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50 Players with the Most Swagger in MLB History

Jeffrey BeckmannCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2011

50 Players with the Most Swagger in MLB History

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    Every player in Major League Baseball history has had some level of confidence, yet very few have been fortunate enough to take the field with pure swagger.

    Swagger isn't something you can learn or something you can pick up over time—it's something you're born with. You either have it or you don't.

    It's a certain attitude that you bring to the game with extreme confidence. At times it may be considered cockiness or arrogance, while at other times a person can have swagger without even realizing it. This list has a mix of both.

    Here are the 50 players with the most swagger in MLB history.

50. Cal Ripken Jr.

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    Many naysayers knock on Cal Ripken Jr.'s "Iron Man" streak, saying he only accomplished the feat because he was arrogant and selfish.

    While that may be partially true, Ripken still played the game every day for 20-plus years with the utmost confidence. During the latter portion of his career, Ripken said, "Stubbornness is usually considered a negative, but I think that trait has been a positive for me."

49. Dave Kingman

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    Dave Kingman seemed to hate just about everyone and everything, at times even baseball itself.

    Kingman, however, still put fear into opposing pitchers with his swagger at the plate. Heck, the guy even put fear into some of his own teammates.

    He retired with 442 home runs and later became the first (but not last) player to hit 400-plus homers not elected into the Hall of Fame.

48. Bert Blyleven

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    Bert Blyleven always brought some attitude with him to the mound, and his sometimes wild personality led him to bounce around from team to team over his 22-year career.

    Whether he was blatantly giving the middle finger to a television camera or dropping F-bombs during a live broadcast, Blyleven was never distracted and always conducted his business on the mound efficiently.

47. Christy Mathewson

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    With a nickname like "The Christian Gentleman," earned due to the fact he would never pitch on Sundays, there is no doubt that Christy Mathewson exhibited swagger throughout his illustrious career.

    During the 1905 World Series, Mathewson pitch three complete-game shutouts in one of the most remarkable performances in MLB history.

    One of his greatest quotes was, "You must have an alibi to show why you lost. If you haven't one, you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained."

46. Curt Schilling

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    Curt Schilling had a love-hate relationship with just about every player, teammate and fan, but he was always in command when he took the mound. I mean, the guy has a bloody sock in the Hall of Fame!

    When asked whether he cared what people think about him, Schilling replied, "I care what people think, but that doesn't change what I say. I am who I am."

45. Gary Sheffield

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    Gary Sheffield is perhaps one of the most arrogant players in MLB history, yet for the most part, he was always able to back up his selfishness with production on the field.

    While Sheffield will most likely miss out on the Hall of Fame, he will always be remembered for the way he carried himself on and off the field. I don't think that's a good thing.

44. Harmon Killebrew

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    Harmon Killebrew earned the nickname "Killer" by making 500-plus-foot home runs look easy. While his nickname makes him sound pretty daunting, Killebrew was actually one of the nicest players to ever play the game.

    Killebrew knew he was great, yet he always played the game with class and professionalism. Opposing pitchers feared him all the same, as his tape-measure home runs spoke for themselves. 

43. Tino Martinez

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    Tino Martinez was never flashy and rarely was he arrogant, but he brought a certain attitude to the game that was vital to the Yankees four World Series championships between 1996-2000.

    His time in the Bronx was capped off by a monstrous game-tying, two-out, two-run home run in the ninth inning during Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.

42. Frank Thomas

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    The only player to voluntarily interview during the preparation of the Mitchell Report and a long-time advocate of drug testing for MLB players, Frank Thomas enjoyed a brilliant career while doing things the right way.

    During the mid-90s, "The Big Hurt" was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Thomas glistened with swagger every time he stepped into the batter's box while routinely punishing opposing hitters.

41. Hank Greenberg

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    Hank Greenberg was the first Jewish superstar in American professional sports, and he put his swagger on display on numerous occasions throughout his career.

