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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 Most Intimidating Pitchers in Baseball History

Top 10 Most Intimidating Pitchers in Baseball History

Publish Date: 07/11/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Intimidation is a massive advantage in any sport, whether it’s Jack Lambert in football or Maurice Lucas in basketball. Intimidation can win you games and the men on this list were great at winning games.


The criteria for this is easy: these are the pitchers that you were afraid they would strike you out, but at the same time, you were afraid they might stick a fastball in your ear. These pitchers caused sleepless nights for many hitters.

10) Goose Gossage

Gossage was known for his consistent, durable, closer work. Known for his fastball velocity of 96 miles per hour, Gossage amassed 310 saves and 1,502 strikeouts over 22 seasons with the New York Yankees between 1978 and 1982. His finest moment was closing out their epic 1978 playoff game against Boston to secure their AL East title and, ultimately, World Series victory.

Video: There Will Never Be Another Goose Gossage

There Will Never Be Another Goose Gossage

9) Early Wynn

Wynn was one of the most fearsome pitchers of the 1950s. Mickey Mantle once noted, “That guy is so mean he would beat you down in the dugout!” Furthermore, this 300-game winner even stated he would throw at his grandmother if she could hit curve balls!

Video: September 22, 1959 Early Wynn (White Sox) vs Jim Perry (Cleveland)

September 22, 1959 Early Wynn (White Sox) vs Jim Perry (Cleveland)

8) Roger Clemens

All it takes to understand Clemens’s fondness for brushback pitches is witnessing him throw one at his son Koby during spring training after Koby hits one deep on him. That likely won’t make Mike Piazza feel any better, though; after suffering a concussion from one of Clemens’ beanballs, he then had one thrown directly at him by this seven-time Cy Young award winner and later had another broken bat thrown his way by Clemens himself. The biggest issue with Clemens is that he would be the starting pitcher on the all-time steroid team.

Video: Roger Clemens completes his shutout

Roger Clemens completes his shutout

7) Juan Marichal

Marichal’s otherworldly high leg kick made his curve, slider, screwball and fastball even more intimidating, while his bat-swinging blowup against Dodgers catcher John Roseboro on August 22, 1965, left an indelible mark on his legacy. Already having flattened Maury Wills and Ron Fairly with brushbacks before this event occurred. Roseboro’s return throw came close to hitting Marichal directly. Marichal responded by striking Roseboro on the head with his bat, causing an explosion that eventually led to a brawl between teams, which eventually involved everyone!

Video: Juan Marichal hits Johnny Roseboro with a bat.

Juan Marichal hits Johnny Roseboro with a bat.

6) JR Richard

At 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Richard unleashed an overpowering 100-mph heater and filthy 93-mph slider with just the right amount of wildness to prevent batters from digging in at the plate. Richard made his major league debut for the Astros in 1971 by setting an NL rookie strikeout record of 15 strikeouts and went on to win 20 games in 1976. Three years later, join Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax as the only modern pitchers to strike out 300 batters twice (Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson have since joined them). Unfortunately, his career was cut short due to a stroke which occurred later that same year.

Video: Rediscovering J.R. Richard: The Forgotten Hero's Incredible Journey

Rediscovering J.R. Richard: The Forgotten Hero’s Incredible Journey

5) Don Drysdale

Don Drysdale was an unsung hero who formed an effective one-two punch with Sandy Koufax. While Koufax was the star player on their team, Drysdale served as the enforcer.

Drysdale was known for his ability to strike batters out and could also scare the hell out of batters. His brushback pitches could strike fear into batters; he led the league in hit batsmen five times! There was simply no getting under Drysdale’s skin when batting against him – no digging in was permitted against this pitcher at any point.

Video: Up Close with Roy Firestone - Don Drysdale

Up Close with Roy Firestone – Don Drysdale

4) Sal Maglie

Don Drysdale and others learned the art of brushback pitching from Sal Maglie – who became known as Sal the Barber as a Giants pitcher during that era.

Maglie always made you aware that taking on his challenges was risky; his five o’clock shadow added to the risk. He was scary looking on the mound, and his ability to throw a ball where he wanted made him even more dangerous.

Video: Sal Maglie No Hits the Phillies on Sept 25 1956 Vin Scully gives the recap

Sal Maglie No Hits the Phillies on Sept 25 1956 Vin Scully gives the recap

3) Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan was revered as the all-time leader in strikeouts and for his longevity as a pitcher. His ability to you strike out kept hitters guessing where the ball would land, creating an aura of unpredictability for him and his opponents alike.

Anyone questioning his toughness would do well to remember his famous fight with Robin Ventura. It showcased that he could hold his own against players half his age while keeping a level head while pitching. Ryan will go down as one of the best Texas Rangers of all-time!

Video: Nolan Ryan was a Savage!!

Nolan Ryan was a Savage!!

2) Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson was one of the greatest strikeout artists ever and also enjoyed great longevity. Part of what elevated him so high on this list was his 6’10” frame which made his pitches, especially his slider, even more lethal.

Early in his career, he regularly led the league in walks and hit batsmen before switching his focus entirely towards strikeouts; this strategy sought to create fear among hitters when faced with him and make them wary of him.

Watch him pitch to John Kruk in the all-star game, and you will see why he was so scary, especially for left-handed batters.

Video: Classic Brawls: SAVAGE Randy Johnson Knocks Kenny Lofton down on TWO CONSECUTIVE Pitches!

Classic Brawls: SAVAGE Randy Johnson Knocks Kenny Lofton down on TWO CONSECUTIVE Pitches!

1) Bob Gibson

Gibson was so competitive and mean on the mound that he was throwing brushback pitches in Old-Timers games!

Bob Gibson was unquestionably one of the greatest pitchers of all time, yet his true passion lay in competition. He stared down batters, refused to smile, and used brushback pitches when necessary to show who was in control.

Gibson displayed no mercy on the mound and was intimidating to batters who faced him. His ability to keep batters at bay remains unparalleled and will likely prove hard for anyone else to match.

Video: Unmasking the Terrifying MLB Legend: Bob Gibson's Intimidating Pitching

Unmasking the Terrifying MLB Legend: Bob Gibson’s Intimidating Pitching

Honorable Mentions

Pedro Martinez

Martinez (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) made his mark as one of the greatest power pitchers ever. Known for his tailing fastball, wicked curveball, nasty change-up and fierce competitive spirit.

Bob Feller

Feller was known to regularly reach speeds as high as 98.6 mph – until it was broken by Nolan Ryan in 1987. Feller used his velocity wisely, striking out 2,581 batters while compiling a record of 266-162.

Walter Johnson

Johnson held the all-time hit batsmen record, collecting 203 hits during his career, with only Smokey Joe Wood being able to throw harder among his contemporaries. Furthermore, righties faced even greater intimidation since Johnson often threw sidearm.

Sam McDowell

Between 1965 and 1970, he won five strikeout titles as a 6-foot-5 lefty with an electric fastball and deceptive changeup, reaching 300K’s twice in that span – only Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, J.R Richard, Walter Johnson, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez had ever accomplished such a feat before him.

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