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Wednesday, May 8, 2002
Updated: May 13, 12:12 AM ET
Readers: Dirtiest pro players

From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed our 10 dirtiest players from professional sports teams, and we asked you to send us your choices.

After going through more than 2,200 e-mails, here is how Page 2 readers ranked their picks. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the No. 1 dirtiest player of all time.

1. Ty Cobb (121 letters)
Ty Cobb
If there was a Dirty Player Hall of Fame, Ty Cobb would be an inaugural member.
Ty Cobb by far. Not only did his teammates hate him, they once sent a gift basket of congratulations to a player on another team after they thought he beat Cobb for the batting title. Cobb would go to a place in the dugout where the infielders on the other team could see him, and sharpen his spikes. Cobb was called "the dirtiest player I ever saw" by the normally reserved Connie Mack.

The best story is about a young pitcher who intentionally beaned him in his first plate appearance. Cobb took his base without saying a word. The next time he came up to bat, he dropped a bunt down the first-base line. When the pitcher went to field the ball, Cobb knocked him over, then spiked him on the chest. The pitcher was sliced open and had to leave the game. If you look up the definition of "dirty" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Ty Cobb.
Stephen Escudero
Phoenix

The man was everything on your list. Yes, he sharpened his spikes and slid feet first. Yes, he was so hated by opposing fans that armed guards had to be posted to keep them from rushing the field, but this does not qualify him for the dirtiest professional team player ever. What does is that the man once left the field, and started a fight with a handicapped heckler. If that's not No. 1 material, than what is?
Thomas Spain
West Lafayette, Ind.

Oh please, it is a no-brainer. Tyrus Raymond Cobb was and has been chronicled as the dirtiest player that ever lived. Not just because he is a family member, but the stories of him sliding into base with sharpened spikes pointed high.

His anger also was said not to be only on the ballfield. On a golf course he wrapped a golf club around a fellow golfer's head. First baseman were told to watch their feet when he was coming. His drinking and shooting of guns anywhere and at anybody is why in my book, without question, he was the meanest, most psychotic, dirtiest player who has ever lived!
Blake Cobb
St. Petersburg, Fla.

The line from Shoeless Joe in "Field of Dreams" says it all: "Ty Cobb wanted to play, too. But none of us could stand the sonofabitch when he was alive, so we told him to stick it!"
Tony
Atlanta

2. Karl Malone (108 letters)
Karl Malone
Elbows arrive special delivery from Karl Malone, left.
The Mailman has been delivering violent elbows for years. Ribs, back, face, it doesn't matter. This guy is just dirty. Everyone in the NBA knows when Malone gets a rebound, watch out, 'cause those elbows are going to come around and take out whoever is unfortunate enough to be in their path.

And don't get me started on the chippie shots he uses to get people to foul him.
Ed
Raritan, N.J.

Karl Malone may not make the list for sheer brutality of his actions, but the sheer number of cheap shots he has taken over the years definitely earns him a spot. He hacks and fouls so much that you can actually make a drinking game out of it (like slap shots while watching Dallas). To make matters worse, he is easily one of the top five whiners of all time. He mauls someone and argues the call, but then at the other end he thinks a mean look from his defender merits a technical foul.
Jason Rosha
St. Cloud, Minn.

When talking dirty NBA players, no player holds a candle to Karl Malone. If stats were kept for cheap shots, The Mailman would average a triple-double!

He's used his elbows as weapons for almost 20 years now. For proof, just check the foreheads of Isiah Thomas and Joe Klein.

Malone has slapped Christian Laettner with a backhand (imagine how much more it would have hurt if Malone had any championship rings on that hand!).

And, just for "kicks," The N-ailMan has revolutionized the drop-kick layup. Brent Price's "family jewels" can elaborate.
Kevin Gaerke
Cincinnati

3. Bill Laimbeer (96 letters)
Honorable mention, fellas? Following his example was the entire Detroit team, most notably the thugs Rodman, Mahorn, Salley, Edwards, et al. He even taught the fairly tame Isiah how to be a dirty punk-ass by the time the Pistons' run was over.

His "style" was just cheap-shotting people, with the intent to inflict pain, who happened to beat him on the dribble drive. Just ask Larry Bird what it felt like to be folded in half when he got Big Bill in the air on a pump-fake ... that's not basketball, it's league-sanctioned assault.
Eric Swanson
Chicago

If he had been five inches shorter, he would have flipped burgers for a living. He was nothing more than a tough, mean Bryant Reeves.
Rodney
Duncan, Okla.

The guy would elbow a cheerleader is she got under the basket.
Archie Damon
Dallas

4. Ulf Samuelsson (93 letters)
Ulf Samuelsson, Shean Donovan, John Vanbiesbrouck
Ulf Samuelsson, center, will never be forgiven for shortening the career of Cam Neely, an honest tough guy.
How could you compile a list of the dirtiest players of all-time without even making mention of Ulf Samuelsson? The guy is the undisputed king of the cheap shot, and he revelled in it for his entire career ... at least until anyone called him out, at which point he would "turtle up" and slink away.

I don't think anyone on your list is more hated by a group of fans than Samuelsson was (and still is) by fans of the Boston Bruins, who saw Cam Neely, arguably the team's best and most popular player since Bobby Orr, have his career shortened by a knee-on-thigh dirty hit by Samuelsson.

