The 50 Most Notorious Athlete Headcases in Sports

Todd Boldizsar@@toddboldizsarAnalyst IDecember 10, 2010

The 50 Most Notorious Athlete Headcases in Sports

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    Where would sports be without these people? These are the athletes that make "sport" exciting. It's been said football would be nothing without Randy Moss, tennis would be nothing without John McEnroe, and Michael Jordan would only be somewhat of a legend without Dennis Rodman.

    This is a countdown of every reporter's dream: The most famous and talented head cases in sports.


    Also check out: The 50 Greatest Football Catches of All Time

Honorable Mention: Coach Bobby Knight

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    "When I die, I hope they bury me upside down, so my critics can kiss my ass!"

    While not known as an athlete, legendary Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight has seen his fair share of tirades and tantrums, and will be remembered not only for his temper, but his impact on his players as human beings.

Honorable Mention: Manager Lou Pinella

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    Lou was never much of a sweet talker. In his playing days, he had a reputation for locker room blow-ups and profanity-laden rants about umpires.

    Actually, not much changed when he became a manager, but the locker room blow-ups turned into on the field meltdowns.

    He threw bases, kicked dirt on home plate and the umpires' shoes, and his face would turn more red than the head of the Mets' mascot. 

    "Sweet Lou," as he is lovingly called, is a legend in baseball, and will be remembered by Mariners and Cubs fans for putting on a show when their teams struggled.

    We will miss you, Lou! Happy retirement!

50. Vince Young

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    Following boos from Titans fans and a sprained ligament in his leg, Young left his home without his cell phone and disappeared. Head Coach Jeff Fisher contacted the local police and a search began for him.

    Four hours later, Young was found and agreed to meet with Fisher, mediated by the police, at the Titans' practice facility.

    While denying reports of her son having depression, Young's mother claimed Vince was emotionally distressed and "hurting inside and out." 

49. Serena Williams

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    Serena recently entered this countdown with an outburst at a line judge in which she threatened to kill her for apparently blowing the call. 

    They say aggression is elevated with steroids....I'm just sayin'!

48. Gilbert Arenas

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    Dennis Rodman may have kicked a cameraman below the belt, but he never made headlines for bringing live firearms into the locker room. 

    Violence has no place in the NBA, but Arenas has said multiple times that he is "dealing with the pain."

    Arenas seems destined to stay in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Maybe Ron Artest should give Arenas his therapist's card.

47. Steve Sax

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    In 1983, Steve Sax became inexplicably incapable of throwing the ball accurately to first base from his second base position. 

    He committed 30 errors while having a complete mental breakdown. It was so bad, fans sitting behind first base began wearing helmets as a joke. 

    Years later, catcher Gary Bennett would have the same problem, only throwing the ball back to the pitcher became the issue.

    The mental block is now commonly referred to as "Steve Sax Syndrome."

46. Michael Beasley

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    Was he in the room? Was he not even there? Did he smoke the pot? Did he hold it for someone else?

    Did he lie and say he wasn't there but was really there? Did he really go to rehab for a Marijuana addiction? Did Pat Riley really fine him for lying about being in the room?

    Beasley seems to be just beginning his legacy as a better performer OFF the court.

45. Tony Stewart

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    Stewart is known for his aggressive driving and occasional run-ins with competitors, including a profanity-laden tirade at Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen, following getting tangled up with him and crashing. 

    Tony's method of intimidation at super-high speeds are beginning to earn him a "madman" reputation.

44. Albert Belle

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    Albert Belle was known for his violent temper in his playing days. It has been said that even his teammates were afraid of him due to his notorious anger issues.

    Fans, beware when attempting to heckle this guy, he could literally pop your head!

43. Dale Murphy

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    During Murphy's playing days, he was known for his off-the-field life as much as his on-the-field performances. 

    A devout follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Murphy would not allow television interviews if he was not fully clothed, would not allow photos to be taken of him hugging women, and refused to take even a sip of an alcoholic beverage. 

