Sports Lists

Top 15 Worst First Pitches

Matt HaupertFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

Top 15 Worst First Pitches

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    The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    50 Cent took the world by storm Tuesday night with an impressively wild ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field in New York that came closer to hitting the Empire State Building than the strike zone.

    In the rich history of horrendous first pitches, could this be the one that reigns supreme? Has this rapper really burst onto the scene and so quickly dethroned such legendary first-pitch fail artists as Carly Rae Jepsen, Barack Obama and Carl Lewis?

    For years, celebrities and current and former athletes have been marching onto baseball fields in slacks and ball caps to attempt what is apparently the most difficult 60-foot throw in all of sports.

    Many have beaten the odds and accomplished the unimaginable feat.

    Many more have come up short, literally.

    Today, we tip our hats to the worst of the worst and count down the 15 most disastrous first pitches in baseball history.

15. Barack Obama

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    President Barack Obama drew plenty of boos from the home crowd of Washington Nationals fans when he pulled out a Chicago White Sox cap and placed it on his head before throwing his first pitch, and things only went downhill from there.

    The ball seemed to take on a life of its own as it sailed way outside and much higher than either the strike zone or his approval ratings.

    Obama's pitch, however, lands at No. 15 on the all-time list, as the catcher's ability to get the ball on the fly actually sets the president's gem a notch above the rest.

14. Charlie Brown

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    Good grief.

    Charlie Brown never was known for his athletic prowess, but after decades of embarrassment in comic-book baseball games, it would've been nice to see the little fella have some success when he finally got his shot in The Show.

    Instead, Charlie's pitch dribbled out of his hand and straight onto the ground, well out of reach of the enormous, bright-green target behind home plate.

    We'll give Chuck the benefit of the doubt since he is, you know, a cartoon character, and has played most of his games in little black-and-white panels against weak competition under a lot less pressure.

13. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Dirk Nowitzki is held to a higher standard than Charlie and Barack because he is, after all, paid millions and millions of dollars to play sports.

    Surely, Nowitzki is able to toss a ball accurately from the pitcher's mound, right?

    Wrong.

    Nowitzki does a big windup, kicks back his leg, lets the ball loose and...whoop! Had the catcher not leaped several feet off the ground to bring it down, that pitch might still be on its ascent.

    On his way off the field, fans gave him a standing ovation, though it's unclear if they were thanking him for bringing the Dallas Mavericks a championship or just celebrating that he'll never crack the Texas Rangers' pitching rotation.

12. Tiffany Hwang

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    South Korean singer Tiffany Hwang, member of the popular pop group Girls' Generation, really looks like she knows what she's doing—if only for a moment.

    She's got that intense gaze, the dramatic windup, the confident smile...

    And then, seemingly as soon as the pitch leaves her hand, it is on the ground rolling toward first.

    Maybe she needs to work a little bit on her release point.

    Maybe she'll be best off just sticking to performing onstage.

11. Jessica Jung

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    These Girls' Generation stars are in desperate need of a new pitching coach.

    Jessica Jung, another member of the same singing group, outdoes even her dear friend Tiffany on the spectrum of awful first pitches, if only because her buildup is even more dramatic.

    The bows to the crowd.

    The sneaky grin on her face as if she's got some nasty pitches up her sleeve.

    The intimidating pause midway through her windup.

    And then, just like that, the ball hits the ground approximately six inches in front of her feet, traveling a slightly shorter distance than a ball that the wind has just blown off of a tee or a furball that has just been coughed up by a cat.

10. Doug Glanville

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    Doug Glanville played outfield in the major leagues for a number of years—and for the most part, he played it exceptionally well.

    Surely, on this day at Wrigley Field, fans were going to get a great first pitch. They would get a chance to witness a true master of his craft put his impressive abilities on dazzling display. The throw from the mound to the plate, however, is a whole lot easier than a throw from the outfield wall.

    But then, Glanville accomplished something that even Barack Obama and Dirk Nowitzki could not do, sending the ball so high that it was completely out of reach of the desperately leaping catcher, cementing the one-time star in our top 10.

9. Hero Cat

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    Don't get me wrong, I love that little hero cat, the viral YouTube sensation that saved a young boy from a dog attack in his own driveway.

    But like everyone else in the world, I was wondering exactly how a cat could throw a pitch at a baseball game after the brilliant idea was announced.

    The answer, it appears, is it can't.

    In fact, in one of the greatest cheating scandals in the history of opening pitches, a mechanism was set up that would use a piece of string to assist the famous feline in getting the ball all the way to the plate.

    Way to make a mockery of such a cherished tradition, cat. Thanks a lot.

    The string idea ended up being a roaring success, as the little devil tossed a fireball that made nearly an inch of forward progress, wowing the awestruck crowd.

    The cat falls as low as ninth on the all-time list only because of the minor disadvantage that comes with using tiny paws rather than enormous human hands to throw a baseball. We'll give a little credit for at least trying.

8. Mariah Carey

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    Mariah Carey's pitch isn't necessarily that much worse than any of those that have come before it on this list. In fact, she's able to get her pitch to roll a lot closer to home plate than any live cat has ever been able to do.

