An overly complicated list to research and judge. High School Football has been played in this country for over 90 years. Choosing the 10 best teams was a big task. While the Football might span several decades, their were many similarities between these all time juggernauts. Teams were ranked based on a few characteristics, Division 1 or NFL talent, their strength of schedule and their margin of victory. Several of these individual teams served as big time pipelines to major college programs. Many of the players would go on to decide future National titles in college.
#1) De La Salle (Conord, California) 2001
Most sports fans have heard of the infamous 151 game winning streak by De La Salle High School in Concord, California. Led by head coach Bob Ladicer, the Spartans didn’t loose for over 12 years. During that streak they boasted numerous NFL and division 1 prospects.
The team that standouts over the others, is the 2001 version of the Spartans. They started the season ranked 1 nationally in some publications, but the USA Today ranked them 2nd behind Long Beach Poly. There defense only returned four starters and had to replace All-American linebacker Kevin Simon, who moved on to Tennessee. Their defense still managed four shutouts. Unlike some seasons in the streak, the Spartans faced two nationally ranked teams in the 2001 season. Although, they were never in danger of loosing a game.
Head coach Bob Ladicer was probably the best high school football coach ever. The 2001 team exemplified everything the program was about. Their veer offensive illustrated their simple approach to the game. Instead of flashy gimmicks De La Salle was simply more discipline and hard working than any team they ran into. While effort and fundamentals were their backbone, the team had no shortage of talent.
Led by junior running back and future NFL star Maurice Jones-Drew, the 5-7 bulldozer racked up 1,043 yards and 22 touchdowns on just 75 touches during the 2001 season (13.9 YPC). He performed even better in big games, racking up 365 yards rushing (14.6 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns in three postseason games. Quarterback Matt Guiterez had his pick of big time schools, as he was ranked 88th in the country. He was recruited by the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee, eventually he spent some time in the NFL. He had a big senior season in 2001 with 3,300 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. The team had another big time weapon in two way starter Demetrius Williams. A blur with the Spartans, he was a three-year starter at wideout for Oregon, where he had 11 100-yard receiving games. He played in the NFL for 5 seasons. The standout lineman was two way starter and nationally ranked Derek Landri. The tackle was the highest rated prospect the Spartans had. During his senior season of 2001, he was named California’s Mr. Football. He went on to start at Notre Dame for three years, before staring in the NFL for 5 years. The depth of the program was unquestioned. Defensive back and future Oregon Duck, Willie Glasper was a sophomore on the team. Juniors Chan and Erik Sandie were both Division I recruits on the offensive line. Sophomore and future NFL pro bowler TJ Ward wasn't good enough to play a down the Spartans that year. Future top 25 recruit nationally, wide recover Cameron Colvin only played occasionally for the team.
Their biggest match-up of the season was the 5th game, which was against the number 1 ranked Long Beach Poly. Known as “The Streak vs The Beach” the game has been documented as the first No. 1 vs No. 2 game in US prep football history. Since the start of the 1997 season The Beach went 57-1-1. 20001 Long Beach Poly was widely regarded as the most talented in school history, with six players listed in SuperPrep's top 100. The New York Times as well as 120 other media outlets requested credentials for the game. A live telecast was available nationwide on DirecTV, and attendance at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach swelled to 17,321. Scalpers were charging up to $50 for $10 tickets. The Spartans were peeved about going into any game relegated to second. De La Salle hadn’t lost since Dec. 4, 1991.
Although the game was competitive, Long Beach was no match for De La Salle’s ground game as they won 29 to 15. Before the game, no one knew the name of junior running back Maurice Drew. He finished the game with 165 total yards and 4 touchdowns. After the game he said “I read the quotes in the paper, and it was like they had all these star players and we didn't have anybody."
The National champions demolished every other team that came in their path. They won 56-14 over defending Central Section champ Buchanan of Clovis, then two weeks later in Stockton took apart southern California powerhouse Mater Dei 34-6. They outplayed foes in the playoffs outscoring them 147-28 in the 4A Playoffs.