    Murphy was also very generous, often picking up dinner tabs for his teammates, provided there was no alcoholic beverages on the bill. 

42. Brian Wilson

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    Wilson seemed just a little paranoid about Dodgers' third baseman Casey Blake imitating his signature hand motions. 

    Wilson's celebration after every save is in honor of his late father, but Blake was simply showing teammates how to do it in the clubhouse when Wilson took exception to it a post-game rant. 

    That, and the orange cleats with mohawk. CURAZY!

    HO! HO! HO!

41. Ray Lewis

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    Old Spice recently contracted with Ray Lewis to make tongue-in-cheek commercials, showing off the uniqueness of the linebacker's personality. 

    Lewis has always been a little eccentric, and I can say that because I'm thousands of miles away from Baltimore and Ray has no idea where I live.

40. Kyle Busch

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    A slew of angry interviews and multiple racers fingering Kyle Busch for starting wrecks all but built his legacy as one of the most successful NASCAR drivers in today's era. 

    Busch must have the mentality that everyone is out to get him, and maybe they are.

    The more success an individual experiences, the more likely they are to have haters. Maybe the thought has crossed Busch's mind a time or two, and his paranoia seems to be growing.

39. Andre Agassi

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    While dealing with a decline in his career and nagging injuries, Agassi turned to crystal meth in 1997 and began behaving erratically.

    Later, in an autobiography entitled "Open," Agassi admitted he had a tough childhood while his competitive father constantly pushed him to succeed.

    That hair from the '80s is also crazy.

38. Chris Henry

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    The late wide receiver was constantly in trouble with the law.

    Domestic violence, illegal weapons possession, possession of a controlled substance, and clinical depression tore down an otherwise budding career.

    RIP Chris Henry.

37. Chuck Knoblauch

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    In the bizarre career files, Knoblauch at one point was arguing with an umpire while the ball was still in play, allowing the runner to score from first. 

    Next, he struggled with "the yips" and his own bouts of "Steve Blass Syndrome," once making such an errant overthrow that it sailed into the crowd and struck broadcaster Keith Obermann's mother in the face.

    After his playing career was over, he was charged with assault on his wife and plead guilty to misdemeanor assault on a family member.

36. Isiah Rider

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    Isaiah Rider literally misbehaved his way out of the NBA. One of the most promising young talents of his time, Rider bounced around from team to team, continuously making headlines for fights with teammates and coaches. 

    Rider's aggression issues weren't limited to the game of basketball either. He kicked a female nightclub manager and was convicted of an assault charge. He also was caught with marijuana, and a cell phone rigged to charge someone else with his usage bills.

    To this day, Rider is being arrested for things such as kidnapping, conspiracy to commit grand theft auto, assault, and stiffing cab drivers. 

35. Michael Irvin

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    Irvin is no stranger to the media, having numerous claims of sexual assault against him, while also being convicted several times of drug possession.

    His persona is perhaps the craziest thing about him, always seemingly acting for the camera.

    His controversial statements and loud mouth assure he will always be in the news, long after his broadcasting career is over.

34. Theo Fleury

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    In one of the most fierce "Little Man" syndrome' the NHL has ever seen, undersized Theo Fleury was known for scoring goals, and picking fights.

    He also played in an amateur league during the NHL's 1994-95 lockout and received increased media exposure for reports of being paid to play.

    Fleury also struggled with drug and alcohol use, which eventually ended his pro career.

33. Pete Rose

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    Pete Rose played the game with a smash-mouth style and trademark Superman slide. He was also known for being quick to anger, and slow to apologize.

    Plus, usually when you are convicted of tax evasion, people just assume you have 23 cats on your property that you call your "children."

    Oh, and I'm sorry for this photo, but somehow I just couldn't look away...

32. Steve Blass

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    A more serious version of Steve Sax's throwing problems is a similar condition that happened to pitcher Steve Blass in 1973. 