    On one occasion, "The Hebrew Hammer" attracted national attention by refusing to play in a game on Yom Kippur while his Tigers were in the middle of a pennant race. He was also one of the few opposing players to publicly welcome Jackie Robinson to MLB.

    Sometimes confidence is displayed by doing the right thing, no matter how unpopular it might be.

40. Pete Rose

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    You don't smack over 4,000 hits and earn the nickname "Charlie Hustle" if you don't play the game with some swagger.

    Rose loved playing and being around the game of baseball. More than anything he always wanted to win, one time saying, "Somebody's gotta win and somebody's gotta lose, and I believe in letting the other guy lose."

39. Ryan Braun

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    Anyone who's had the chance to watch Ryan Braun conduct his business on the baseball field knows he plays the game with as much swagger as anyone.

    At times Braun may seem cocky, but he's one of those players that walks the line between cockiness and confidence.

    Braun once said, "There's a fine line between being confident and cocky. This is an extremely humbling game. But if you don't believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you."

38. Dennis Eckersley

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    With nearly 200 wins and 400 saves during his career, Dennis Eckersley exemplified what it meant to have swagger on the pitcher's mound.

    Eckersley was confident that he could make the switch to closer in order to prolong his career, at one point saying, "The thing that got me over the hump was accepting that I had to do whatever I could to stay in the game."

37. Dustin Pedroia

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    Dustin Pedroia is the lifeblood of the Boston Red Sox, bringing an inordinate amount of energy to the ballpark on a nightly basis.

    Arguably the most confident player in MLB today, whether Pedroia is struggling or putting up MVP-type numbers, his presence is always felt in the clubhouse.

    In fact, Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley recently said that Pedroia is the most confident player he has ever seen. Who am I to disagree?

36. Lenny Dykstra

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    Lenny Dykstra earned two nicknames throughout his career, and both of them give an accurate portrayal of the swagger he brought to the game.

    "Nails" and "Dude" perfectly resemble Dykstra as a ball player. The man was fearless and he believed he could "stick it" to anybody.

    In referring to Dykstra, Billy Beane once said he was "perfectly designed, emotionally" to play baseball and he had "no concept of failure."

35. Ty Cobb

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    Ty Cobb is known for many things, whether it be doing his best to hurt opposing players or jumping into the stands to lay a beating on a handicapped person. Yet, there is no question that Cobb played the game with a level of confidence rarely seen.

    "Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It's no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out. It's a struggle for supremacy, a survival of the fittest," Cobb once said.

34. Pedro Martinez

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    Pedro Martinez took the mound with tenacity and, in the end, he is in the discussion for the greatest pitcher of all time.

    Martinez always believed in himself and never shied away from telling you what was on his mind, once even calling the Yankees his "daddy" after they beat him.

33. Walter Johnson

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    One of the most decorated and downright dominating players in MLB history, Walter Johnson had swagger without even realizing it.

    Johnson was always known as a nice guy, yet Ty Cobb absolutely hated him. Not because the two had issues, but because Cobb couldn't hit against the guy.

    Speaking of Johnson on the mound, Cobb once said, "His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed and it hissed at you as it passed."

32. CC Sabathia

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    CC Sabathia is a workhorse, pitching over 230 innings during each of the last five seasons.

    The most remarkable moment of his career was after being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. Down the stretch, Sabathia took the ball on three days' rest time and time again. He wasn't told to take the ball, he asked to.

    The confident Sabathia delivered, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA down the stretch to lead the Brewers to the postseason.

31. David Ortiz

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    David Ortiz didn't play with much swagger while with the Minnesota Twins through the 2002 season, but that would change upon joining the Boston Red Sox in 2003.

    The legend of Big Papi was born during the 2004 playoffs and his swagger has been visible ever since.

    Ortiz' back-to-back game-winning hits during the 2004 ALCS vaulted him into stardom and helped the Red Sox complete the greatest comeback in MLB history.