    What launches Carey to the eighth spot on our list is the fact that she apparently went out of her way to make things unnecessarily hard on herself by walking to the mound in a pair of high heels.

    Her knowledge of the mechanics of pitching may be limited, but it seems like common sense that it wouldn't be easy to push off that back leg in a glistening pair of stilettos.

    Carey doesn't seem too concerned with her lack of pitching talent after driving the ball directly into the dirt, apparently satisfied with the fact that she at least looked good doing it.

7. John Wall

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    Unlike Mariah Carey, Washington Wizards superstar point guard John Wall showed up ready to play.

    Wall strutted out to the mound with confidence, and in a pre-pitch interview he declared that he was determined not to embarrass himself by keeping the ball up out of the dirt.

    And then, in heartbreaking fashion, Wall's dream came crashing to the ground as quickly as his fastball, which took a nosedive into the grass and was saved from bouncing into the arms of front-row fans only by a spectacular play behind the plate.

    So eager, so enthusiastic, so ready to prove his pitching prowess—and oh, so pathetic.

    To his credit, he technically did accomplish his goal—his pitch didn't hit the dirt, but only because it didn't get anywhere near the dirt, making Wall the seventh-worst—albeit the most determined—ceremonial first-pitcher of all time.

6. Carl Lewis

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    Mariah Carey was in high heels. Charlie Brown was throwing in a giant mascot costume. The hero cat doesn't have hands. Of course they had trouble throwing out a successful first pitch.

    But Carl Lewis? Carl Lewis is different.

    Lewis has nine Olympic gold medals, and 10 Olympic medals total.

    Lewis has held world records in sprints, as well as the long jump.

    In 1999, Lewis was named the athlete of the freaking century.

    There is no obstacle too great for this legend of a man.

    Except, apparently, the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate, which Lewis did not even come close to covering on his disastrous ceremonial first-pitch attempt.

    Keep your head up, Carl. Nobody can take away those gold medals.

5. Joan Steinbrenner

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    There's something oddly satisfying about watching any member of the Steinbrenner family fail at something on national television.

    When Joan Steinbrenner, wife of the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, was asked to throw out the first pitch to commemorate the opening of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, it ended up being about as historically awful as anyone might have suspected. She did get the ball slightly farther than the hero cat, but that's not exactly something a full-sized human being should be proud of.

    To be fair, Joan wasn't as spry as she once was and was already a couple of years past her prime at this point. I'm sure back in the day she could sling a 97-mph fastball across the plate with the best of them.

4. Mark Mallory

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    While Joan Steinbrenner was already slowly deteriorating when she botched her first-pitch attempt, former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory should have had plenty of juice left in the tank to get the ball across the plate when he took his turn.

    Instead, Mallory went on to give a masterclass in bad pitching, sending the ball flying dramatically to the left, nearly taking out an umpire, getting "ejected" from the game and drawing shocked, confused and petrified reactions from all present.

    You can practically hear the whispers from the crowd: How is that even possible? Was that ball bewitched? We let this guy run our city?

    Though Mallory went on to complete a successful term as mayor, his pitching career reached a screeching halt, carving out his place in the history books as one of the most inconceivably wild ceremonial first-pitchers ever.

3. 50 Cent

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    When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies in the world was Angels in the Outfield, particularly the scenes where real-life angels would swoop in and make the ball fly all over the field so that Angels players could run around the bases and score.

    Apparently, those same baseball-loving angels are making a comeback and intervening not with games, but with ceremonial first pitches.

    This is literally the only explanation I can come up with for what on earth happened to that baseball after it left 50 Cent's hand during his pitch on Tuesday night at Citi Field. Upon its release, the ball inadvertently took a sharp turn to the left, completely defying everything I have ever understood about physics.

    Don't count on the New York Mets retiring No. 50 anytime soon.

2. Carly Rae Jepsen

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    There are just so many things wrong with Carly Rae Jepsen's attempt at a first pitch.

    Like 50 Cent, Jepsen's pitch ended up careening far left—but hers also went straight into the ground and even bounced off a camera that had been placed a very safe distance away, an even more impressive feat.

    Comparing 50's throw to Jepsen's is like comparing Babe Ruth to Willie Mays or Rocky to Rocky II—two undisputed greats, two of the very best of all time, with no truly proper way to draw a conclusion as to which stands taller.

    Here, Jepsen gets the nod, if only because 50 Cent's legendary toss hasn't quite had time to settle in as a "classic" in my mind.

1. Baba Booey (Gary Dell'Abate)

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    Many celebrities have stood atop the mound before a game and made fools out of themselves trying to throw a pitch that at the very least crossed the plate.

    Some of these pitches have flown erroneously over the head of the catcher.

    Some have hit the ground almost immediately upon leaving the pitcher's hand.

    Only one, however, has ever been so miraculously awful that it managed to hit the umpire, standing several feet away from home plate, on the fly.

    Such was the feat of Gary Dell'Abate, better known as Baba Booey, executive producer of The Howard Stern Show, who will forever occupy the largest space on the Mount Rushmore of horrendous opening pitches.

    At least for today, the coveted title of Worst Ceremonial First-Pitcher of the Modern Era remains completely out of reach.

     

    Think I'm a genius? An idiot? Let me know on Twitter.

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