Few things in the world of sports are more amusing or mysterious than fat athletes. These portly, pudgy players pack on the pounds yet somehow still manage to pull off the role of "professional" , often accomplishing what physics alone would deem improbable.
In sports like football, weight can be a key asset, but baseball is different story. With its stops and starts, periods of inactivity and bursts of action, it is, for the most part, a fit man's game. Still, throughout its history and even today, the game employs notable exceptions.
Let's take a trip through the annals of MLB looking for big'uns who made their mark. And where better to begin than the here and now? First up are 15 active players who tip the scales. Following those are 30 of history's tubbiest talents. In all, 45 big-eaters who have left a hefty imprint on America's pasttime.
I'll say up front that this is not intended to be malicious or insulting to players, their families, friends or fans. It is (I hope) all in good fun. Official heights and dubious weights are provided by baseball-reference.com.
Lee carries his weight well, coming across as more "thick" than truly fat. But don't be fooled. Listed at 6'2" and 265 pounds, and probably a bit over that mark these days, Lee certainly belongs.
Though he's had a rough couple of year, Lee put together eight consecutive seasons with OPS totals above .800. He's a lifetime .286 hitter.
Big Donkey's vital stats say 6'6", 285 pounds. But three bills is well within reach. Dunn is one of those players who is simply massive in every way, both physically and in terms of his power at the dish.
Sure, 2011 has been a bust thus far. But seven straight years of 38 or more homers tells us all we need to know about his skills.
Big Z is famous for his temper, and given his 6'5", 270-pound frame, it's best if he's mad at someone other than you. This husky hurler hasn't let his weight get in the way as evidence by his lifetime 3.55 ERA.
Zambrano has finished in the top five of Cy Young Award voting three times, and though he's struggling a bit this year, he'll probably be good trade bait at the deadline.
Quite possibly the nicest guy in baseball, Big Papi is hardly intimidating when he's not at the plate. But for pitchers who have to face him, it's a different story. Listed at 6'4", 230 pounds, Ortiz is almost certainly closer to 250 or beyond.
A couple of down years had folks thinking he might be finished, but a 2010 rebound set us all straight. And Ortiz's 2011 has been ridiculously good.
Howard needs a good nickname, don't you think? Like a handful of others on this list, he's not actually fat, but he is a massive figure. Officially 6'4" and 240 pounds, Howard is all about the power stroke at the plate.
One of the best home run hitters in the game, Howard had four consecutive seasons of 45 or more dingers before dropping off last season.
I've noted that he's looking more streamlined this year and is threatening to get himself worked off of this list. Hey Howard, go have a hoagie.
Another 6'4", 240-pounder is Miguel Cabrera, who has caught some flack for his weight over the years. Miggy tends to show up for Spring Training a little soft, and in the past that didn't go over too well with his coaches.
An alcohol problem that culminated in a recent DUI probably doesn't help his battle with the bulge, but his sky-high talent helps fans and teammates overlook any shortcomings. Cabrera hasn't had an OPS lower than .879 in any full season.
Listed at 6'2", 250 pounds, Jose is the biggest of the catching Molina brothers, but his siblings could each make their own case for inclusion on this list. Being a corpulent backstop has its advantages; the ball has to work pretty hard to find its way around Jose.
Molina has never been a big offensive threat, but he has enjoyed a long and sustained career in the majors.
The Big Puma looks a little more svelte this season than he did in pinstripes, but he's still a large man. His 6'1", 220-pound vitals may be a bit generous, and at various points in his career Berkman has looked downright chunky.
However, the guy can rake. Most fans forget just how good he was; from 2000 through 2006, Berkman's OPS topped 1.000 three times and never dipped lower than .927. His 2011 is a comeback campaign after a rough 2010.
Oh yes. Matt Stairs, Professional Hitter is still alive and well. Now with the Nationals, this 5'9" fireplug is 43 years old, and has probably added to his one-time 200-pound frame.
Stairs is an interesting character because he's never been great, but has somehow hung on for nearly two decades. A lifetime .263 hitter, he's relied on his respectable home run rate to stay useful as a role player.
It's exceedingly unlikely that Joba the Hutt is "only" 240 pounds. The 6'2" pitcher looks considerably more doughy. Regardless, he has great stuff but seems unable to stay healthy enough to use it.