30. Mark McGwire

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    Believe it or not, there was a point in time where no player in MLB had more swagger than Mark McGwire.

    In the late-90s, Big Mac was baseball's "Golden Boy." Every pitcher in the league feared him, yet everyone in America respected him.

    Time changes everything, however, and now McGwire is neither feared nor respected.

29. Trevor Hoffman

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    You don't spend 17 years as a MLB closer if you don't have a little bit of swagger, and Trevor Hoffman did the job better than anyone.

    Hoffman—who retired after last season with a MLB-record 601 career saves—was always known for being a fierce competitor on the mound. He busted his tail off the field while beaming with confidence on the field.

28. Eddie Murray

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    While some people believe Eddie Murray to be overrated, his career numbers speak for themselves. You will also not find many people who will say a bad word about the man. He always carried himself calmly and confident, and he was a true professional.

    Former teammate Mike Flanagan once said of Murray, "He just didn't like to talk about what he did. He didn't care to give up his little secrets. He was the best clutch hitter that I saw during the decade that we played together. Not only on our team, but in all of baseball."

27. Manny Ramirez

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    Manny Ramirez was a rare breed. He had a magical swing, a fun personality and, while being hated by almost all opposing fans and at times even his own, he always walked to the plate bursting with confidence.

    Manny was always being Manny, and he never let his alter ego get in the way of his performance on the field.

    Some people may have thought Ramirez was a distraction, yet he brought something to the game that few players before him ever did and that his teammates were able to feed off of.

26. Nolan Ryan

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    Nolan Ryan played in the majors for 27 years and he was one of the most feared pitchers in all of baseball.

    Ryan had a presence on the mound that few pitchers have ever had before, with Ryan once saying, "It helps if the hitter thinks you're a little crazy."

    Robin Ventura found out the hard way.

25. Barry Bonds

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    You don't hit 762 career home runs without having some confidence at the plate. The problem with Bonds was that he was too confident, to the point where he came off as arrogant and selfish.

    For example, Bonds once said, "It's called talent. I just have it. I can't explain it. You either have it or you don't."

    Cocky? Maybe. Confident? Most definitely.

24. Hank Aaron

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    Hank Aaron played the game with swagger for 23 years. Considering the amount of racial tension revolving around Aaron breaking Ruth's home run record, he was almost forced to.

    "I never smile when I have a bat in my hands. That's when you've got to be serious. When I get out on the field, nothing's a joke to me. I don't feel like I should walk around with a smile on my face," Aaron once said.

23. Roger Clemens

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    Love him or hate him, there is no denying the kind of pitcher Roger Clemens was every time he took the ball. He owned the mound.

    Clemens was also cocky and arrogant, but given that he won seven Cy Young awards, I guess he was allowed to be. Clemens summed it up best when he said, "Everybody perceives me as being angry. It's not anger, it's motivation."

22. Rogers Hornsby

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    Rogers Hornsby is arguably the greatest hitter to ever play the game, although he was very similar to Ty Cobb in that he was hard to get along with and hated by many.

    Hornsby was extremely arrogant and many times just downright nasty. He once said, "I don't like to sound egotistical, but every time I stepped up to the plate with the bat in my hands, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the pitcher."

21. Tris Speaker

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    Not only was Tris Speaker one of the best offensive and defensive center fielders of all time, but he revolutionized the game as a manager by being the first to implement the platoon system and the infield rotation play.

    Speaker also earned the respect of all of his teammates, players and opponents for how he carried himself on the field. He was one of those natural-born leaders who he didn't have to ask people to follow him; they wanted to.

20. Mike Schmidt

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    Mike Schmidt is popularly thought of as the greatest third baseman of all time, and he carried himself with a confidence that no Philadelphia Phillie will ever approach again.

    In talking about how much effort he put into his game, Schmidt said, "If you could equate the amount of time and effort put mentally and physically into succeeding on the baseball field and measured it by the dirt on your uniform, mine would have been black."