The Spartans finished the season undefeated and were able to push the streak forward. When the season finished they were ranked as the number one team in the nation by USA today and Rise/ESPN.
#2) Vigor (Prichard, Alabama) 1988
1988 Vigor was the greatest team the state of Alabama has ever produced. Five members of the 1988 team went on to play professionally in the NFL or CFL, Mitch Davis, Roosevelt Patterson, Willie Anderson, Albert Reese and Kevin Lee, all went on to play professionally in the NFL or CFL. Over 20 players ended up playing division 1 football. The Entire defense returned from the season before. Their speed, size and skill was simply unmatched. The Wolves outscored their opponents 387-44, including 148-7 in the playoffs. No foe got closer than 14 points. By season’s end, the Wolves had a 25-game winning streak. The only team from Alabama that can boast a national title on its resume. "The players bought into our system -- whatever you asked them to do," head coach Perine said. "You know a lot of kids you can't find? Those kids were there and ready to go each and every week.”
The talent level at Vigor was ridiculous, 11 players went on to play at mid major division 1 programs, while 9 played at major college football schools. Future Auburn Tiger Darrell "Lectron" Williams was named Mr. Football after rushing for 1,706 yards on 235 carries, before injuring his knee in the championship. Vigor quarterback Kelvin Simmons, was a dual threat at quarterback. He threw for 1,498 yards and accounted for 22 touchdowns. Kevin Lee, Bruce McGree and Ryan Blakeley returned at wide receiver. The trio known as McBlakeLee combined for 44 catches and 1,097 yards along with 8 touchdowns. Kevin Lee ended up catching passes at Auburn. Duane Lewis, 5-11, 180, fullback played at Jackson State. Their two most talent players ended up never playing in college or the NFL, mostly due to their criminal record.
Every position had a potential Division I football player in it," Darrell Williams said. "Twenty-two people, 11 on defense, 11 on offense and each a Division I talent. People ask me all the time: What made you guys so much better than everybody else? We had no weaknesses. The most competition that we experienced was at practice. If you wanted to see some hellacious competition, come to our practice and see our first-string offense go against our first-string defense". Defensive end Adrian Jackson 6-3, 210 was an excellent pass rusher before he went on to Auburn. Lineman Roosevelt Patterson played at Alabama, where he helped the Tide win the national title in 1992. Norvie Chambers, 6-0, 170, defensive back signed with Florida A&M and defensive back Bradley Craig, signed with Memphis State. Linebacker Mitch Davis, a junior in 1988, signed with Georgia the next year. The hard hitting Cleon Jones was a junior on the squad that went on to sign with South Carolina.
The Wolves won their 25th straight game in front of over 20,000 fans, including Auburn Coach Pat Dye, Alabama Coach Bill Curry and Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden. During the contest Vigor put on a display and assured their legacy as one of the best high school football teams to ever take the field. Vigor became the first team to win back to back championships in Alabama's largest classification since 1976. Their opponents, Berry high school did not cross midfield until the second half. Berry was able to get on the scoreboard shortly before halftime on a 6 yard touchdown pass, breaking a scoreless streak of 25 straight quarters for the defense. Vigor completed its 13-0 season by beating Berry 41-7 in the 6A championship game at Legion Field.
Roosevelt Patterson, a 1988 All-State lineman for Vigor, "I don't think there's a team that compares to our team. We had all the pieces to the puzzle. Teams like that probably come along once in a lifetime. We were hard-working and talented. Most teams that might be talented, they don't be hard workers. We worked all year 'round. I think it's going to take a while for another team to be like that '88 team."
Vigor received national recognition following the season and were named by ESPN as the 1988 high school national champions. They finished 2nd in the USA Today poll behind Pine Forest of Pensacola, Florida. At the end of the year, there were efforts to get them together, but the high school associations squashed the idea. This might have been the first ESPN nationally televised high school game had it been played.
#3) St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) 2010
Saint Thomas Aquinas has always been known as a football dynasty in Florida. In 2010 they lost 4 future NFL players from the previous year and still had enough talent to win a national title. This team was able to pull talent from across the nation, a clear advantage that most high schools don’t have. Aquinas had a superior passing game which featured 3 big time weapons. Their point and turnover differential was among the best of all time. The 2010 team was back for revenge, off their 2009 state championship defeat.
