Throughout the history of the game, many players have made their living on being tough.
When we think of baseball, it’s not exactly a contact sport like football or hockey, but toughness on the baseball diamond is much more than getting into fights.
Hustling and getting dirty define toughness in baseball.
Here are five of the toughest players in baseball history.
Feel free to include other tough players in the comments section.
Jason Varitek is someone you don’t want to mess with.
But except for his well known fight with Alex Rodriguez at Fenway Park in 2004, Varitek isn’t really known as a fighter.
He’s known as someone that will protect his teammates at all costs.
Though his playing time has diminished over the past year, he still sets a positive example for the young players on his team by playing hard all the time.
Catchers, in general, are almost always classified as tough since wearing the tools of ignorance certainly requires toughness.
Lenny Dykstra played the game with a “run through the walls” mentality, which earned him his nickname “Nails.”
And, boy, was he tough as nails.
It was almost difficult to tell which team he played for since he always had so much dirt and grass on his uniform.
In 1986, he teamed up with Wally Backman atop the New York Mets batting order to form a dynamic duo that set the table for the eventual World Champions.
However, recently he was indicted for bankruptcy fraud and his toughness on the field hasn’t saved him from his off-the-field problems.
Ty Cobb was the sort of player that had to be tough because basically everyone else hated him.
Even his own teammates were not too fond of him as a person.
However, as a player, no one could question the Georgia Peach’s toughness.
But in one instance, Cobb took it a bit far.
He was being vehemently heckled by a fan during a game in May 1912. He warned that there would be trouble if the fan was not ejected.
When the insults didn’t stop in the bottom of the sixth inning, Cobb climbed the outfield wall and began beating the man senseless.
Cobb was suspended indefinitely for the incident.
Pete Rose was nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” for all-out effort at all times.
His motor was at full gear every time he stepped between the foul lines and often times in the dugout and weight room as well.
But Rose had a mental toughness that allowed him to become the league’s all-time hits leader.
He wasn’t afraid to fight either. Who could forget his dispute with Mets shortstop Buddy Harrelson in the 1973 playoffs?
However, the moment that defined Rose’s toughness came in the 1970 All-Star Game when he barreled over Ray Fosse at home plate to score the winning run.
It’s unfortunate what happened after Rose hung up the spikes, but he was still an extremely tough player.
Once again, catchers have to be tough to play the position.
And what more can be said about the toughness of Johnny Bench?
The following story sums up his toughness.
In April 1975, Bench awaited a throw from Cincinnati Reds left fielder Pete Rose to try to cut off a runner at home plate. However, that runner was 6'3" Gary Matthews known as “Sarge.”
Sarge barreled into Bench and sent him flying backwards. Bench felt a sharp pain in his shoulder, but he figured it would just go away so he stayed in the game.
But the pain remained all season. Still, it didn’t stop Bench from leading the Reds to a World Series title.