25 Greatest Showmen in MLB History
The sports world is full of players who naturally like to show themselves off. Whether they are just showmen due to their play or style, showboaters due to their outlandishness or ballplayers who succumb to hotdogging, these are the players who make each game unforgettable.
Of course, when these players are legends of the game, any eccentricities can slip by. We allow Albert Pujols to stare at the ball a bit longer when he hits it, and we allowed Manny to be Manny.
Here are the top 25 players who do as described above—those players we remember for their showmanship, for better or worse.
25. Jose Valverde
When you watch Papa Grande pitch for the Tigers, you can just tell he's having fun out there. The ninth inning ends up being a show, both with his odd throwing motion and reactions to the game.
There are some who find his excessive emotion unprofessional, but as long as he pitches the way he does, then I know I'm fine with it.
24. Nick Altrock
Nick Altrock was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators in the dead-ball era. When he partnered up with Al Schacht, the two formed a comedy duo in Washington that became as much of a sight to see as Walter Johnson.
In fact, at one point the duo took their comedy to vaudeville. He doesn't rank as high as Schacht, since he was the one who really got the duo going.
23. Roberto Clemente
Clemente was actually considered a showboat somewhat frequently back during his time, when that could not be further from the truth. In reality, he was simply a great fielder who was able to put on a show with his catches.
He could also hit well, and had a pure swing. Combine the two and you definitely have a player people wanted to see play.
22. Showboat Thomas
Technically, Dave "Showboat" Thomas did not play in MLB, but instead played in the Negro Leagues before the color barrier was broken. Nonetheless, Thomas was considered perhaps the finest defensive first baseman to have played in the Negro Leagues.
He had to have had some great footwork if "Showboat" was in fact his nickname, especially since first base is not a natural position that one would associate with fielding prowess.
21. Showboat Fisher
I did not find much on George "Showboat" Fisher, a player who played 138 total games in four seasons. Besides having the nickname "Showboat," he is probably more known for hitting .374 for the Cardinals in 1930 only to suddenly disappear again.
He was named "Showboat" partially due to his odd batting stance. It was unlike what most had seen in St. Louis, and given the way he was hitting, everyone went along with it and enjoyed the ride.
20. Joe Engel
During his journeyman playing career, Joe Engel wasn't all that much of a showman in comparison to later years. Yes, he had his fun, but there wasn't too much on it.
Once he took over the Chattanooga Lookouts, he became one of baseball's most eccentric owners, bringing elephants into the stadium and trading a shortstop for a turkey, of all things. His showmanship paved the way for another owner or two who pop up on the list.
19. Ruben Sierra
Ruben Sierra was a player who had as many fans as detractors for one main reason: his showboating. He was a very good player during his career, but with how he sounded, you would think he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
In particular, Sierra tended to showboat when he hit home runs. He did hit over 300, but it did get annoying, and as a result he was frequently traded despite the talent he did have.
18. Mark McGwire
McGwire never seemed like an extreme showman during his time with Oakland, and in fact he may have been overshadowed a bit by Jose Canseco.
Once he arrived in St. Louis, nothing was held back. After all, it's very difficult not to showboat a bit when you hit 70 home runs in a season, and it got fans going back then, even if we do know the truth behind it now.
17. Ryne Duren
When you get a major character in a movie based on you, then you were likely a showman. Such is the case for Ryne Duren, who was as known for his fastballs as he was for his coke bottle glasses.
When he warmed up before an outing, he would always end up throwing pitches going far over the catcher's head before gradually working back down to the right height. A strange way to get ready for an outing, but he did make four All-Star teams, so he did something right.
16. Albert Pujols
If there's one thing we know about Albert Pujols, it's that his swing just seems so pure. The brief stare at the baseball after he hits a home run is just long enough to look intimidating yet not too long as to seem disrespectful.
Such is the power of Albert Pujols, who is also a great defensive catcher and can make some nice plays there as well.
15. Satchel Paige
In the 1940s and 1950s, everyone knew who Satchel Paige was. Aside from being perhaps the hardest thrower in baseball, the fact that he was so quotable made him legendary.
The main thing he may be known for now is his rules for staying young, but his hesitation pitch alongside his great fastball made him a sight to see in the major leagues—let alone in his prime.
14. Pascual Perez
Pascual Perez was perhaps the best known pitcher in the 1980s in terms of showboating, especially during his time with the Atlanta Braves.
Among his quirks were using a finger gun to shoot down opposing batters and looking at first base through his legs. He also run at full sprint back to the dugout between innings, and as a result he's remembered fairly well despite an average career.