The prep school circuit has given birth to new teams that are loaded, with out of town talent. Although they are allowed to pull talent from around the nation, they usually faced far stiffer competition than other powerhouse schools. Aquinas thrived under intense national competition and a reasonable amount of travel. A number of their players contributed at big time college football programs.
Jacob Rudock was a feared Quarterback in high school, he eventually went to Iowa after he had his pick of big time schools. His biggest weapons were future NFL players receivers Phillip Dorsett and Rashadd Greene. The speedster Dorsett went on to the U, before staring in the NFL. Greene helped Florida State win a championship in 2014. Star tackle Bobby Hart protected Rudock’s blindside, he also went on to play for the Seminoles. Austin Barron who signed with Florida Sate, was a bruiser on the inside line for Aquinas. Did I mention they had future Olympic sprinter Arman Hall at wide receiver.
The defense was just as nasty as the offense. Defensive back Marcus Robertson was a standout corner for Aquinas before he went on to be drafted by the Rams. Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr clogged running lanes before going off to play for the Gators. Sophomore defensive end and future NFL superstar Joey Bosa made a significant impact at a young age. Linebackers Cole Champion and Tyler Drake were also division 1 prospects. Johnny Joseph a top 100 corner back nationally, went to Bowling Green. Pass rusher Jelani Hamilton went on to Akron and running back Fred Coppet played at Bowling Green.
They played several supposed national powers in the pre-season. They throttled Skyline of Dallas, 31-3 in week 1. In week 4 they destroyed Georgia power Camden County 42-28, in which they racked up over 600 yards of offense. The 42-28 score was the closest any team would get to upsetting Aquinas all season. The playoffs were their own personal joke racking up nearing 200 points, while only giving up only 27 points. Completing an undefeated season they finished 1st in the ESPN national poll. The Raiders capped off a dominant season by dismantling defending 5A champion Plant 29-7.
While South Panoa high school of Mississippi was named the number one team in the country by multiple polls, there is much doubt that they could have competed with the excellence of Aquinas. Many cried foul that the two teams couldn't agree on a match-up date, leaving the mystery forever unanswered. One thing isn't up for debate however, Aquinas faced a way tougher schedule than South Panoa ever thought about playing.
#4) Jack Yates (Houston, Texas) 1985
The 1985 Yates Lions were special, they finished 16-0 while racking up a record 659 points. A great pool of talent and depth separated the team from its opponents. Their offense was unstoppable and their defense posted 8 shutouts giving up only 4.8 points per game. They were voted the team of the decade by the Texas media. The players made ultimate sacrifices to ensure their path to success, "We gave up everything," running back Johnny Bailey said after the state championship game. How determined were the Lions you ask? Linebacker Melvin Foster admitted that the team “Even gave up girls”.
Five players from the team, including Johnny Bailey, Melvin Foster, Quinton Smith, Zeno Alexander and Santana Dotson, went on to play in the NFL. Quarterback Charlie Price threw for 25 touchdowns in 1985. His best receiver Quinton Smith played college football at Kansas. Zeno Alexander, Darron Nash, Ronald Moore, Charles Price, Quinton Smith, James Goode, Larry Gill, Gregory Garrett, Kenneth Payne, Reginald Breggs and James Christian were all on the 1985 Chronicle All-HISD Team. The roster was so loaded that Santana Dotson, a future NFL starter came off the bench.
Their biggest star might have been middle linebacker Melvin Foster. Foster was a top 40 player nationally and recruited by a bevy of big time programs. The all-state selection was the leader of the defense, before moving on to an All Big-Ten career at Iowa.
They faced a bevy of legit challengers on their way to a state record 16 wins. They faced Odessa Permian in the final, as well as powerhouses Milby, Jones, Skyline and Westmount. The Lions would clean shop in the playoffs, getting in only one close game. They pulled out a close 21-15 win over Jones in the semi-finals. In the 5A state championship, the media widely predicted Yates would loose by 2 touchdowns. True to form, the Lions performed at their peak, in their biggest game of the season. They went on to dominant the defending champs Odessa Permian, 37-0.