The Yankees have handled him with kid gloves, but their caution hasn't been enough to get his big-league career on track. After a promising 2008, Chamberlain slipped in recent seasons before scheduling Tommy John surgery in 2011.
Bib Bobby sports a big belly, looking very little like a prototypical closer. And in fact, the 6'4", 275-pound righty is not your typical fireman. Over the years he's sported some ugly WHIP totals, putting too many runners on and yet somehow holding on for saves.
Jenks was given the old heave-ho by the White Sox but picked up by Boston. Unfortunately, he's spent much of 2011 on the D.L.
At 5'11", 240 pounds, Kung Fu Panda is one of the rounder frames in the game. But the on-base skills he flashed in 2009 had the Giants and their fans looking past the mass. If you didn't know any better, you would never peg this guy for a third baseman.
Sandoval is impressively quick for his size, but his career has already been marred by injury. It's worth wondering if his build is going to be a long-term problem.
Now 38 years old, Colon is listed at 5'11", 265 pounds. But you'd better believe he surpassed that number a long time ago. The surprising starter has been a boon for the Yankees this year after being out of baseball in 2010.
Colon hasn't really been relevant since the 2005 season, but he's looking to change that with a strong 2011 campaign. before going on the D.L. he had a 3.10 ERA in 13 appearances.
Odds are that for pure body fat, Fielder is tops in the majors. He's listed at 5'11", 275 pounds, but in reality is almost certainly 300-plus. Cursed by genetics, which will be covered a bit later on, Fielder has nonetheless become an absurdly powerful force at the plate.
Only 27 years old, The Big Veggie already has a 50-home run season under his prodigious belt, and should be a power threat for years to come. Ultimately, he'll probably be a designated hitter.
Oh my largeness. Carsten Charles Sabathia is a mountain of a man at 6'7", but his listed weight of 290 pounds just isn't believable. But whatever his true total, the guy can bring the heat.
One of the game's best pitchers, Sabathia has strung together five consecutive seasons with ERAs below 3.50 and is looking to add a sixth in 2011. He has one Cy Young to his credit and could very well add to that before he's done.
As plump as some of today's players are, the current game's got nothing on years past. Over the decades, baseball has featured more than its share of girthy giants.
It's time to shift gears away from the active and look at 30 of MLB's all-time fattest athletes.
Don't think of these as being in any kind of strictly ranked order. It's just a large and lugubrious mixture of pitchers and hitters, famous names and the lesser known. All are big-time players, if you catch my drift.
Walter Young had no more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues, appearing briefly for the Orioles in 2005. But this list could hardly exist without including him. Because Young has the heaviest recorded weight in the history of Major League Baseball.
At 6'5", 322 pounds, his official numbers make his baseball's most massive player.
Before Walter Young, the title of heaviest player was held by another Walter. Walter "Jumbo" Brown was 6'4" and weighed 295 pounds during his prime.
Oddly enough, Jumbo was a relief pitcher in an era when that position was almost unheard of. I wonder if it had anything to do with his...conditioning.
Joe Table started off his career back in the '80s as a lanky 6'3", 170-pounder. Those vitals changed dramatically over time. Twenty years later at the end of his career, Mesa had packed on the pounds, making his name far more eponymous.
In other words, the older Mesa very much resembled a mesa.
I suspect that if you were to look up "husky" in the dictionary, you'd be met with a picture of Fasano. The mustachioed catcher is chronicled at 6'2", 220 pounds, but the latter is a rather generous total.
The rigors of catching did little to keep Fasano lithe and lean.
Fetters is forever synonymous with a fat face. That seems like a cruel thing to say, all set out in type, but the man simply had a jolly countenance. There's no getting around it.
At 6'4", Fetter started at 200 pounds or so and went up from there, but his weight didn't hamper his effectiveness. A lifetime 3.86 ERA over 16 seasons is impressive.
It would have been enough for Incaviglia to be his stocky self. But throw in a curly mullet and a rockin' '80s mustache, and you go from ballplayer to caricature.
The 6'1", 225-pound Inky was a solid contributor over the first half of his career before tailing off. But as his batting numbers dropped, his number on the scale rose.