    Blass had a career record of 103-76 in 10 major league seasons, but suddenly lost the ability to throw the ball accurately to the plate. He would never find a solution to the problem, and was out of baseball by 1975. 

    Most recently, Rick Ankiel lost his ability to throw accurately before re-emerging as a power-hitting outfielder. Ankiel drew many comparisons to Blass while struggling through the minor leagues.

31. Mackey Sasser

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    Similar to Steve Blass syndrome, Mets catcher Mackey Sasser struggled to throw the ball back to the pitcher, but in a different way.

    Sasser had a mannerism for double-clutching while throwing the ball back to the pitcher. As a coach, Sasser had trouble throwing batting practice to his players.

    Sasser was forced to consult a psychotherapist who eventually cured his mind-block.

30. Manny Ramirez

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    Manny Making cell phone calls during pitching changes, disappearing into the Green Monster to relieve himself while causing a delay in the game, high-fiving a fan after making a catch for the second out in the inning before doubling off the runner at first, making a cut off on a throw from the center fielder while playing left field, and the list goes on and on.

    It can only be described as "Manny Being Manny." If you substitute "jackass" for the last word of the sentence...well that probably works too.

29. Latrell Sprewell

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    Latrell Sprewell was a solid basketball player. A stand-up guy, you ask? Did I mention he was a solid basketball player?

    He is best known for choking then-Warriors coach PJ Carlesimo in 1997, and the invention of "Spinner" rims.

    Since his NBA career, Sprewell has been accused of choking a woman on his yacht, and has since sought a restraining order against her.

    He has defaulted on his mortgage and had his yacht repossessed. Unfortunately, Sprewell is a shining example of the pitfalls of poor investing. 

28. Maurice Clarett

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    I can't even tell you what he is doing in this video. 

    Maurice Clarett was projected to be one of the highest picks of the NFL draft when he became eligible. However, after just his first year at the Ohio State University (a player has to be at least three years removed from high school before being eligible for the NFL draft), in which the Buckeyes won the National Championship, Clarett made headlines for complaining about the rule that prevented him from entering the draft.

    After a fallout with the Ohio State University, Clarett gained weight, dropped off the map, then re-emerged as a third round draft pick of the Denver Broncos. However, after run-ins with the law, the Broncos cut ties with Clarett.

    He currently plays in the United Football League, and is another prime example of letting ego and craziness take over.

27. Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson

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    Named for his flamboyant lifestyle on and off the field, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson was known for snorting liquid cocaine from an inhaler he hid in the waistline of his pants. 

    It all came crashing down in 1983 for Henderson, when he was arrested for cocaine possession while with teenage girls who claimed he threatened them with a gun and sexually assaulted them. Henderson claimed he exchanged cocaine with them for consensual sex. 

    This story has a happy ending, though. Henderson has remained clean since the eight months of treatment he received for his addiction. In 2000, Henderson won the Lotto Texas lottery, valued at $28 million and began his own charity.

26. Charles Haley

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    What...? I've done the captions for the other 49 slides! It's 3:30 am and I can't tell if I'm still looking at my computer screen or if I left the TV on. Just watch the video....

25. Sean Avery

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    Gary Payton on ice skates? Sean Avery is known for his loud mouth, trash talking, complaining, and all the other things that make a headcase hockey player.

    He's also known for a cheap shot on Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in which he skated behind Thomas while the goalie was on a knee.

    While there was still a stoppage of play, Avery hit the net-minder in the back of the helmet with his stick.

    Who picks a fight with a fully-padded hockey player holding a stick? That sir, would be Sean Avery.

24. Zinedine Zidane

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    Zidane is widely considered one of the greatest football (or soccer) players in the history of the sport. He was dominating, naturally gifted, and just a little crazy.

    His short temper was never more noticeable than the headbutt he delivered to Marco Materazzi that ended his career. He received a red card, and France would lose to Italy in the World Cup. 