There has been much debate about the greatest football team in the history of Texas. Among the teams discussed are 1988 Carter, 1985 Yates, 2015 Allen, 2006 Southlake, 1983 Daingerfield and Abilene 1956. The 85’ team was voted “Team of the Decade” by the Houston Chronicle and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Yates defense was known for their overwhelming speed, which suffocated every offense they faced. Several media members argued that the Yates defense is the deciding factor for the discussion of best team in Texas history. Many analysts also point to the Lions potent offense which still holds the record for points scored in a season.
Yates displayed characteristics that often lead to success at any level. They were the ultimate collection of players willing to make unique sacrifices. The Lions displayed a discipline style that might have been the difference. My nod for the best team in Texas history goes to the 85 Yates Lions.
#5) McKinley (Canton, Ohio) 1997
Led by a bevy of players that went on to star at Ohio State, the 1997 McKinley team is the best team Ohio ever produced. McKinley scored 592 points on the season while only giving up 151. They went wire to wire as the number 1 ranked team in the nation.
The 1997 team featured three future NFL players, senior FB-LB Jamar Martin, senior TE-DE Kenny Peterson and junior RB-S Mike Doss, all of whom attended Ohio State after graduation. McKinley boasted several other Division I college players, including a trio of future Kent State players. Demarlo Rozier was that season’s County Player of the Year and Ben McDaniels finished as the school’s career passing leader.
McKinley played a murderous schedule facing 5 powerhouse teams in the state of Ohio. They also played St. Thomas Aquinas a national power from Florida. The toughest game, came against Cleveland St. Ignatius in which they won 35-32. The Bulldogs generally depressed their opponents, in their first six games they beat Akron Garfield, GlenOak, Jackson, Mentor, Glenville and Central Catholic by a combined score of 314-31. They destroyed St. Thomas Aquinas 70-0 and then Massillon 27-14. In week 8 they beat Warren Harding 30-9 at Youngstown State. The game cost McKinley a key player, LB Rashan Hall (who tore the MCL in his right knee and was lost for the year).
“They were all very decisive wins and we had to manage that the right way so the kids didn’t become complacent,” Thom McDaniels said. “I know in their churches and barber shops and neighborhoods, they were being told they were even better than the scores indicated. The coach continued “To be honest with you, I never really felt like we were going to lose ever. Whether it was before the game, before the season, during the week, during the game, during the fourth quarter, I never felt like we were going to lose in high school.”
McKinley faced some elite competition in the playoffs. While there was close games, McKinley showed their ability to grind out tough games. In the second round of the playoffs they gutted out a 25-22 win over St. Francis. In the semifinal they faced they're rival St. Ignatius, the game was a war. It took all 48 minutes for the Bulldogs to pull out the 20-19 victory. In the state final they faced national power Moeller of Cincinnati, claiming the state crown with a 31-16 victory.
Head coach McDaniels saw how a committed group of high school kids can achieve something special. They set a number of records during the season most wins 14, most points 592, most TDs 84, most offensive yards 5,062. That atmosphere was probably the coolest atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of,” head coach Ben McDaniels said. “I’ve coached at ‘The Horseshoe,’ I’ve coached in Ann Arbor, I’ve coached in a playoff game in the NFL and I’ve coached on Monday Night Football.”
They finished the number 1 ranked team by any media outlet that mattered. Debate between the two best teams Ohio ever produced always starts and end with McKinley 1997 vs Moeller Cincinnati 1976. My money is on the 97 Bulldogs.
#6) Carter High School (Dallas, Texas) 1988
The focus of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, What Carter Lost highlighted this ultra talented team. Featuring future NFL players Jessie Armstead, Le'Shai Maston and Clifton Abraham, Carter went 14-0-1 in 1988. Although troubled, the 88 team is thought by some to be the best team Texas has ever produced. The speed and pure talent of Carter overwhelmed a schedule riddled with powerhouse opponents. The Cowboys beat nationally ranked Odessa Permian, the team that inspired Friday Night Lights. Their defense was exceptionally fast and physical, several teams were scared to compete with them. They allowed 7.9 points per game and never surrendered more than 24 points in any contest. Their pass rush was easily one of the greatest in high school history. On the other hand, a cloud of scandal and regret will forever shape the memory of their team.