Like Inky, Luzinski also played for the Phillies. But he looked far more stylish during his White Sox days. In his prime, the 6'1" Luzinski was well above his listed weight of 220 pounds.
In his mid-twenties, Luzinski posted some big-time numbers, including a couple of .394 OBP totals.
In 1985, talk show king David Letterman famously called Forster a "fat tub of goo" on the air. Instead of taking offense, Forster basically embraced the description and his popularity soared. Weighing as much as 270 pounds while pitching for Atlanta, Forster went so far as to record a song entitled "Fat is In".
For some reason, you can buy it through Amazon.com.
Forster was a pretty good relief pitcher over his 16-year career, performing well in both leagues.
Best known for having six fingers and six toes on each of his limbs, Alfonseca is a tough man to forget. At 6'5", Alfonseca was able to carry his massive weight effectively, although some of his employers believed that it contributed to back problems.
In 2001, the Marlins asked Alfonseca to lose some weight to help alleviate a disc problem. The request did not go over very well.
Lance Berkman's stunt double? Hrbek was a lifelong Twin who earned runner-up honors for the bother the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards over his 14-year career. Known for good power in the mostly punchless '80s, Hrbek put together a lifetime .282 average and .848 OPS.
The 6'4" first baseman began around 200 pounds but was far heftier by his later days, weighing 235 or more. But the pounds didn't hold him back from being a talented slugger and a strong defender.
Finally, a player whose listed weight is refreshingly realistic. At 6'1", 240 pounds, Bob "The Hammer" Hamelin is a personal cult hero of mine. With the fantastic glasses, the early '90s mullet, and the mostly marginal numbers, Hamelin was simply a guy I had to root for.
Playing mostly with the Royals over a six-year career, Hamelin actually won the Rookie of the Year award in 1994 before falling into obscurity. There's a trivia question for your next party.
Infamously dubbed a "fat toad" by George Steinbrenner, Hideki Irabu was New York's attempt to find the next great Japanese import. It didn't work out so well. Irabu was a bust with the Yankees and struggled through a six-year career in the majors that ended with a lifetime 5.15 ERA.
However, the 6'4", 240-pound Irabu somehow found a way to get a pair of World Series rings out of the deal.
The plump Pendleton starting off as a skinny speedster back in the mid-'80s. But over time, his stolen bases gave way to a certain rotundness. Whatever his shape, the 5'9" Pendleton was always a good hitter with strong on-base skills, and even won an MVP in 1991.
With the Braves, Pendleton was also a Gold Glove-winning third baseman.
Ray King: Mike Fetters' brother from another mother. Another fat -faced reliever, King posted a .346 ERA over the course of a decade in the N.L.
Listed at 225, King flew past that number years ago. But the big man could throw.
Da Meathook's official weight of 215 is a good joke, but his true mass is likely closer to his lifetime batting average of .292. Young was actually a great hitter over the course of his 13-year career; in his prime, he hit .300 or better in four consecutive seasons.
Young retired at age 34 and took up coaching. His brother Delmon still plays.
Like Incaviglia, Beck was a devotee of the curly mullet and mustache look, though he took his facial hair a bit further. Beck's appearance was occasionally slovenly, but he was a solid reliever during a 13-year career.
Beck once said, "I sure don't think of myself as a fat person, just someone who carries extra weight. I've never seen anyone on the DL with pulled fat."
Rod Beck died in 2007 in what is thought to have been a drug-related incident.
El Sid was a Hawaiian-born southpaw whose 15-year career featured a very impressive 3.36 ERA. he was known for historically low hit rates; his lifetime 6.9 hits per nine innings is good for third all-time.
Fernandez started off around 220, but as his career wore on he became more and more Sabathia-esque on the bump.
There's just something about fat relievers. They're all over this list. Perhaps they could get away with being heavy because their appearances were usually of short durations.
The 6'1" Wickman amassed a 3.57 ERA over 15 seasons. The high point of his career was 2005, in which he somehow became known as a "proven closer" and led the A.L. with 45 saves.
If any one player could be the face of fat baseball guys everywhere, it's Kruk. Looking about as athletic as an overstuffed sofa, Kruk's hairy, sweaty physique was the kind of thing that no baseball fan can forget.
Somehow, this guy was a lifetime .300 hitter with a spectacular .397 on-base percentage.