    The World Cup headbutt wasn't his first: While playing for Real Madrid, Zidane was banned from the group stage of the Champions League for headbutting Hamburger SV player Jochen Kientz.

23. Roger Clemens

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    In the 2000 World Series, Roger Clemens was pitching inside to Mike Piazza. As The catcher connected on the inside of his bat with a Clemens fastball, the bat shattered and the barrel skipped towards the mound. 

    Clemens picked up the piece of wood, and hurled it at Piazza as he ran toward first. In a post-game interview, Clemens claimed he thought the chunk of bat was the ball. Watching the video, the bat wasn't even close to first base as it flew by Piazza.

    The fire-baller will be remembered as one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, a liar for denying his use of steroids, and a crazy mamma jamma!

22. Albert Haynesworth

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    What's crazier than holding out on a contract before being declared medically unable to play? How about stomping on an offensive lineman's exposed face?

    Haynesworth has become a mess in the NFL, and a major threat to opposing quarterbacks, and teams looking for someone who will show up to practice every day.

21. Randy Moss

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    One of the most prolific touchdown-scoring receivers in the history of the NFL, Moss is equally notorious off the field. 

    His record includes:

    1. Running over a traffic cop while trying to avoid getting busted with marijuana. The traffic cop sued, and Moss settled for six figures.

    2. In a 2004 game, Moss walked off the field and into the locker room while the Vikings were attempting an onside kick against the Redskins.

    3. While fully-clothed, Moss pretended to moon Packers fans and was fined $10,000.

    4. He has been spotted "dogging it" several times while not being involved in offensive plays.

    5. On the radar of some sort for "dating violence" related to Rachelle Washington.

20. Milton Bradley

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    For someone with the friendliest name in the Majors, Milton Bradley has the most violent temper.

    Kicked off several teams, most notably the Chicago Cubs after a dispute with then-manager Lou Piniella, Bradley has taken anger management classes and consulted the assistance of psychotherapists to control his anger.

    Maybe his momma named him after he threw Candy Land at her.

19. Darryl Strawberry

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    Citing a rough upbringing, Darryl Strawberry attributed his substance abuse, aggression issues, and conflicts with teammates and coaches to growing up in Los Angeles without proper parenting.

    Strawberry was a potent slugger in baseball, but off the field, he ran into legal and health issues constantly.

    He has been arrested for drug possession, soliciting sex from a prostitute, and passing out at the wheel and smashing into another car.

    However, Strawberry has cleaned up his act and formed his own charity.

18. Allen Iverson

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    Allen Iverson had a stellar NBA career, but troubles with his personal life couldn't be stifled. Drug possession, fights with coaches including Larry Brown, rap singles so explicit they can't be released, and a disappearance under stressful circumstances have built Iverson's reputation and legacy. 

    Family tragedies are difficult to go through, but Iverson's ability to continue on and recover show the same resilience he showed on the court, fighting through injuries. 

    Iverson currently plays for Beşiktaş in the Turkish Basketball League and the Eurocup, once again proving the rest of the basketball world will take our leftovers *cough* Stephon *cough*.

17. Lawrence Taylor

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    Lawrence Taylor has struggled with drugs since his introduction to the NFL. Recently (2010), Taylor was charged with rape of a 16-year-old prostitute. It appears his life is continuing to spiral downhill.

    He has also been quoted as stating he sent prostitutes to opponents' hotel rooms in an attempt to tire them out the day before the game.

16. Ron Artest

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    In Ron's meager defense, he was minding his own business and the fan took it too far. However, you have to be crazy to jump into the stands to pick fights with random fans. Artest didn't even attack the right guy. 

    Artest is also known for low-blows, pulling down the shorts of opponents, and scratching the eyes of dribblers trying to pass him.

    He has taken anger management classes to control his rage, but he will still draw Rodman comparisons likely until his playing days are over.

15. Terrell Owens

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    Most of the headcases on this list cemented their fate with angry tirades or shouting, yelling, and blaming officials for losing.