    That makes sense considering Pete Rose said, "To have his body, I'd trade him mine and my wife's, and I'd throw in some cash."

19. Rickey Henderson

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    Perhaps the most vocally confident (and arrogant) player in MLB history, it's hard to hold it against a player who seemingly always backed it up.

    Rickey Henderson owns dozens of MLB records and will forever be known as the greatest base stealer of all time, which he let the world know while celebrating his feat by saying, "Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest of all time."

    An even better example of his swagger was when he broke Ty Cobb's all-time record for runs scored. After taking his usual slow trot around the bases, Rickey slid into home plate.

18. Albert Pujols

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    Albert Pujols has always played his game with swagger, and rightfully so. When his career is over, he'll easily go down as one of the greatest players of all time.

    Pujols once said, "In my heart and mind, I know I can hit anybody. I'm always relaxed. It's hard to explain. It's like playing with my kids. It feels natural."

    Those are not the words of an anxious ball player questioning his abilities, they are the words of a player who can and will destroy any pitcher who takes the mound against him.

17. Mel Ott

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    Talk about swagger.

    Mel Ott was 5'9" tall and a mere 170 pounds, yet he played like he was 6'4" and 230 pounds.

    For comparison purposes, Milwaukee Brewers infielder Craig Counsell is listed at 6 feet and 179 pounds, and he's hit 41 career home runs. Ott, on the other hand, slugged 511 career home runs and was the first National League player to break the 500-homer plateau.

16. Mickey Mantle

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    Mickey Mantle is one of the most iconic players to ever play the game. Whether he was on the field, in the clubhouse or with the ladies, The Mick defined living life with swagger.

    As great as he was on the field, Mantle would never let you know about it. Over and over again, Mantle proclaimed, "All I had was natural ability."

    If that's the case, I can't imagine how good Muscles would have been had he tried to improve his game.

15. Stan Musial

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    With 1,815 hits both at home and on the road during his career, Stan Musial is considered by many to be the most consistent hitter in MLB history. Only a player with massive amounts of swagger can remain that consistent over a 23-year period.

    Musial always had self-confidence, saying, "The first principle of contract negotiations is don't remind them of what you did in the past—tell them what you're going to do in the future."

14. Ken Griffey Jr.

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    While injuries may have prevented Griffey from going down as one of the greatest players of all time, there is no doubting the level of confidence Junior had every time he stepped up to the plate or took the field.

    Griffey played the game with a purpose, at one point saying, "As long as I have fun playing, the stats will take care of themselves."

13. Jimmie Foxx

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    Jimmie Foxx is one of the greatest power hitters in MLB history. He became the second player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs, and was the youngest to do so until Alex Rodriguez broke his mark in 2007.

    Foxx—who held nicknames like "The Beast" and "Double X"—was so feared at the plate that former New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez once said, "He has muscles in his hair."

12. Frank Robinson

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    Frank Robinson's swagger not only led him to hit nearly 600 home runs throughout his career, but it also helped him become the first African-American manager in MLB history.

    In one of his most famous quotes, Robinson stated, "I don't see anyone playing in the major leagues today (1982) who combines both the talent and the intensity that I had. I always tried to do the best. I knew I couldn't always be the best, but I tried to be."

11. Ted Williams

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    Ted Williams was extremely confident in himself as a baseball player and he was always willing to put in the extra work in order to be the best.

    Williams held his hitting in high regards, too, saying, "If there was ever a man born to be a hitter it was me."

    He also gave away his secret on how to become a great hitter.

    "There's only one way to become a hitter. Go up to the plate and get mad. Get mad at yourself and mad at the pitcher." 

    I don't ever recall seeing Williams look angry at the plate, but it's safe to say whatever he did worked.

10. Mariano Rivera

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    Mariano Rivera has ice running through his veins when it matters most. The soon-to-be career saves leader is without a doubt the greatest closer in MLB history.

    Do you want to know what "swagger" is? It's having a 0.71 ERA through 139.2 postseason innings.

