it was over. Howe finished his career after the 1996 season and has been continuing to use drugs. After taking a small-time job as a framer in Arizona following his career, Howe’s life tragically came to an end in 2006. Howe was found rolled over in his truck, and it turned out that he was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time.
7 Orlando Cepeda
Coming up with the San Francisco Giants, Orlando Cepeda was named to six consecutive All Star teams after his rookie season. Cepeda played from 1958 to 1974 while making stops in St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland, Boston and Kansas City. He finished his career with 379 home runs, 1,365 runs batted in and a .297 batting average.
Almost immediately after his career ended, Cepeda went through a divorce and was caught bringing five pounds of cannabis to Colombia. Cepeda was arrested while awaiting trial for that case and then was charged again for avoiding child support and alimony. Cepeda was sentenced to five years in prison, though he served just 10 months. Cepeda has since turned his life around and became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
6 Eric Show
After making his debut in 1981, Eric Show spent almost his entire career with the Padres before heading to Oakland for his final year in 1991. Along the way, Show collected a 101-89 career record as a pitcher with a 3.66 ERA. Show was never an All Star, but had some very solid seasons for San Diego.
Show was always a bit of a hothead during his career, and things would only get worse after his final season in 1991. Show had been found under the influence of crystal meth causing a scene and never got better. Show went into rehab and then relapsed one day after leaving the facility. He would return to the treatment center the next day, but was found dead in the morning after having found multiple drugs and alcohol in his system.
5 Byron McLaughlin
There are many long careers on our list, but Byron McLaughlin’s was a relatively short one. McLaughlin played for five seasons in the MLB with the Mariners and Angels, finishing with a 16-25 record and 5.11 ERA. McLaughlin has certainly been known more for his post-playing career compared to his time as an MLB pitcher.
Legal problems for McLaughlin started just after his career ended, and he would be arrested again six years later for money laundering and creating counterfeit shoes. McLaughlin’s counterfeit ring was creating thousands of shoes each month and was about to be sentenced before he escaped. McLaughlin has been on the loose ever since then, and law enforcement is wanting to know where the 61 year old has been hiding for the past two decades.
4 Mel Hall
Mell Hall played for 13 years in the Major Leagues, starting with the Cubs before also landing with the Indians, Yankees and Giants. Hall put up some decent numbers during that time, hitting 134 home runs with a .276 batting average.
Hall’s life had been quiet following his retirement for a decade before making the news in 2007. Hall was charged with sexual assault on a woman under the age of 17 stemming back from a 1999 incident. It turned out that there was also a 12 year old defendant and Hall was convicted for his heinous crimes. The sentencing was 45 years in prison, and he is not eligible for parole until 2031. While in jail, it has been found out that Hall’s lewd acts actually started during his baseball career.
3 Hank Thompson
The career of Hank Thompson (Pictured Left) goes all the way back to 1947 when he made his debut with the St. Louis Browns, and then spent the rest of his career with the Giants before retiring in 1956. Thompson finished with 129 career home runs and a .267 average, with his best season coming in 1953.
Thompson did not make enough money during his career to support himself and was working as a taxi driver. Thompson’s struggles didn’t end there as he was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to 10 years in prison, serving three. All while that was happening, Thompson was going through with a divorce. He would try to get back into baseball, but unfortunately suffered from a seizure in 1969 at only 43 years old, claiming his life.
2 Ken Caminiti
A three-time All Star during his career, Ken Caminiti played for the Rangers and Braves, but most notably for the Padres and Astros. Caminiti was the 1996 NL MVP with San Diego when he hit 40 home runs and 130 runs batted in. Caminiti finished with a total of 239 career home runs and a .272 average, but has been left off of the Hall of Fame ballot.
Caminiti revealed that during his career that he suffered from alcoholism while also using drugs and performance enhancers. After his career ended, Caminiti had been charged with cocaine possession and failed probation by getting back on cocaine. Caminiti would repeatedly violate his probation due to his drug addiction and was found dead shortly after being sentenced to jail time. Caminiti’s drug use claimed his life in October 2004 when he was just 41 years old.
1 Dwight Gooden
Known by many of his fans as Doc, Dwight Gooden was an exciting young player with the Mets in the 1980s, making his debut in 1984. Gooden was a four-time All Star in New York, and he would also play for the Yankees, Indians, Astros and Rays. Gooden, despite his problems, posted a 194-112 record and 3.51 ERA, with his best season coming in 1985 on the heels of a 24-4 record and 1.53 ERA.
There were plenty of problems for Gooden during his career, and it continued after his retirement when he was arrested for driving under the influence, and was picked up for driving with a suspended license multiple times. In 2005, Gooden was arrested for battery on his girlfriend and then evading police while under the influence later that year. The problems have continued since then with multiple rehab trips and arrests, with his most recent coming in 2010.
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