    Terrell Owens on the other hand.....added waterworks to his game and wearing sunglasses indoors. Watch out folks, he's CRAZY!

14. Ryan Leaf

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    One of the best college quarterbacks ever at Washington State, but one of the worst quarterbacks in NFL history, Ryan Leaf had his troubles off the field, too.

    Fits of rage and frustrations with the coaching staff and media made Leaf's NFL career end prematurely.

    Leaf's name is synonymous with meltdown, and recently JaMarcus Russell has drawn numerous comparisons to Leaf as a high draft pick that completely tanked in his professional career.

13. Ricky Williams

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    Ricky Williams is a prime example of crumbling under the pressures of the spotlight. The former Texas Longhorn left the NFL and disappeared, running away from family, and three illegitimate children. 

    He secluded himself on an island and smoked weed every day. Finding himself broke and alone, Williams cleaned up and re-joined the NFL. 

    Maybe that's why Ben Roethlisberger is still child's play...

12. Carlos Zambrano

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    Known for spots of superb pitching, but better known for his violent temper and propensity to beat up inanimate objects, Carlos Zambrano is the current king of the crazy in Major League Baseball.

    If he didn't pitch for the Cubs, he probably would have retired by now. 

    I'd hate to be a Gatorade cooler in is house around April 15 (It's a finance joke, just Google it).

11. John Rocker

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    The difficulty I experienced when attempting to find a John Rocker video is not surprising. Major League Baseball would like to forget they let this guy pitch in the Bigs.

    The former relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves had multiple incidents of on-camera racist rants, was caught on camera several times flipping off fans, and generally hated everybody.

    Rocker was eventually forced to retire when no team would hire the headcase. Legend has it he is somewhere with padded walls playing checkers while swearing at the black pieces for moving too slow.

10. Stephon Marbury

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    If a grown man crying makes you cringe, you may want to skip this video of Stephon crying in a Twitter video. 

    Numerous bouts with the law and pretty much every team he has ever played for has earned Marbury a reputation of futility. 

    He currently plays for the Foshan Dragon Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. Maybe playing thousands of miles away from all his screw-ups against guys that don't know the meaning of the "N-word" might help him re-center. 

9. John McEnroe

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    "You Can NOT be Serious!" 

    Whether tennis people like it or not, John McEnroe brought entertainment to a sport steeped in tradition.

    McEnroe is famous for his fits and rants over calls that didn't go his way. Since his tennis career, McEnroe has done numerous cameos showing off that signature anger and arrogant swagger. 

    Maybe Serena should start wearing a sweat headband and polo shirt...she's already got the 'fro (What? Ah c'mon, you know it's funny!).

8. Bill "Spaceman" Lee

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    How do you describe "The Spaceman" accurately? Well....just watch the video.

    Other than smoking marijuana before every game while claiming weed made him impervious to bus fumes, and threatening to chew off the ears of umpires he didn't like, Bill Lee was just your average guy.....

7. Lawrence Phillips

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    Someone needs to tell this guy Everlast is still making punching bags. Lawrence Phillips had a promising NFL career ahead of him after building his draft stock playing for Nebraska. However, five teams ahead of the Rams passed on Phillips, citing his behavioral problems and bouts of aggression. 

    However, the Rams took a gamble on him, after Phillips had already assaulted his ex-girlfriend while at Nebraska.

    A verbal dispute between Phillips and then Rams Head Coach Dick Vermeil led to Phillips' release, and subsequent signing with the Miami Dolphins. The running back added to his rap sheet while in Miami, pleading no contest to assaulting a woman in a nightclub.

    Even the CFL and AFL couldn't hold Phillips, who was cut from every team he played for following insubordination.

    After his football career ended, Phillips was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon after attempting to mow down some teenagers with his car. Evidently he got into a dispute with them regarding a pick-up game in Los Angeles. 

    There's more on his record, but my fingers are getting tired from typing. Anyway, Phillips was sentenced to over 30 years in prison for assault on his girlfriend and the felony assault with a deadly weapon charge.