    Enough said.

9. Eddie Collins

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    With his nickname being "Cocky," it's not hard to justify Eddie Collins landing on this list. And with Collins being perhaps the greatest second baseman of all time, it's not hard to justify him being cocky, either.

    Author Jack Kavanaugh summed up Collins' cockiness the best, saying, "He was one of the most accomplished all-arround ballplayers to ever play the game. They called him 'Cocky' not because he was arrogant, but because he was filled with confidence based on sheer ability."

8. George Brett

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    George Brett put every ounce of energy he had into every game he ever played. He wouldn't have it any other way.

    Brett's demeanor left him well-respected throughout the game, even though his emotions sometimes got the best of him.

    This Brett quote sums it up: "I don't think I can play any other way but all out. I enjoy the game so much because I'm putting so much into it."

7. Greg Maddux

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    Greg Maddux was the king of cool, relying on his command and composure to outwit opposing hitters.

    The Professor pitched for four different teams over his 23-year career, and he was the leader on every one of them.

    To keep his swagger on the mound, Maddux always kept one thing in mind. "The thing I am trying to keep in mind is that relying on my past performance will not make me win my next game, it'll only get in my way," he said.

6. Derek Jeter

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    Derek Jeter has been with the Yankees since 1995. To last that long on a New York-based sports team shows confidence in itself, considering the extremely high expectation levels and the insane amount of spotlight.

    Jeter has not only performed under the microscope—he has thrived, all while being beloved by fans every step of the way.

    Jeter also has five World Series rings and a World Series MVP award to show for it, and he most certainly isn't nicknamed "Mr. November" or "Captain Clutch" for buckling in difficult situations.

5. Willie Mays

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    How could the greatest all-around player in MLB history not have swagger?

    Willie Mays could do anything and everything on the baseball field, and he did it all with confidence and ease. Mays told Newsweek back in 1975, "I think I was the best baseball player I ever saw."

    I tend to agree, Willie.

4. Bob Gibson

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    Bob Gibson is one of the greatest pitchers to ever take the mound, which he proved while garnering a 2.91 ERA over a 17-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

    One thing Gibson always took to the mound with him is attitude, at one point saying, "You've got to have an attitude if you're going to go far in this game."

    My personal favorite is when the powerful right-hander said, "Why do I have to be an example for your kid? You be an example for your own kid."

    I tend to agree with both sentiments.

3. Johnny Bench

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    Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher in MLB history. He knew it, and so did everybody else. At one point Bench even said, "I can throw out any man alive."

    Known for his stellar mechanics behind the plate along with his powerful bat, Bench wasn't alone in thinking he was the best. The late Sparky Anderson once stated, "I don't want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him to Johnny Bench."

2. Babe Ruth

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    The legend began during Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, where Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees were up against the Chicago Cubs.

    Many of the Cubs' bench players were riding Ruth mercilessly throughout the series, with Game 3 being no exception. Rather than throwing a fit—similar to what Tony LaRussa would do these days—Ruth decided to have some fun of his own, as he stared down the Cubs' dugout and pitcher while pointing to the center field bleachers.

    On the next pitch, Ruth hit a mammoth 460-foot bomb to center field to quiet the Cubs for good. Now that's confidence.

1. Reggie Jackson

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    There is a very fine line which separates cockiness and confidence, and Reggie Jackson walked that line. 

    Jackson's first season with the Yankees was in 1977 and his relationship with teammates was strained right from the get go.

    During an interview over some cocktails while at spring training, Jackson was quoted as saying, "This team, it all flows from me. I'm the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and (Thurman) Munson, but he can only stir it bad."

    While Jackson vehemently denied having said that, saying it was taken out of context, he was at it again later that season after having drinks with another journalist. "I'm still the straw that stirs the drink. Not Munson, not nobody else on this club."

    He backed it up in the World Series by jacking three long balls in one game and five total, earning honors as World Series MVP while becoming forever known as Mr. October.

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