Baseball is usually full of happy, amazing moments that fans love to watch. Whether it is a great defensive play, a walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning, or an ace twirling a no-hitter, baseball is full of these incredible moments. However, throughout the decades and decades that the MLB has been popular, there have also been a ton of dark moments. Some are sad, some are infuriating and some are just plain embarrassing for the league. With that in mind, this article is going to take a closer look at some of the darkest moments in MLB history.
15. The Marge Schott Era
Marge Schott was the owner, CEO, and president of the Cincinnati Reds from 1984 to 1999. However, instead of being a model owner or even a pioneer for female sports executives, Schott was known more for her controversial behavior. There were numerous despicable incidents and her owning a team was a pretty dark time for many MLB fans. She directed racists slurs towards African Americans, Japanese people, homosexuals, and Jewish people. She also offered statements of support for Adolf Hitler, which was the final straw for the league. She was banned from managing the team from 1996 to 1998, and thankfully sold her stake in the team shortly after.
14. The Roy Halladay Plane Crash
This one is very fresh in the minds of baseball fans and is one of the saddest moments in recent MLB history. Roy Halladay was one of the best pitchers in the MLB during the 2000s and was especially legendary for Canadian fans for his time with the Toronto Blue Jays. He won two Cy Young awards, made several All-Star games, and even pitched a perfect game for the Philles in 2010. However, Halladay sadly passed away in a plane crash in late 2017, a few years after he retired. It was an incredibly sad and hard day for the sport. It also reminded everyone of the Jose Fernandez boat crash from 2016, although sympathy for that accident has faltered since it was revealed that Fernandez was under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time.
13. The Black Sox Scandal
While fixing professional sports games happens from time-to-time (although much less these days), this was fixing on a whole other level. The Chicago White Sox were going against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1919 World Series, but this wasn’t any old World Series. A few gamblers, who had bet big money on the Sox to lose, reached out to some players and offered them hefty sums if they would throw the series. Eight players agreed and together, they intentionally threw the series. Soon, an investigation and trial took place and all the players involved were banned from baseball forever. This might go down as the biggest scandal in the history of the Majors.
12. The Brandon McCarthy Injury
While there have been several gruesome injuries take place in MLB over the years, this has to be one of the worst in recent memory. In a September 2012 game against the Angels, Oakland Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive. He was immediately knocked unconscious, before thankfully regaining consciousness a few seconds later. Despite walking off the field, McCarthy was in a life-threatening situation as he had suffered an epidural hemorrhage and a skull fracture, He underwent surgery for two hours and would miss the rest of the season. It fueled new discussions about player safety, and some pitchers began wearing a special padded cap that doubled as a sort of helmet. Scary stuff.
11. Pete Rose Betting on Baseball
During his playing and managing career, Pete Rose was incredible and was all but guaranteed to get to the Hall of Fame — he is still baseball’s all-time leader in hits. However, in 1989 there were allegations that Pete Rose bet on baseball (which is a huge no-no). Not only that, but he was accused of betting on the Reds while he was actively working as their manager. An investigation found the allegations to be true, and Rose was punished in a big way. He was banned from baseball for life, which meant he could never manage again and would never be eligible for the Hall of Fame. He (and others) have tried to seek reinstatement to the Hall of Fame a couple of times, but nothing has come of it yet.
10. The Mitchell Report
Steroids (and other performance enhancing drugs) have been a large problem in baseball for years, but it took center stage in 2007 thanks to the Mitchell Report. This 409-page report was published in December of 2007 and represented the findings of a 20-month investigation into the use of anabolic steroids and HGH in MLB players. In total, the report named 89 players who have used PEDs in some capacity. Some of the names included were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Eric Gagne, Miguel Tejada, and many more. This was a dark day as it showed several of the best players at the time were probably using drugs to gain a competitive advantage. The league got serious with drug testing, adding more random tests and increasing the suspensions for players who were caught.
9. Voting in the 1957 All-Star Game
Stuffing ballot boxes is usually reserved for political elections, but that is exactly what happened in the 1957 All-Star Game. Cincinatti Redlegs fans stuffed the ballot boxes for the game and voted in seven of their players, which meant there were only two starting All-Star spots for other teams. Newspapers printed out pre-filled ballots and some bars wouldn’t even serve customers until they filled out a ballot. This was a huge scandal and actually stopped fan voting at the All-Star game for several years after this occurrence. Ironically, as the voting moved to online in the last decade or so, the same problem now exists. Kansas City Royals fans almost duplicated the lopsided All-Star voting in 2015.
