You know that little voice in your head reminding you to stay out of trouble? It rears its head in every now and then to keep us on the straight and narrow.
“Hey, don’t do that.”
“Say thank you.”
“Call your mother.”
Most of the time we listen. But sometimes we ignore the voice all together. Why? Because life’s most wondrous pleasures are either inappropriate, taboo, or completely illegal.
So when we see someone getting away with a little bad behaviour, we don’t feel disappointed. Instead, we’re green with envy. It’s human nature – we want what we can’t have. And because jealousy is never a good look, we cover up our petty resentment with self-righteous criticism. This is what’s commonly known as textbook hating.
The same applies to sports enthusiasts. When we see famous athletes celebrated for their misbehaviour, we can’t help but feel a little ticked. Living in Boston, it’s not uncommon to hear a colourful collection of insults hurled toward the visitor’s dugout when the Yankees are in town. The entire line-up could be a motley crew of hardcore criminals or Buddhist monks, but still, Red Sox fans will forever continue the verbal abuse.
Truth is, whether we want to admit it, there’s a soft spot in all our hearts for these so-called “jerks.” Super-human athletes are able to achieve things we can only dream – good, bad, and everything in-between.
These 15 MLB players may not be saints on earth, but we can forgive them in the end.
15 Bill Buckner
Speaking of Boston, never has an athlete felt the wrath of so many Red Sox fans than the infamous Bill Buckner. While playing first base in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Buckner committed a jaw-dropping faux-pas: jumbling a slow-rolling hit from the bat of Mets player Mookie Wilson. Buckner rushed the ball, which rolled to the left of his glove, through his legs, and into right field. The Mets capitalized on the error, scoring the game winning run. The Sox eventually lost the series, and Buckner became known as the team scapegoat. However in 2008, Buckner returned to Fenway Park to throw out the game’s first pitch, receiving a four-minute standing ovation from a sell-out crowd.
14 Dock Ellis
Talk about showing off – On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis threw a perfect no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, all while high as a kite on LSD. And during a game against the Cincinnati Reds in 1974, he attempted to hit every batter in the line-up. He beaned Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen in the top of the first inning before being yanked from the mound. Despite the bad judgment, Ellis was revered for his support of players’ rights, namely the right to free agency and equality for African American athletes. In 1971, Ellis announced his struggle with sickle cell anemia and worked to raise money for research. After retirement, Ellis entered drug and alcohol treatment, ultimately going clean in 1980. Ellis was an innovator and an agitator but we can love him for his outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the game.
13 Babe Ruth
Arguably the best baseball player of all time, Babe Ruth was the ultimate jerk. And that’s exactly why we love him. George Herman Ruth played big, posting record stats throughout his career which included 714 home runs, 2213 RBIs, and a .342 batting average. But he also lived big, and when it came to food, booze, and women, he lived the biggest. Ruth allegedly ate 12 hotdogs between doubleheaders and capped off a pint of bourbon each morning. And when Yankees co-owner Colonel Huston asked the Babe to clean up his act, he responded: "I'll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They're too much fun.”
12 Manny Ramirez
While playing for the Red Sox, Manny Ramirez developed a reputation for being a bit of a space cadet. His bizarre behaviour on and off the field helped coin the phrase, “Manny being Manny,” and there’s certainly no shortage of his weird, yet ironically charming antics. He’d often slip through a door in Fenway’s Green Monster, leaving people to wonder where the hell he disappeared to, and in the midst of nail biting plays, he’d take a few extra seconds to high-five fans in the outfield. The most laughable Manny moment? He turned to eBay to sell a $4000 grill he claimed to have used only once. Sure, "Manny being Manny" has led to many mistakes - including the use of performance-enhancing drugs - but fans still love this guy for his huge personality.
11 Mickey Mantle
Armed with super switch hitting skills, Mickey Mantle was, and still is, the greatest offensive player in the history of Major League Baseball. Despite numerous accolades, including appearances in 20 All-Star games and seven World Series victories, Mantle struggled with severe alcoholism, often showing up to games drunk from the night before. Mantle battled the disease for 42 years, developing cirrhosis, contracting hepatitis C, and ultimately succumbing to liver cancer at the age of 64. His wild lifestyle paled in comparison to his tragic battle, and we can’t help but feel compassion for such a great talent. Mickey Mantle lived hard and played hard and for that fans will forever love The Mick.
10 Jose Canseco
Jose Canseco reached star-status throughout the '80s and '90s, bringing sexy back to the MLB. The Cuban-born stud and two-time World Series champion earned a lengthy list of career highlights, though the glory is largely eclipsed by Canseco’s controversial tell-all, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. In the book, Canseco names specific players associated with steroid use, which sparked a Congressional hearing on the subject of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports. In a way, he finally brought baseball’s worst-kept secret to light, and some commend him for his candid honesty. Sure, Canseco may have tainted many legacies, but bringing such an issue to light has seen some positive effects.
9 Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson could be considered one of the meanest players ever – and that’s not “mean” meaning good, but rather, the literal definition of mean. His intimidating presence on the mound, paired with his frequent use of the brushback pitch, solidified Gibson’s reputation for being a baseball mercenary. He’d hit rival batters and former teammates, and even once during an Old-Timer’s game, he threw a pitch aimed high and inside, right at Reggie Jackson. Gibson had little regard for the well-being of batters. Following Gibson’s epic 1968 season, the one in which he held batters to a .184 batting average and pitched 268 strike-outs, MLB voted to move the pitching mound five inches to help batters. It didn’t matter. In 1969, Gibson struck out 269 sluggers. No matter how mean, you have to love a guy who literally changed the game.