Oh, and if you want a laugh, check out his official vitals: 5'10", 170 pounds.
Sir Sidney the Aruban Knight. Yes, this 260-pounder was knighted in 2003, receiving the Order of Orange-Nassau from the Netherlands government. It is an honor hardly befitting his baseball career. Mixed in with off-the-field alcohol problems was a lifetime 5.03 ERA.
Ponson was expected to be a quality pitcher in the majors, but no matter how much leeway the Orioles gave him, he never quite got there.
Valenzuela was like a 6'6" pitcher crammed into a 5'11" frame. Described as having a "Ruthian physique", the Mexican-born Valenzuela was the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award winner in 1981.
Fernando went on to enjoy a 17-year career, finishing with a 3.54 ERA. As a testament to his athleticism, he won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.
On a personal note, my first "real" baseball glove bore his autograph.
The 1989 N.L. MVP, Mitchell was an unusual sight on the diamond. A 5'10" power hitter who crushed 47 homers for the Giants in '89 before the team ultimately lost in an earthquake-riddled World Series.
Mitchell also found success with the Reds, though in between those tenures he labored through a 1992 campaign with the Mariners. Seattle was disappointed because the stocky outfielder reported to training camp weighing well over 200 pounds.
Mitchell was prone to legal trouble off the field, reportedly due to a fiery temper and tendency to hit things.
During his Boston days, the Hit Dog was like a heftier version of Big Papi. He was the power in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, won an MVP in 1995, and clubbed a total of 269 RBI over the course of the '95 and '96 seasons.
After departing Beantown, he seemed to get even larger, weighing in at 275 pounds by the time he got to the Mets in 2002.
If the Hit Dog was Boston's hero with a bat, then El Guapo was its hero on the mound. Okay, not exactly the same thing, but Rich Garces was indeed a cult hero due to his ungainly appearance and periodically effective relief pitching.
In 1999, El Guapo was all the rage with his 1.55 ERA. The fan favorite would begin to slip after that and retired in 2002 following a ten-year career.
From the Hit Dog to the Big Cat: Galarraga was a big man who was renowned for his quick feet and stellar batting skills. El Gato was an All-Star with the Expos, Rockies and Braves and won a batting title while in Colorado.
Galarraga is remembered for his successful fight against cancer. He won Comeback Player of the Year in 2000 following his battle.
The 6'3" Wells actually began his MLB career listed at 187 pounds. But for those of us who watched Boomer, we know he was probably closer to 250. His mass didn't seem to limit him on the mound, however. Wells hurled a perfect game in 1998, earned multiple All-Star selections, and enjoyed a 21-year career.
Wells made the playoffs with six different teams, which is most all-time.
Like father, like son. Before Prince there was Big Daddy, the 6'3" 280-pound Cecil Fielder. He was a true power hitter for Detroit through the '80s and '90s, smashing a league best 51 homers in 1990 and leading the A.L. again in 1991 with 44.
Cecil was twice an MVP runner-up, but couldn't sustain his success as he aged. His 13-year career was highlighted by an effective prime, but Fielder tailed off quickly after 1996.
One of the greatest Minnesota Twins of all-time, the 5'8" Puckett was a superior hitter. Owner of a lifetime .318 average, Puckett won a batting title in 1989 and was a ten-time All-Star during his 12-year career.
Glaucoma forced him into an early retirement, and subsequent legal trouble tarnished Puckett's squeaky-clean image. He died from a stroke in 2006.
But many baseball fans choose to remember him as the Hall of Famer with two World Series wins and an uncanny ability to play well beyond his size and build.
While on the subject of superior hitters, let's discuss eight-time batting champ Tony Gwynn. The rotund Hall of Famer was a 15-time All-Star who remains one of the best pure hitters that the game has ever seen.
Gwynn's lifetime .338 average and .388 on-base percentage are remarkable enough, but what truly stood out was his consistency. Aside from his rookie season, Gwynn never failed to hit .300 or better. That's 19 consecutive years of awesome.
Like most baseball lists, this one ends with Babe Ruth. As it should. The game's all-time greatest player was also famously huge with an appetite for excess.
Ruth ushered in the power game, made home runs popular, and a was an all-around larger-than-life figure for more than two decades.
As far as fat ballplayers go, it's impossible to do better.