The 15 Most Intimidating Little Men In Sports

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 21, 2011

The 15 Most Intimidating Little Men In Sports

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    The world of sports is chock full of men who are just plain intimidating. Sports are, after all, just like any other competition, where intimidation is one of the major keys to victory.

    If you were to sit back and try to rattle off a list of the most intimidating athletes of all-time, I suspect that names like Lawrence Taylor, Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali and maybe Randy Johnson would all come to mind. Either way, it's a good bet that most, if not all, of the people you would think of would be quite big in stature.

    But hey, little guys can be intimidating too. Manny Pacquiao stands at just 5'6" and he's the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Nate Robinson is just 5'9," and he can dunk over anyone. Bob Sanders is just 5'8," and he's a former Defensive Player of the Year.

    As you will see, there are many more little guys that are and were just plain bad-asses—and it is to them that we pay homage today.

15. Nate Robinson

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    True, the 5'9" Nate Robinson is not the smallest player ever to lace 'em up in the NBA, nor is he the shortest Slam Dunk Champion of all-time (damn you, Spud Webb!). And to be sure, his antics are often times quite silly (like the time he nearly broke his face after falling off Paul Pierce).

    Nevertheless, he dunked over Dwight Howard, who is one of the most intimidating players currently playing in the NBA.

    Point made. Next slide.

14. Jose Batista

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    In his heyday, Uruguayan defender Jose Batista had a reputation of being one of the dirtier players on the pitch. He was also one of the shortest, as he was barely pushing 5'4".

    Batista's claim to fame is a good one, as he just so happens to hold the World Cup record for the fastest red card ever given out. That was back in 1986, when Batista was sent off 56 seconds into Uruguay's match against Scotland for a "reckless challenge" on Gordon Strachan.

    As one website put it, Batista's challenge "threatened to reduce Gordon Strachan to his constituent parts."

    I don't know what that means, but it sounds hilarious. It also makes me frightened of Batista.

13. Theo Fleury

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    Much like football, hockey is not a sport for small men. The key difference, however, is that football doesn't involve getting slammed against walls, falling face-first on solid ice, and getting punched in the face.

    If you can grasp all that, then the fact that Theo Fleury, who stood at just 5'6," was able to play the sport at such a high level is amazing in and of itself. Factor in the fact that he was one of the more physical players around in his time, and you'll realize he was a Grade A badass.

    Whether you want to call Fleury a pest or an enforcer, he specialized in pissing people off. He was also a key figure in the notorious "Punch-up in Pestiany," a brawl that got both his Canadian squad and the Soviet Union disqualified from the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

12. Bob Sanders

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    Bob Sanders may be out of a job and his best days are probably behind him, but that doesn't change the fact that he is a badass. Indeed, how many other 5'8" players can you name that have been titled the Defensive Player of the Year?

    Not surprisingly for a guy his size, Sanders was something of a draft day steal, going 44th overall to the Colts back in 2004. He played sparingly in his rookie season, but really came into his own in 2005, developing into a true playmaker and one of the league's hardest-hitting safeties.

    Here's hoping he still has some juice left, because he sure is fun to watch. Players on various offenses around the NFL, however, would probably not want to have to deal with him any more.

11. Maurice Jones-Drew

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    I can't remember who it was, but I definitely recall an opposing defender describing Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew as a "little ball of muscle."

    Considering the fact that Jones-Drew's 5'7" frame tips the scales at nearly 210 pounds, I'd say that's an apt description. And this is exactly what separates him from other small running backs who get by mainly on speed and elusiveness (i.e. Darren Sproles). Jones-Drew is one of the more powerful runners in the league today and would-be tacklers are going to be sore the next morning if they hit him head-on.

    Yup, they build 'em tough in Oakland.

10. Calvin Borel

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    Calvin Borel is one of the more accomplished jockeys in horse racing today, totaling 4,776 career wins, which includes three Kentucky Derby victories.

    Like all jockeys, Borel is a pretty small guy. I don't have exact measurements, but I'm pretty sure you should be able to take my word for it without much difficulty.

    If you can do that, you should also take my word for it that you don't want to cut him off in the middle of a race. That's what Javier Castellano did back at the first day of the Breeder's Cup and it caused Borel to go absolutely off his rocker.

    I mean, just look at that picture. How much do you not want to be the guy in yellow?

9. Jeff Monson

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    If this picture is any indication, it might be foolish to call Jeff Monson "little." But he is the shortest man in UFC's Heavyweight division at 5'9," so I'm going to allow it.

    Monson's career hasn't been all that decorated, but it was his big break back in November of 2006 that caught my eye. That was when Monson fought Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Monson lost, but he was a badass just for getting into the octagon.

    I say this because Sylvia is 6'8" and over 300 pounds, making him more than 70 pounds heavier and nearly a full foot taller than Monson.

    Clearly, Sylvia knew not to stare into Monson's eyes.

8. Pedro Martinez

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    He may have been a little silly on days he wasn't pitching. But on the mound, Pedro Martinez was one mean son of a gun.

    At just 5'11," Pedro pretty much set the bar for short pitchers. And when he was in his prime, nobody was as unhittable as Pedro was. Now that his career is over, there's a good chance that he'll end up in the Hall of Fame in the near future.

