Friday, April 8, 2011

Sports Greatest Cheaters

With the retirement of Manny Ramirez, and the reasoning behind it, the spotlight shifts from his potential Hall of Fame candidacy to what exactly his legacy will be as a cheater who was caught twice by mandatory drug testing.  This begs a different question, though.  Where does Manny rest in the pantheon of the greatest cheats in the big four sports?

The four major sports- MLB, NHL, NFL, and the NBA- all have had their fair share of cheaters over their multi-decade histories.  There can only be one who ranks as the best cheaters in the history of each sport?

Major League Baseball- Gaylord Perry
 Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, Gaylord Perry won over 300 games and struck out over 3500 batters in his storied 21 year career.  He's one of five pitchers to win a Cy Young in both the American and National League.  While he was a solid pitcher on his own right, throwing a decent fastball he was known more for his infamous doctoring of the ball.

His most famous pitch was the spit ball.  He'd often rub Vaseline on balls, he'd use KY Jelly on pitches, would go as far as to load up on rosin before throwing the ball.  The following puff of white dust that would accompany the release of the "Puffball" would soon be outlawed by Major League Baseball.  The most prolific, and most obvious, cheater in baseball history, Gaylord Perry takes the cake

Honorable Mention: Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb

National Hockey League- Bobby Hull

In 23 years of professional hockey, split between the NHL and WHA, Bobby Hull scored over 900 goals with 610 of them coming in the NHL.  Not only did he make a Hall of Fame career for himself, being inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, but his son Brett would go on to score over 700 goals and is a lock for the Hall of Fame himself.

The biggest difference between Bobby and Brett, though not tarnishing the legacy of either, is the admitted use by Bobby of a highly illegal banana curve on his stick.  The extra curve, applied by heating and bending the blade of a hockey stick, allows for extra speed, power, and accuracy on a shot.  Bobby used this to his advantage, all the way to Toronto.

Honorable Mention: Chris Simon, Pittsburgh Penguins

National Football League- Bill Belichick
Perhaps the easiest and most obvious choice on the list, Bill Belichick may be a cheater but he's still a winner.  As head coach of the New England Patriots he's raked up over 140 regular season wins and has lead his team to four Super Bowls, winning three.  The one they lost?  A perfect regular season, only the second in NFL history and the only 16-0 regular season to happen.

Looming deeply over the aura of Belichick's legacy is Spygate.  The Patriots mini-dynasty started with a victory over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.  A former video assistant with the Patriots admitted to taping the walk through of the Rams, perhaps leading to an unfair advantage in game planning which could have led to the Patriots win.  For it the Patriots lost $250,000 and a first round pick while Bellichick himself lost $500,000 of his own money.  There were even whispers of cheating in the 2010 season, potentially further tainting Belichick's persona.

Honorable Mention: 70's Pittsburgh Steelers, 2010 New York Jets

National Basketball Association- Tim Donaghy
A once innocuous and innocent referee in the NBA, the part of the game that everyone complains about when things don't go their way but is usually forgotten about, came out on to the scene in a big way by disrupting so much of the NBA that it made a dark mark on the game and put into question the entire union of officiating in all major sports.

Donaghy admitted to betting on games in which he officiated, bringing into question what hadn't been in question since Pete Rose: What happens when someone in control has something riding on a game?  The difference is that Donaghy had ultimate control over the outcome of what ever game he was in charge of.  For breaking one of the holiest of rules in professional sports, Donaghy received 15 months in prison and was out over $500,000.  He went and served his time, but not before accusing other officials of rigging games in their favor as well.

Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant, Jay-Z
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