When we think about cheating in baseball, our thoughts typically turn to the sluggers who bulked up beyond belief thanks to performance-enhancing drugs. Players like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds immediately come to mind as the faces of the so-called Steroid Era, but for some reason or other, pitchers seem to have gotten a pass, at least relatively speaking.
Anytime a hitter now has a great season or power numbers begin to spike, the whispers of PED use are very likely to follow. So many were burned by the sluggers of the Steroid Era that no power hitter can enjoy a great season without some level cynicism relating to the source of their power. While this may be the case with power hitters, pitchers are typically viewed as the victims and are very rarely implicated without clear evidence.
That does not mean that pitchers are averse to cheating. Many pitchers were caught during the Steroid Era, and two pitchers – Jenrry Mejia and Ervin Santana – were recently suspended 80 games each for testing positive for Stanozolol, a horse steroid colloquially referred to as Winstrol. Pitchers have been cheating long before the Steroid Era ever began, but many of these pitchers did not use performance-enhancing drugs to gain an edge.
These pitchers instead opted for performance-enhancing substances like Vaseline, K-Y Jelly, shampoo, saliva, pine tar or whatever else would cause the ball to dance unpredictably on its way to the plate. These pitchers were all caught or at least highly suspected of using foreign substances or doctoring the ball in some way to gain a serious advantage over the hitter, and many of these 15 pitchers were able to dominate baseball as a result.
15 15. Orel Hershiser
Hershiser was untouchable during the 1988 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, throwing a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings on his way to winning the Cy Young, NLCS MVP and World Series MVP. Hershiser relied on a devastating sinker, and teammates and opponents later speculated that the pitch broke so much because the lanky right-hander was throwing a spitball, although perhaps the spitball was not added to his repertoire until years after his dominant run as a Dodger.
14 14. Mike Scott
Once a pitcher is on the wrongside of 30, teams generally expect declining performance and simply hope that the decline is not particularly steep. Very rarely do pitchers suddenly become dominant in their 30s, but that is exactly what happened with Mike Scott. From 1979 to 1984, Scott pitched to a 4.45 ERA and posted a record of 29-44. Over the next five seasons, however, Scott went 86-49, posted a 2.93 ERA, was named to three All-Star teams and even won the Cy Young in 1986.
13 13. Lew Burdette
12 12. Rick Honeycutt
11 11. Michael Pineda
10 10. Preacher Roe
Roe was a mainstay in the rotation for the “Boys of Summer,” pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1948 to 1954, retiring just before the club finally won the World Series in 1955. During his time with the Dodgers, Roe was named to four consecutive All-Star teams, his best season coming in 1951 when he went 22-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 257.2 innings.
9 9. Nels Potter
8 8. Art Fowler
7 7. Kenny Rogers
At age 41, Kenny Rogers had a memorable postseason run while pitching for the Detroit Tigers in the 2006 playoffs. The Tigers made it to the World Series that year, benefiting significantly from Rogers’ streak of 23 scoreless innings, including an 8-inning gem in Game 2 of the series that gave the Tigers a 3-0 victory over St. Louis. During that game, however, Rogers was seen with what appeared to be pine tar on his hand.
6 6. Jay Howell
5 5. Joe Niekro
4 4. Tommy John
3 3. Don Sutton
Sutton, a Hall of Famer and 300-game winner, was widely believed to scuff the baseball throughout an illustrious career in the majors that spanned three decades. He was even ejected from a game in 1978 after umpires alleged that he had “defaced the baseball” by using his fingernail. He was suspended 10 days for the incident but threatened to sue the umpire and the suspension was ultimately rescinded.
2 2. Gaylord Perry
1 1. Whitey Ford
One of the greatest pitchers in Yankees history, Hall of Famer Whitey Ford admitted to doctoring the ball after his playing days were over, saying that he had his catcher, Elston Howard, scuff the ball up for him and that he would sometimes gouge the ball with his wedding ring to make the ball move unpredictably. According to Ford, however, he didn’t scuff the ball or use the “mudball” during his prime years, but rather when age began to take its effect, saying, "I didn't begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive. I didn't cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don't want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn't cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little."
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