    Of course, as dominant as Pedro was back in the day, he also had a well-earned reputation as a headhunter. If a batter did something in the box that annoyed Pedro, that dude was getting drilled. And he had no qualms whatsoever about grabbing elderly men by the head and flinging them to the ground.

    Shoot, not even Babe Ruth would have been safe against Pedro. "Wake up the damn Bambino," Pedro once said. "Maybe I'll drill him in the ass."

7. Tommy Burns

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    Tommy Burns has two pretty unique distinctions next to his name. The first is that he is the only Canadian-born heavyweight boxing champion in history. The other is that he is also the shortest heavyweight champ of all-time.

    Born Noah Brusso and nicknamed "The Little Giant of Hanover," Burns stood at just 5'7" and he defended his title 11 times after he won it in 1906.

    Of course, Burns is also known for being the first boxer to grant a black man a shot at the title.

    "I propose to be the champion of the world," he said, "not the white, or the Canadian, or the American. If I am not the best man in the heavyweight division, I don't want the title."

    It just so happens that he lost his title to the first black man he fought, Jack Johnson, back in 1908. Burns was outweighed by about 30 pounds in that fight and was suffering from the flu, but he still lasted 14 rounds.

    Said Johnson of Burns after the fight: "He was beaten, but he was game."

6. Joe Morgan

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    With all respect to Dustin Pedroia, Bobby Shantz and Phil Rizzuto, Joe Morgan is by far the best little guy ever to play the game of baseball. He's a Hall of Famer and baseball guru Bill James called him the "greatest percentages player in baseball history." Not sure what that means, but because it was Bill James who said it, it must be true.

    In any case, Morgan played much bigger than his 5'7" stature. He was a two-time National League MVP, a five-time Gold Glove winner and a two-time World Series champion. He also hit 20 or more homers four times and led the NL in slugging in 1976.

    To be sure, he isn't all that intimidating (or good) in the broadcast booth, but you can bet that not a pitcher alive wanted to face him back in the 70s.

5. Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez

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    As anybody who has had dealings with angry little dudes can tell you, they are quite the persistent lot.

    This was certainly the case with Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez. He won 43 of his 49 fights between 1984 and 1995, 31 of them by knockout.

    Gonzalez is perhaps most well-known for his fights with Michael Carbajal. As you can see, the 5'6" Carbajal fairly dwarfed the 5'1" Gonzalez and he was able to defeat him in their first junior flyweight bout way back in 1993.

    Not to be outdone, the two engaged in a rematch in February of 1994 and Gonzelez won in 12 rounds. In November, they fought again and Gonzalez once again won in 12 rounds.

    Carbajal's lesson: don't [bleep] with Chiquita Gonzalez.

4. Leonel Sanchez

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    Leonel Sanchez doesn't look very scary, does he?

    I didn't think so either when I first saw his picture. After all, he's just 5'8" and he certainly doesn't look like a threat.

    But that's when one does his research. And now I know to show some respect.

    The son of a professional boxer, Sanchez is one of Chile's most important footballers. He played for 20 years and scored 23 international goals.

    Four of those goals came in the 1962 World Cup, where Sanchez took part in one of the most infamous moments in the event's history. In a match against Italy, which is now known as the "Battle of Santiago," Sanchez threw a left hook at Mario David, knocking him out.

    The referee at that match was a fellow named Ken Aston and he would go on to invent red and yellow cards. Yup, those bloody things are all thanks to Aston's haymaker.

3. Frankie Genaro

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    Frankie Genaro (1901-1966) was one of the more accomplished boxers in his day, winning 96 of his 130 career bouts, with his biggest achievement being winning a gold medal at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp when he was just 18.

    As you can see, Genaro was pretty tiny. I wasn't able to find out how much he weighed, but he stood at just 5'1."

    Genaro did have only 19 knockouts in his career, but that might actually make him more scary. Just think about it. How much of a nightmare would it be if you were forced to take punches from a 5'1" fighter round after round?

    Shoot, I just had a nightmare about it last night.

2. Manny Pacquiao

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    If I may make a point that has already been made by millions of other people around the globe, you will not find a better boxer in this day and age than Manny Pacquiao. The dude is an eight-division world champion and he has lost just one fight in the last decade.

    However, good luck finding him in a crowded area. Pacman stands at just barely over 5'6" and he generally weighs in anywhere between 140 and 150 pounds.

    To be fair, Pacquiao is one of the nicer and more humble athletes in sports and he seems like he would be a great guy to sit down and have a beer with. But he also stepped into the ring against the 5'11" Antonio Margarito back in November and proceeded to break his face.

    Good luck, Mr. Mosley.

1. Jack Tatum

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    Perhaps no player in the history of the NFL delivered harder hits than the late great Jack Tatum. This has unfortunately made for a rather bittersweet legacy, as one of those hits paralyzed New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley from the neck down. That was in 1978, and the two never spoke to each other for the rest of their respective lives.

    Still, the Assassin was barely taller than Bob Sanders at 5'10" and going over the middle with him lying in wait was obviously pretty risky. It never ceases to amaze how old highlights make it look like opposing players were running into a brick wall when Tatum laid down the hammer.

    Shoot, if Tatum were playing in today's NFL, one can only imagine how much he would have to pay in fines every year.