8. The Strike in 1994
The players’ strike of 1994 in the MLB was the longest of all-time and was the first time since 1904 that a World Series was not played. The strike came about when, in short, owners wanted some form of salary cap, but the players refused. When a new collective bargaining agreement couldn’t be agreed upon, MLB players walked off the job in the middle of the season. The strike eventually ended the following spring, allowing for a slightly shortened 1995 season to take place. But players were furious and it is largely seen as one of the worst work stoppages in sports history, as each side was seen as being incredibly greedy by most fans. There was a huge dip in attendance in the next few years, and the Montreal Expos literally ceased to exist in the wake of the strike. It’s been over two decades, but many fans are still sore about it.
7. The Death of Christy Mathewson
Cristy Mathewson was among the most dominant pitchers in MLB history, playing for the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds in the early 1900s. He is in the top ten of many of the most important pitching stats and was one of the very first five members of the Hall of Fame. He won two World Series and nearly 400 games during his career, with an ERA of 2.13 for his entire career. When Mathewson was serving in World War 1, he was accidently exposed to a chemical weapon during a training exercise, which lead him to develop tuberculosis, which took his life a few years later at the young age of 45.
6. Lou Gehrig Giving His Farewell Speech
Lou Gehrig was one of the finest first basemen in MLB history and was incredibly durable, holding baseball’s Iron Man record of consecutive games played for decades. He hit with the best of them (.340 career average) and was a solid fielder as well. However, as his career progressed, he began to experience difficulties doing even simple and routine tasks during the game. He was soon diagnosed with ALS (which is now also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). In 1939, he made his farewell retirement speech in front of over 60,000 people at Yankee Stadium, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Sadly, he passed away a year later and one of the best players ever was taken from us way too early.
5. The Death of Ray Chapman
Throughout the entire history of the MLB, with thousands of games played, there has only been one person to pass away as a result of an injury sustained during the game. In a game in 1920 between the Indians and the Yankees, Ray Chapman was hit in the head with a pitch and died 12 hours later. This death forced baseball into some much-needed rule changes, such as replacing the ball when it became dirty. It was also a motivating factor to make batting helmets mandatory for all hitters, although they wouldn’t actually become required for three more decades.
4. The Death of Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente was the first Latin American and Caribbean player inducted into the Hall of Fame. He played in 15 All-Star games, won numerous Gold Gloves and batting titles, while also winning an MVP in 1966. He was one of the best players of his time, but was also a great man off the field. During the off-seasons, he would go do charity work back in Latin America, including delivering food and supplies to those in need. Unfortunately, he died in a plane crash following the 1972 season, while on one of these missions to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Baseball continues to celebrate his talent and his generosity, by creating the Roberto Clemente award. It is given to one player every year who has outstanding talent and displays a tremendous passion for community work.
3. Owner Collusion In The 1980s
During the 1980s, there were many secret little conversations between MLB owners that were all about keeping contracts and salaries down. At the time, it was uncommon for big free agents to have multiple offers from different teams. It was almost like the market was predetermined ahead of time. This was intentionally done to prevent bidding wars and keep players from increasing their value and bargaining power. Players and agents eventually caught on, and all hell broke loose. Grievances were filed and players were given another chance to test free agency in some cases.
2. The Drug Abuse Problems of the 1980s
While steroids have been a problem for some time in MLB, it’s not the only drug being abused. Cocaine has also been a problem in the MLB, especially in the 80s and early 90s. While it is less of an issue today, cocaine abuse was rampant in the previous generations. It was estimated by some that around 40% of MLB player were using cocaine. The darkest days of this scandal were the Pittsburgh drug trials, in which several Pirates players and other MLB players were charged with cocaine distribution, which makes it among the biggest scandals in baseball. To this day, baseball does not randomly test for cocaine or other drugs of abuse.
1. Shannon Stone Passes Away Trying to Catch a Foul Ball
There have been a couple of fans that have fatally fallen during an MLB game, but this one was different. At a Rangers game in 2011, a foul ball was hit near Josh Hamilton. He tossed the ball up into the stands to Shannon Stone, so he could give it to his son. However, when Stone reached out to try and catch the ball, he fell head-first about 20 feet to the concrete. After a window of being conscious and asking about his son, Stone then slipped back into unconsciousness and succumbed to his injuries. This was incredibly sad and could have easily been avoided. MLB has taken this (and other) incidents, and increased their focus on fan safety. More effective guardrails and increased netting have been installed in almost every ballpark.