The 1988 team had 21 players who were offered college scholarships. A few division 1 prospects wound up being charged with robbery (more on that later) and their scholarships were pulled. Still 15 seniors from that team earned FBS scholarships.
The straw that stirred the drink was two-way All-American Jesse Armstead. The future five time NFL pro bowler was unstoppable to say the least. Armstead stated himself that Carter’s defense was the "best ever in Texas high school and in the nation.” During his career Armstead made some crippling hits, leading one of the best group of pass rushers in high school history. One local newspaper claimed that the linebacker injured 20 different players during his senior season. He even made the winning touchdown catch in the state title game.
Carter’s QB that year, Robert Hall, went on to a banner career at Texas Tech and is a member of the program’s Hall of Fame. Wide Receiver Gary Edwards was one of the top receivers in the nation. He had a long list of division one schools after him. Edwards originally signed with Houston, and Derric Evans, signed with Tennessee, although neither would ever play college ball. Evans was known as a dominant defensive back who announced his decision to attend Tennessee while sitting in a hot tub. Le'Shai Maston, a running back, signed with Baylor and went on to play for five seasons in the NFL. Clifton Abraham, a defensive back, played at Florida State and went on to have a three-year NFL career.
The Dallas school faced a good schedule that featured several out of district Texas programs. The only close game they played all year was against the legendary Odessa Permian. They also played powerhouses John Tyler and Killeen in the regular season.
Carter faced a unique hardship that few others had to deal with. Because of a mistake made by a teacher, one of their star players was ruled ineligible. The team faced multiple court hearings with the Texas state legislator, the hearings would determine if they would be eligible to continue playing. The controversy was a hot topic in the state, it was complicated by mysterious academic rule changes 3 years either. Star receiver Gary Edwards, was originally ruled ineligible with the University Interscholastic League and the Texas Education Agency. They tried to remove Carter from the playoffs and the Dallas Independent School District ended up appealing the decision. Carter was allowed to play, and they beat Permian 14-9 in that semifinal. Carter then beat Converse Judson 31-14 to win the state title.
After their 88 season the players were cult figures in their local community. Cops would stop them to take pictures, they ate free at restaurants and even autographed a baby. However, Edwards, Evans and 10 other teammates were arrested for armed robbery in Dallas in May 1989. The players were eligibly part of 21 different armed robberies. Edwards was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Evans, a high school All-American, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on four armed robbery counts.
Head coach Dennis Parker of Marshall High School, that had played all the best talent of the era. He had played against 1985 Yates, lost to Carter in 1988, and lost twice to Permian in 1989. He was quoted as saying “Carter was the best team because of its exceptional speed on defense.” D.W. Rutledge head coach of Judson high lost to Carter in the 1988 final also thinks that Carter was the best team of the 80’s. Coach Dan Hooks, whose West Orange-Stark team lost to Yates in 1985, agrees that Carter had the superior talent.
#7) Lakeland (Florida) 2006
Florida has a rich history of football second to only Texas. 2006 Lakeland may be their crowning jewel. This team possessed a running game that most division one colleges would envy. Their state championship culminated for their 3rd consecutive and their 2nd straight USA Today Championship. Although they outscored opponents by 500 points, they faced some tough games. The tough games strengthen their resume, all of the close games were against top 50 teams nationally. The defense allowed only 93 points in 15 games. 10 players went on to play football in the SEC. This team went wire to wire as the number one ranked team in the nation.