13. Jimmy Piersall
While he may be more known for his battle with bipolar disorder, chronicled in Fear Strikes Out, Piersall was a longtime center fielder, playing primarily for the Red Sox, and he was a player not afraid to showboat.
His antics included running the bases backward when he hit his 100th career home run. A move like that is inherently worthy of inclusion on a list such as this.
12. Ozzie Smith
The Wizard of Oz was one of the greatest defensive shortstops to watch in his prime. He always seemed to know where the ball was, and his defensive moves were a sight to see.
He wasn't a showboater for the most part, though he did have his trademark backflip on Opening Day. He kept any sense of showboating into the plays he made.
11. Terris McDuffie
If there's one player in the Negro Leagues who stands out for his showboating play during the 1930s and 1940s, it's Terris McDuffie.
The pitcher often wore a jacket with "The Great McDuffie" written on it, and he ended up being a very popular player both for his antics and playing ability. His popularity became such that, in 1942, the Dodgers tried him out for the team, though it was likely a publicity stunt.
10. Charlie Finley
Charlie O. is one of the two owners who absolutely has to be on a list such as this. After running the Athletics for 20 years, he was well-known as one of the more outrageous owners in MLB history.
He had an elephant and later a mule as a mascot for the Athletics, and he offered players bonuses to grow mustaches. In fact, Rollie Fingers got his trademark mustache from Finley's idea. Many of his gimmicks were not as big a draw as they were for another owner, though.
9. Al Schacht
The other half of the Altrock-Schacht comedy duo was a pitcher for only three seasons, but for those three, as well as for many years afterwards, he provided comedic relief to the crowd. In fact, he was nicknamed the Clown Prince of Baseball.
Even after his partnership with Altrock ended, he continued to be an entertainer throughout baseball. It may not have been directly on the mound, but clubhouses found him to be amazing.
8. Jose Canseco
Jose Canseco was seemingly a showman from the start of his career, and he seems to fit that definition even more as he ages, especially since he's now a celebrity beyond the baseball world.
From his time as one of the Bash Brothers to his power shots in the mid-1990s, Canseco always seemed to show off a bit, becoming the center of attention. Even when he became a whistleblower when he published Juiced, it seemed like that was the case to an extent.
7. Babe Ruth
As big a legend as he was on the field, he was just as big off it. He embraced being a celebrity, and it may have helped him become even better during the 1920s as he became baseball's superstar.
Let's not forget his called shot as well in the 1932 World Series.
6. Barry Bonds
In the 1990s, Barry Bonds was a five-tool star that the Giants were able to build around. In the 2000s, he beefed up and became so dominant that it was a show just to watch him.
After a while, he was pretty much able to just coast and showboat, as so many at-bats ended up being intentional walks. Still, he had times where he showboated even when he was on the Pirates, such as dancing on the basepaths.
5. Sammy Sosa
In the case of Sammy Sosa, more so than McGwire or Bonds, showboating seemed to be a fairly big part of his game once he started hitting home runs in the late 1990s.
Sosa was widely accepted as a showboater throughout his career, admiring home runs and the like, which was fine during the home run chase; he fell out of favor after the corked back incident and suffering back spasms after sneezing.
4. Reggie Jackson
Mr. October was definitely considered a showboat by one group of characters: the Yankees in the 1970s. Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner knew he was, but as long as he kept hitting clutch home runs in the playoffs, it was alright.
Even Elston Howard found him to come across as such, and during his time in Oakland, he had been accused of hotdogging it on a few plays. He's definitely a type of player that was either loved or hated for his antics depending on what side you were on.
3. Manny Ramirez
If there's one player in the modern era who we all know was a showboater, it's Manny Ramirez. After all, that's Manny being Manny, right?
His antics were pretty well chronicled, especially to Red Sox and Dodgers fans, though his showing off did hurt on one particular occasion where he caught a ball that a teammate was trying to throw back into the infield. That's not something that can be made up.
2. Bill Veeck
If there's one person synonymous with being baseball's showman, aside from perhaps the first player, it's certainly Bill Veeck, baseball's most unique owner.
The contributions and publicity stunts he pulled to boost attendance are too numerous to name, though here are a few main ones: Eddie Gaedel, nearly trading Lou Boudreau (possibly a bluff so that he could make fans think he was listening), an exploding scoreboard and Disco Demolition Night.
1. Rickey Henderson
Everyone knew that Rickey Henderson was a showboater bigtime, but when you can break major league records without breaking a sweat, sometimes that can slide.
It takes guts to flat-out say halfway through your career that you are the greatest of all time, which is precisely what Henderson did in 1991. Well, with everything that he did while he was Rickey being Rickey, he's certainly the greatest showman of all time.