Ulfie deserves to go to the top of your list.
Chris Oster
Ottawa

Ulf Samuelsson made the knee on knee hit an art form in the NHL, and he never hesitated to take a cheap shot with his stick when the ref wasn't around. But perhaps the thing that was most galling about Samuelsson was that if challenged, he wasn't even man enough to drop the gloves.

Other players were as dirty, but at least had the defense that they were standing up for teammates. Samuelsson's job, first and foremost, was to hurt people, not to protect Mario Lemieux. Samuelsson's dirty tactics paved the way for a bunch of "hit and hide" artists such as Matthew Barnaby, Darius Kasparaitis and Bryan Marchment.

One of the biggest travesties in NHL history is that Samuelsson forced Cam Neely into retirement, but went on to play some 15 years without serious injury.
Phil Unwin
Buffalo, N.Y.

Despite Samuelsson's dirty tactics, Pittsburgh fans and media embraced the Swede as a folk hero -- one local wag dubbed him "Jack Lambert on skates." Which leads me to another player who belongs on your list ...
Craig Sweeny
Los Angeles

5. John Stockton (86 letters)
Why is there no mention of John Stockton, pound-for-pound, the dirtiest athlete in professional sports? This guy sets more illegal screens than any other player. If this guy was six inches taller, he'd have set the record for most personal fouls. But he knows he can get away with a hard elbow to the torso, so he does it to everyone. By the way, if John Stockton is No. 1, then his pal in crime, Karl Malone, is a sure No. 2.
Adam Hudes
Los Angeles

John Stockton
John Stockton, left, gets away with a lot just by being John Stockton.
John Stockton, hands down, is the dirtiest player ever. Of course, you never hear about him playing dirty, because, well, he's John Stockton. But ask any NBAer from the past two decades this question, and they'll all give you the same answer. If he comes back next season, I hope TNT or ESPN broadcasts one game where the camera doesn't leave him. I would love for everyone in America to see just how dirty Stockton can be.
Steve Harrell
Tampa, Fla.

Made a living of setting screens low and then rolling off and throwing the ball to a wide-open Malone because the defender is laying on the floor holding his knee.
Matt
Las Vegas

C'mon, even Dennis Rodman called him a dirty player.
Micah Hutton
St Louis

6. Conrad Dobler (79 letters)
Conrad Dobler was a pit bull without a leash on the field. He didn't care who he hurt, how he hurt, and who saw him hurt. He even went as far to write a book called "They Call Me Dirty" to proclaim he didn't have a care about anyone's health.

I'm from Buffalo and even I hated the guy, but I was glad he was with us and not against us.
Paul
Orchard Park, N.Y.

Even his teammates kept their distance from in games. He radiated meanness.
Jamie Jacoby
Coleman, Texas

7. Claude Lemieux (62 letters)
The best insight into Lemieux's dirty, dark, shriveled soul was the Kris Draper incident. He ran Draper into the boards in a premeditated fashion, then laughed about it. Seventy-six stitches later, Draper stopped bleeding. This incident puts into perspective all the pathetic wailing about supposedly dirty hits in the current playoffs.

In light of Lemieux-Draper, it's funny to hear all the fuss over the Gary Roberts and Jeff O'Neill hits, which looked reasonable to me. I suspect that if Claude hit someone as hard and dirty as he hit Draper that night, the ESPN booth crew might actually wet its pants.

Perhaps the best measure of dirtiness is peer evaluation. To quote Dino Ciccarelli on Lemieux after that fateful Detroit-Colorado series: "I can't believe I shook his freakin' hand."
Jim McNeely
Silver Spring, Md.

8. Bryan Marchment (53 letters)
Bryan Marchment
Bryan Marchment, right, has left a trail of injured players in his wake.
Do me a favor. Go to Google and do a search with the words Marchment and goon, and tell me what you find.

How could you leave such an obvious cheap-shot artist such as Bryan Marchment off your list? Sure, he's not retired and doesn't get the benefit of books written about his dirty play, but the guy's still active and his cheap shots are already legendary.
Chris
Tallahassee, Fla.

9. Dennis Rodman (49 letters)
Dennis Rodman was breathtakingly dirty. When he realized that looking like a freak and playing like a jerk could be parlayed into popularity by idiotic teens, he did it more than ever.

The NBA is still the worse for it.
Lucas
Indiana

10. Bobby Clarke (44 letters)
Bobby Clarke
Bobby Clarke had the Broad Street Bullies to protect him en route to winning two Cups in the 1970s.
You have got to be kidding. Tiger Williams was a punk compared to Bobby Clarke. Arguably the dirtiest player the NHL has ever seen, Clarke's slashing style of play epitomized the Philadelphia Flyers' Stanley Cup championship teams of the 1970s, also known as the Broad Street Bullies. The way he sliced up his opponents with his stick would make a Japanese steak house cook swell with pride.
Bob DuFrane
Fairfax, Va.

Others receiving votes (10 or more)
  • Chuck Cecil
  • Jack Lambert
  • Bill Romanowski
  • Shaquille O'Neal
  • Dick Butkus
  • Marty McSorley
  • Tie Domi
  • Roger Clemens
  • Andre Watters
  • Albert Belle
  • Pete Rose
  • Jack Tatum
  • Dale Hunter