8 Yasiel Puig
Three years ago, Yasiel Puig was the toast of the town. He made his debut with the Dodgers in June of 2013, lighting up Chavez Ravine with equal parts offensive talent and charming personality. He became the first player in MLB history to record 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games, and fans fell in love with the rookie sensation. Taken with his newfound celebrity, Puig became a fixture on the LA night life scene, partying with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Chris Brown. However, the right fielder suffered hamstring issues throughout 2015, prompting management to send Puig to the minors. Despite the career setback, Puig’s continued his partying ways, which is evident on his Snap Chat. We can forgive Puig for partying in LA, as it is difficult not to in such a city. And with a plenty of years left, Puig (25) can always redeem himself.
7 Shoeless Joe Jackson
With the third highest career batting average in MLB history, Shoeless Joe Jackson is considered one of baseball’s most stellar athletes, an obvious contender for Hall of Fame glory. But because of his alleged involvement in the Black Sox Scandal, Jackson was banned from professional play entirely. Joe and several White Sox teammates were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, a shocking claim that incited the controversial disbarment. To this day, Jackson’s guilt is wildly debated. Throughout the series, he logged 12 hits, a .375 batting average, and zero errors – stats of championship slugger, not a baseball outlaw. Even if Shoeless Joe is guilty, how can anyone remain mad at this great ball player?
6 Barry Bonds
Let’s be honest: Barry Bonds is one of history’s greatest ball players. With 762 career home runs, seven National League MVP awards, and 14 All-Star appearances, he’s power personified, an example of awesome athletic talent. However, critics take Bonds’ accolades with a grain of salt. In 2007, he was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury in the government's investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Bonds purportedly supplied BALCO with MLB contacts to help market the lab’s performance enhancing steroids. By 2015, both charges were officially dropped, yet Bonds remains conspicuously absent from baseball’s Hall of Fame. Controversial? Yes, but Bonds has always maintained a large number of supporters who are always quick to forgive his mistakes.
5 Roger Clemens
The Rocket’s career spanned 24 seasons, spawning seven Cy Young Awards and a spot on the MLB All-Century Team. And while a 98mph fastball should be his ultimate MLB legacy, it’s his hot temper, larger-than-life ego, and steroid use allegations that take the spotlight. Clemens denied using performance-enhancing drugs while under oath before Congress, prompting a heavily publicized perjury investigation. In 2010, a grand jury indicted Clemens on six felony counts. In 2012 following an initial mistrial, Clemens was found not guilty. In all other regards, the All-Star pitcher was loved by fans for his many career milestones and pop-culture celebrity.
4 Albert Belle
Albert Belle is like your cranky uncle, tossing insults left and right with the confidence and unfiltered speech only age can bring. Sure it’s offensive, but you got to laugh. Figuratively speaking, Belle was the cranky uncle of the MLB. Despite consistent play, a strong bat, and noteworthy stats, Belle was incredibly combative, often fighting with players and members of the media. He was fined regularly for destroying private property as well. In 1994, Belle forced Cleveland teammate Jason Grimsley through a ceiling panel to retrieve a corked bat from a locked umpire’s room, resulting in a seven game suspension. All in all, Belle was quite the character who may have stirred the pot but is easy to forgive for his many legendary antics.
3 Miguel Cabrera
Following a successful tenure with the Florida Marlins, Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2007, posting a handful of records with his natural ability at the plate. In fact, his current career batting average - .321 – is one of the highest among active MLB veterans. However, Cabrera hit a personal roadblock in 2009 in the midst of a Detroit playoff race. Detained by police, the first baseman recorded a .26 blood alcohol level, prompting media outlets to publicize Cabrera’s battle with addiction. In 2010, he entered treatment for alcohol abuse, though just a year later, he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Currently, Cabrera is clean and sober and still racking impressive stats with the Detroit Tigers. Moving past his demons makes it that much easier to forgive Cabrera for his mistakes.
2 Billy Martin
Billy Martin is best known for his role as manager of the New York Yankees, but he was also an impressive second baseman for 11 straight seasons in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, his violent outbursts overshadowed his talent, which made him far more recognizable as a hot-headed brawler than a professional athlete. He was at the center of the Copacabana nightclub fight involving Hank Bauer, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, and he punched Chicago Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer in the face, breaking his cheekbone. Still, New Yorkers loved the guy. In 1986, the Yankees retired his number and dedicated a plaque in his honour. Martin embodied the spirit of New York and it's hard to stay mad at a man for living with so much passion.
1 Pete Rose
Pete Rose is by far the league’s biggest jerk. But somehow, baseball fans still have love for old Charlie Hustle. You can’t deny the man’s talent. As a switch hitter, Rose is MLB’s all-time leader in hits and at-bat appearances. He’s won three World Series championships, three batting titles, two Gold Gloves, two MVP titles, and the 1963 National League Rookie of the Year award. Ok, so he bet on baseball. He said he was sorry! Even his hometown has forgiven him – In 2016, the league inducted Rose into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. After all, this man is the single greatest hit to ever play the game of baseball. Perhaps its time to move past this gambling thing and allow Pete Rose to take his rightful spot in Cooperstown.