Major League Baseball has seen a lot of colorful characters come through over its long and decorated history. There are some players and managers though, that make their mark on the game in ways that would be best described as angry or annoyed. It’s these hotheads that make the sport more interesting to watch when there is a factor of not knowing what is going to come out of their mouth next or if they’re going to start a fight.
Some of the managers on this top ten list haven’t been out of the game for too long while others haven’t been seen in decades. It doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t make this list however, just because they were active before television was invented or didn’t have a long career. It is the anger that spewed out of them that makes them some of the most interesting characters in the sport’s history.
Here are the top ten biggest MLB hotheads of all time, starting with a manager that was in the game from right near its very beginning.
10. John McGraw — Player (1891-1906) — Manager (1899-1932)
McGraw isn’t just the winningest manager in National League history with 2,669 wins; he was also one of the fieriest managers out there. He would use every advantage he could to get past an opponent and had a temper to go with it. McGraw would trip, block and make sure base runners couldn’t get where they were going while the umpire couldn’t see. He was ejected from 131 games over his playing and managerial career and had the record for most ejections for nearly a century. McGraw was smart and may have cheated some to get his way but when he was caught, he wasn’t the person umpires wanted to deal with.
9. Tony LaRussa — Player (1963-73) — Manager (1979-2011)
Tony LaRussa managed three different teams during his career, amassing 2,728 wins, but it was his ability to argue and get under the skin of both other managers and umpires that made him legendary. LaRussa was ejected from 87 games but he would be out yelling at umpires all the time about calls they may have missed. He got into a shouting match once with then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker from the dugout that luckily didn’t escalate any further, but that was just LaRussa’s style of gamesmanship. It was that attitude that made him very popular with his players because they knew LaRussa had their back.
8. Milton Bradley — Outfielder (2000-2011)
It’s hard to describe Milton Bradley without using the word hot-headed. He played for eight different teams in 11 years and for good reason. In 2004, he was ejected from a game for arguing balls and strikes and threw a ball bag onto the field. Later that season, he left his position in right field after a fan threw a bottle at him and threw it back into the stands. In 2007, he tore his ACL arguing a call at first base while being restrained. He went after a play-by-play man while playing in Texas. Bradley also made contact with an umpire while playing for the Cubs. The list goes on and on, solidifying Bradley’s place as one of the biggest hotheads ever to touch a Major League field.
7. Carlos Zambrano — Pitcher (2001-2012)
“Big Z” has a big temper to go with his big-time arm and bat. His career didn’t start out with him being a hothead but escalated in 2007 when he got into a fight with catcher Michael Barrett in the Chicago Cubs dugout with Zambrano taking a swing at Barrett. In 2009, when he was ejected from a game after arguing a call, Zambrano threw a ball from home plate into left field and on his way back to the clubhouse, took a bat to a Gatorade cooler. The next season saw Zambrano go after his Cubs teammates during a loss to the cross-town White Sox. He has been to anger management many times for his temper and hasn’t pitched in the MLB since 2012.
6. Alex Rodriguez — Third Baseman/Shortstop (1994-Present)
A-Rod has a temper like none other. It could be because of the performance-enhancing drugs that got him suspended for the entire 2014 season or just the fact he is a hothead but Rodriguez easily makes this list. It appears that his temper began to boil over when he began his career with the New York Yankees in 2004. In July of that year, Rodriguez was hit by a pitch by Boston Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo which led to a bench-clearing brawl after the two began to yell at one another. Later that year, Rodriguez knocked a ball out of Arroyo’s glove in the playoffs which led to a Yankees run being taken off the board. He also fought tooth and nail about his PED use, claiming he didn’t do anything wrong. MLB thought differently and slapped him with a season-long suspension.
5. Rob Dibble — Pitcher (1988-1995)
There are many closers who need to be a bit wacky to get their job done, but Dibble’s temper also got him in trouble. In 1989, Dibble hit New York Mets second baseman Tim Teufel. Teufel charged the mound and a brawl began. In 1991, he threw a ball into the stands hitting a woman by accident and that wasn’t the end of Dibble’s 1991 blow-ups. He was involved in a brawl with Houston Astros shortstop Eric Yelding, and then there was the crown jewel of Dibble throwing a baseball at the back of Chicago Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo as he ran down the first-base line. There was also the fight with Cincinnati Reds manager Lou Pinella in the locker room. There aren’t many other players as fired up as Dibble was.
4. Lou Piniella — Player (1964-1984) — Manager (1986-2010)
The fiery Lou Piniella also did a lot of what Martin would do on the field what with kicking dirt at umpires and picking up bases to throw. Listing the number of epic meltdowns that Piniella had would go on for days. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. He was ejected from 63 different games during his 25-year managerial career which is only a little over two per season, but it is the nature of how he was ejected that makes him one of the biggest hotheads ever. There was no way that Piniella was going to leave the field if he was upset with a call without making a scene that would fire up the fans and his players in many instances. Sweet Lou wasn’t always the sweetest guy out there.
3. Bobby Cox — Player (1968-69) — Manager (1978-2010)
Bobby Cox holds a lot of different records including his 2,504 career wins, but it is the 158 ejections that make Cox one of the biggest hotheads in Major League history. He is the only person to be ejected from two World Series games as well. Cox usually would get ejected trying to prevent his own players from being tossed. His teams didn’t win much when he was thrown out of games but that’s what gave him the respect of his players. He didn’t fight with any players and did everything in his power to make sure that his team got a fair deal from the umpires even if it might mean getting ejected from a lot of games in the process. Cox has his number retired by the Atlanta Braves and will go into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
2. Billy Martin — Player (1950-61) — Manager (1969-88)
It’s hard to find another manager who was more animated than Martin, who would go on the field to kick dirt at umpires while arguing. It wasn’t just during Martin’s managerial career where his temper got the best of him. In 1957, Martin got into a fight with some of his New York Yankees teammates in a bar against drunks yelling slurs at Sammy Davis Jr. He slugged Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer in the eye in 1960, breaking Brewer’s cheekbone. The Cubs sued Martin for $1 million and while the team dropped their case, Brewer perused his and got $10,000. He also tried to fight Reggie Jackson in the Yankees’ dugout while managing the team. It definitely made for some interesting times when Martin was on or near a baseball field.
1. Earl Weaver — Manager (1968-86)
When fans think of hotheads in Major League Baseball history, the name Earl Weaver comes to mind right away. Weaver was ejected from 94 games over his career which included being kicked out of both ends of a doubleheader, three times. He was tossed for many different reasons over the years from ripping up his rule book to throwing his cap on the ground. He used humor a lot during his rants as well and told an umpire once that he could appear on “What’s My Line” wearing his umpire uniform and no one would guess he was an umpire. He pulled his team off the field once because a tarp held down by bricks wouldn’t be moved. The Baltimore Orioles would have to forfeit that game because Weaver wouldn’t let them go on the field. He was one of the best and the biggest hothead in baseball history.