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Monday, May 6, 2002
Dirtiest professional team players

Page 2 staff

Every team needs toughness, but sometimes players cross over the fine line that borders dirty play.

Marty McSorley ,Donald Brashear
Marty McSorley never made it back to the NHL after a year's suspension for dropping Donald Brashear.
So this week, Page 2 lists the 10 dirtiest players in pro team sports history. Take a look at our list, then see how our readers ranked their choices for the dirtiest player ever. And be sure to vote in the poll to crown the No. 1 dirtiest player of all time.

1. Conrad Dobler (offensive lineman -- St. Louis Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills, 1972-1981)
Once made SI's cover as the dirtiest player in pro football. "I see defensive linemen jump to knock a pass down," he said after he retired. "When that happened near me, I'd smack 'em in the solar plexus, and that got their hands down real quick. It's as if nobody wants to see anybody else get injured." Dobler didn't care who got hurt. He punched Mean Joe Greene, he kicked Merlin Olsen in the head, he bit, he gouged, and once, he spit on a downed and injured opponent, the Eagles' Bill Bradley.

2. Marty McSorley (defense, forward -- Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, 1985-2000)
While playing for the Bruins, McSorley, who already had a reputation as one of the NHL's dirtiest players, hit the Canucks' Donald Brashear in the head with his stick, knocking him to the ice and giving him a concussion. McSorley was suspended for one year by the NHL and was convicted of assault by a Canadian court, in an extremely rare instance of on-ice violence making it to the real-world justice system. He retired with 3,381 career penalty minutes.

Dennis Rodman
Now that he's gone, it's hard to tell if the game misses Dennis Rodman.
3. Dennis Rodman (power forward -- Detroit Pistons, San Antoino Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, 1986-2000)
Named the dirtiest player in the NBA in a Sports Illustrated poll of players, coaches and execs in April 1997. He once kicked a sideline cameraman; another time, he head-butted an official. "A certain element likes the sideshow atmosphere," Kings vice president Geoff Petrie told SI, "but the game isn't going to miss him when he's gone."

4. Steve Wisniewski (offensive lineman -- Los Angeles Raiders and Oakland Raiders, 1989-2001)
"Wiz is probably the dirtiest offensive player of all-time," said a teammate. One opponent offered this critique: "He chops from behind. He'll shoot knees ... I'll take sides with any old lineman, but this m----------- had me cursing and swearing on TV. I couldn't believe the shots he took."

5. Bill Romanowski (linebacker -- San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, 1988-present)
Used the NFL's biggest regular-season showcase -- "Monday Night Football" -- to show what he's really all about, when he spit in the face of San Francisco wide receiver J.J. Stokes. Also broke Kerry Collins' jaw during a 1997 exhibition game, for which the NFL fined him $20,000. Summed up his playing philosophy in 1999 as follows: "It's about trying to make big hits, like when you hit someone so hard, he doesn't get up. Those are the kind of hits you like."

Steve Wisniewski
Sreve Wisniewski's tactics even offended teammates.
6. Ty Cobb (outfielder -- Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Athletics, 1905-1928) Opponents hated him. Teammates hated him but were glad he was on their side. Cobb used his spikes as weapons. "I always went into a bag full speed, feet first. I had sharp spikes on my shoes. If the baseman stood where he had no business to be and got hurt, that was his fault," said Cobb. Topped Page 2's list of least-likeable ballplayers: "A violent psychopath and stone racist, Cobb hit opposing players as hard as he hit baseballs."

7. Don Drysdale (pitcher -- Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, 1956-69)
Drysdale had a two-for-one rule -- if the opposing pitcher hit a Dodger, he'd hit two back. This was probably why he led the National League in hit batsmen five times. "The trick against Drysdale is to hit him before he hits you," Orlando Cepeda said.

8. Johnny Sample (defensive back -- Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, 1958-68)
His 1970 autobiography was titled "Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer," and few of his contemporaries argued. One notable opponent, Gene Washington, currently the NFL's director of football operations, said, "I played against Johnny Sample for the Colts, and nobody today plays the way he did. Playing on the line or over the line, as it relates to dirty tactics, there is not an equal."

Bill Romanowski
Bill Romanowski will now take his act to the Oakland Raiders, where it will be appreciated.
9. Jim Loscutoff (power forward -- Boston Celtics, 1955-64)
Red Auerbach drafted "Jungle Jim" to be an enforcer, and Loscutoff turned out to be a "thug extraordinaire," wrote Sam McManis in the Los Angeles Times. "I'll tell you what type of player I was," Loscutoff said. "If somebody stood in my way, I'd knock them down. Even if they didn't stand in my way, but if they were bothering another player, they'd have to deal with me."

10. Jack Tatum (defensive back -- Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers, 1971-80)
In his book, "They Call Me Assassin," Tatum defended his style as aggressive. But the limits of aggressiveness were questioned on his hit during a 1978 exhibition game that paralyzed New England wide receiver Daryl Stingley. Tatum was also fined for a punishing hit that sent Steelers receiver Lynn Swan to the hospital.

Also receiving votes
  • Bill Laimbeer, power forward -- Detroit Pistons
  • Kevin Gogan, offensive lineman -- San Francisco 49ers
  • Dave "Tiger" Williams, left wing -- Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, L.A. Kings, Hartford Whalers
  • Stan Williams, pitcher -- L.A. Dodgers, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox
  • Sal "The Barber" Maglie, pitcher -- New York Giants, Cleveland Indians, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Roger Clemens, pitcher -- Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees
  • Bob Gibson, pitcher -- St. Louis Cardinals
  • Charles Barkley, power forward -- Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets
  • Mean Joe Greene, defensive lineman -- Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Jerome Woods, safety -- Kansas City Chiefs