6. Jimmy Piersall

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    Piersall was one of the earliest recorded cases of bipolar disorder in Major League Baseball, although at the time, the disorder was not known by that name.


    "On May 24, 1952, just before the game against the New York Yankees, Piersall engaged in a fistfight with Yankee infielder Billy Martin. Following the brawl, Piersall briefly scuffled with teammate Mickey McDermott in the Red Sox clubhouse.

    "After several such incidents, Piersall was sent to the minor league Birmingham Barons on June 28. The final straw came when Piersall spanked the four-year-old son of teammate Vern Stephens in the Red Sox clubhouse during a game.

    In less than three weeks with the Barons, Piersall was ejected on four occasions, the last coming after striking out in the second inning on July 16. Prior to his at-bat, he had acknowledged teammate Milt Bolling's home run by spraying a water pistol on home plate. Piersall then moved to the grandstand roof to heckle home plate umpire Neil Strocchia.

    Receiving a three-day suspension, Piersall entered treatment three days later at the Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts. Diagnosed with "nervous exhaustion," he would spend the next seven weeks in the facility and miss the remainder of the season.

    According to his autobiography, Piersall blamed much of his condition on his father, who pressured him as a small child to aim for success as a professional baseball player.

    Piersall returned to the Red Sox in the 1953 season, finishing ninth in voting for the MVP Award, and remained a fixture in the starting lineup through 1958.

    He once stepped up to bat wearing a Beatles wig and playing "air guitar" on his bat, led cheers for himself in the outfield during breaks in play, and "talked" to Babe Ruth behind the center field monuments at Yankee Stadium.

    In his autobiography, Piersall commented, "Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Who ever heard of Jimmy Piersall, until that happened?"'


5. Mark "the Bird" Fidrych

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    Named for his tall and lanky size, Mark "the Bird" Fidrych resembled Big Bird and was therefore named accordingly. His size and shape wasn't even the half of it!

    Fidrych was known for such things as replacing cleat marks on the mound, talking to himself, talking to the ball, strutting around the mound after every out even if there were runners on base, and routinely throwing the ball back to the umpire "because it had too many hits in it" to replace it with a new one. 

    The eccentric pitcher also lived in a small apartment, drove an economy car, and played for the league minimum.

    For a peculiar man, he suffered a very peculiar death as well. In 2009, Fidrych was found dead under his dump truck, apparently having had his clothes caught in the power takeoff shaft of the truck while attempting to repair it.

4. John Daly

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    I got nothin'....





    ....He's crazy!

3. Bill Romanowski

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    The video says it all. Romanowski built his career on vicious hits and low blows. Off the field, he admitted to substance abuse and steroids. 

    He routinely attacked teammates, once injuring Marcus Williams during a scrimmage and settling with him for $340,000. 

    Romanowski's involvement in the BALCO steroid scandal permanently cemented his name in the annals of the NFL as a dark spot for the league.

    Since his successful but dark career, Romanowski published an best-selling autobiography entitled "Romo My Life on the Edge: Living Dreams and Slaying Dragons."

    He has started his own supplement company. He has also appeared in several major films, including the Adam Sandler remake of "The Longest Yard" and "Get Smart" with Steve Carrell.

2. Dennis Rodman

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    Dennis Rodman is still known as the All-Time bad boy of the NBA, and coincidentally the bad woman too.

    Cross-dressing, 40 different hair color combinations/designs and counting, piercings all over his entire body, taking his jersey off while still on the floor, dating Carmen Electra, the list goes on and on....

    Rodman is certainly the most notorious, and probably the most talented head case to play the game of basketball. 

1. Mike Tyson

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    CAUTION: This video has graphic language. Mike Tyson is crazy!

    What else to say about Mike Tyson? Dining on ears, threatening to step on children's testicles before devouring them, then praising God for being a headcase. 

    Love him or hate him, Mike Tyson is the craziest!