Who’s No. 1 in your top 10 list when talking about the best pitchers—over the last 25 years—who wore glasses on the mound?
Inspired by K-Rod’s incredible start to the 2010 season for the New York Mets and the great Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn of Major League fame, today I’ll be ranking the best four-eyed hurlers in the game.
We’ve got to begin this list, albeit at the bottom, with Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn as No. 10 on the all-time greats among pitchers with glasses.
Major League was a hit, especially when it first appeared in movie theaters nationwide in 1989, and a lot of the fame and fortune centered around Vaughn.
In the movie, although the Cleveland Indians season begins in disarray—due in a large part to poor pitching performances by Vaughn, earning him the memorable nickname “Wild Thing”—it begins to turn around quickly after Vaughn is given glasses.
That, in and of itself, makes Vaughn a must-have in any top 10 lists regarding pitchers and their eye-wear.
And the nickname, “Wild Thing,” stuck for Vaughn as well.
Shortly after donning the infamous glasses, Vaughn became a hitter’s worst nightmare on the mound—carrying the Indians to a one-game playoff-clinching win over the New York Yankees.
Gustavo Chacin, who was recently called-up to the Houston Astros, hit a home run at Minute Maid Park on Memorial Day 2010.
Pretty darn good for a right-hander on the mound with glasses; especially considering he was the first Astros pitcher to belt a home run.
The funny thing is Chacin’s blast wasn’t to the short left field of the Crawford Boxes; instead, he hit a towering home run to right field on Monday, May 31.
Chacin, making his debut on this all-time greats list at No. 9, currently holds a 1.86 ERA with Houston (over 9.2 innings pitched).
He’s also 1-for-1 this season with the bat, jacking a solo shot to right in his only plate appearance this season.
Over his four-plus years as a professional pitcher, Chacin is 25-14 with a 4.11 ERA.
Through his 11-year career as a MLB pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, Hume boasted a 3.85 ERA with five complete games and 92 saves.
And as a pitcher, he wasn’t half-bad at the plate—compiling a .120 career batting average with four doubles, a home run, and 13 runs batted in.
Born in Cincinnati, Hume made his MLB debut at the age of 24 on May 25, 1977; playing his final game on Oct. 2, 1987.
Ron Davis, who was born in Houston, Texas and attended Blinn Junior College, made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees at the age of 22.
A third round pick in the 1976 MLB Draft (56th overall), Davis garnered a 4.05 ERA with 130 saves over an 11-year career.
Davis played with the Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodges, and San Francisco Giants—making his final MLB appearance on September 24, 1988.
Over eight seasons in the majors, Jose Valverde holds a 3.03 ERA with 178 saves and 486 strikeouts.
Valverde, who was originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent in 1997, made his MLB debut in 2003 at the age of 25.
His best seasons in the pros came in 2007—when he was pitching with Arizona and picked up 47 saves with a 2.77 ERA—and 2008, when Valverde was the closer for the Houston Astros and garnered 44 saves with a 3.38 ERA.
Currently pitching with Detroit, Valverde has a 1-1 overall record—with 11 saves and a 0.44 ERA in 2010.
Kyle Farnsworth was drafted by Chicago in the 47th round of the 1994 amateur draft, and he spent his first six seasons with the National League’s Cubs.
Currently pitching with the Kansas City Royals, Farnsworth holds a 2.53 ERA.
Over his 12 years and counting in the majors, Farnsworth is 32-52 with a 4.42 ERA and 796 strikeouts.
Farnsworth made his MLB debut on April 29, 1999—and after not cutting it as a starter, he’s been a solid reliever coming out of the bullpen ever since.
K-Rod’s 2010 start has been phenomenal.
And that’s why his name belongs at No. 4 on this all-time greats list.
Over eight years in the majors (with 2010 being his ninth season), Francisco Rodriguez is 28-24 with a 2.51 ERA and 253 saves—along with 690 strikeouts and counting.
Pretty freaking impressive if you ask me.
This season alone, K-Rod is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA—picking up 10 saves and striking out 30.
Originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1995, Eric Gagne spent 10 seasons in the majors.
After spending his first eight seasons with the Dodgers, Gagne split time between the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox in 2007 before a final year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.
Over his 10-year career, Gagne garnered 187 saves with 718 strikeouts and a 3.47 ERA—retiring with a 33-26 overall record and making his final MLB appearance on Sept. 25, 2008.
Spanning 14 years in the majors, Tom Henke held a remarkable 2.67 ERA with 311 saves and 861 strikeouts.
Originally signed by the Texas Rangers in the 1980 MLB Draft’s fourth round (66th overall), Henke made his professional debut on Sept. 10, 1982 at the age of 24.
Spending five seasons with the Rangers, eight with the Toronto Blue Jays, and one final season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Henke appeared in his final MLB game on Sept. 30, 1995.
During his final season in St. Louis, Henke displayed an incredible 1.82 ERA with 36 saves (over 52 games and 54.1 innings pitched).
I can’t think of a better four-eyed pitcher spanning the last 25 years of baseball than the one and only Orel Hershiser.
Over 18 seasons in the majors, Hershiser compiled 240 wins (with just 150 losses) and a career ERA of 3.48—along with 2,014 strikeouts, 68 complete games, and 25 shutouts.
Starting 466 games during his time in the pros, Hershiser—who was born in Buffalo, New York and attended Bowling Green State University—was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 1979 amateur draft.
Spending time with the Dodgers (13 years), Cleveland Indians (three years), San Francisco Giants (one year), and New York Mets (one year), Hershiser appeared in his final MLB game on June 26, 2000—once again as a member of the LA Dodgers.
Although Hershiser’s final season in LA was far from beautiful—he was 41-years-old at the time—his legacy has been etched permanently in stone.
Hershiser’s best MLB season came in 1988 with the Dodgers—as the All-Star right-handed pitcher went 23-8 while dominating opposing batters with a 2.26 ERA and 178 strikeouts—winning the Cy Young Award and attaining a Gold Glove that season.
Oh yeah, he also won the National League Championship Series MVP and the World Series MVP as a member of the Dodgers in 1988.
Over his 18 years in the majors, Hershiser had just three seasons with losing records, and he’s always been a winner—both on and off the field of play—regardless of his win-loss record as a pitcher.
I’ve got to give a shout out to Houston Astros reliever Tim Byrdak and his loyal fans—dubbed the Byrdak’s Nest—that wear the right-hander’s trademark glasses with pride.
Byrdak, who is still pitching with the Astros, made his MLB debut on August 7, 1998 with the Kansas City Royals at the age of 24.
And after a five-year hiatus from the game, Byrdak returned to the majors in 2005 with Baltimore before spending the past three seasons with Houston.
Over his nine seasons in the majors, Byrdak holds a 4.61 ERA and is 8-8 overall with 223 strikeouts and counting.
[All Photos Courtesy of Google Images Search]
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at email@example.com