Seven players went on to star at the University of Florida, they become known as the Gator Naughts. The future Gators would later prove to be a serious contributors to Florida's championship runs of the late 2000’s. They may have had the greatest rushing attack in high school football history. This teams mentality was simple, run, run and run some more. Although the passing game wasn't chopped liver, no one in the state could contend with the pure power of the burly offensive line. Led by future NFL pro bowl twins Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, the two obliterated defensive lines. The Pouncey twins cleared space for All-American running back Chris Rainey, he flew around the field on his way to 2,478 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. The speedster had 15 touchdown runs of 50 yards or more. To compliment the running game Wide receiver Paul Wilson was a sure handed target for the Dreadnaught's. Defense tackle John Brown overwhelmed opponents and originally signed with Tennessee before his grades forced him the junior college route. Amahad Black rounded the defense out at the Safety position. Black was an intimidating presence on defense, later he played 3 years in the NFL with Tampa Bay. Linebacker Steve Wilks was a hard hitting linebacker for the Lakeland.
Besides the bevy of players that signed with Florida, 3 other players went on to play SEC football. Jamar Taylor was a great addition to the running game before heading off to Alabama. Tight ends Jordan Hammond and Jordon Corbin both signed with LSU.
With the nickname Dreadnaught's one could expect the school and fan base to have pretty crazy traditions, this assumption would be correct. Many of their fans wear a full fledged battle ship hats to all of the games. Their also known for their famous golf cart, which features a Lakeland helmet as the outer shell of the cart.
In 2006 the Dreadnaught's played the toughest schedule in the entire country. Their monster schedule began with their first real test in St. Xavier of Cincinnati Ohio. In a brut physical game the Dreadnaught's won by 3 in overtime. Local Florida school Osceola High School gave them a scare in a close 7 - 3 victory. In a rivalry game they beat Kathleen High 29-26.
They faced loaded national power St. Thomas Aquinas in the State Final. They featured future NFL players James White, Giovanni Bernard, Phillip Dorsett and Rashad Greene. They won in 2OT by a score of 45 - 42. In the contest, Rainey worked Aquinas with over 270 yards on the ground.
#8) Miami Northwestern Senior High School (Florida) 2007
Northwestern has a tradition that is among the best in the nation. The rare public school that dominates year after year. Miami Northwestern might soon hold the distinction of producing the most players to excel at the NFL level. Over 14 NFL pro bowlers have walked the halls of Northwestern. The school has produced football stars such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant, Denver Broncos linebacker Nate Webster, and Miami Dolphins offense tackle Vernon Carey. Despite their winning tradition and continued dominance, the school has only been named the number one team by USA today one time.
By all accounts the 2007 team was simply remarkable. That team holds the title of the greatest team in the programs history. They had numerous division one players, including 8 players that would go on to play at the University of Miami. Similar to many teams on this list, Northwestern served as a feeder to their local University. Star Quarterback Jacory Harris threw for 3,445 yards and 49 touchdowns as a senior. Aldarius Johnson, Kendal Thompkins and Tommy Streeter were a nasty trio at wide recover, together they accounted for over 2,400 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Linebacker Sean Spence and lineman Marcus Forston, Ben Jones, Brandon Washington also signed with Miami.
Besides the future Hurricane players, the Bulls had plenty of talent. Future NFL Pro Bowler Lavonte David went largely unnoticed and unappreciated. He was outstanding, but despite his play, division 1 major colleges cited his size as a major concern. David would go on to star at Nebraska where he would break their school record for most tackles. As a senior, David made more than 100 tackles, with three quarterback sacks, two interceptions. Future West Virginia running back Daquan Hargett was featured at running back and recorded over 880 yards and 12 touchdowns. Although just a sophomore future Louisville running back Corvin Lamb rushed for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Ranked the No. 1 team in the country, Northwestern traveled to No. 2 Southlake (Texas) Carroll. Northwestern's superior speed beat out Carroll's historic four-year run of 49 consecutive wins. A crowd of 31,896 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium watched as Miami Northwestern won the contest 29-21.
They won their second straight Class 6A state championship, defeating Boone 41-0. Miami-bound QB Jacory Harris passed for 281 yards and 2 TDs. The defense recorded its fifth shutout and coach Billy Rolle pocketed a 3rd state championship. They beat up Deerfield Beach 19-14, in Class 6A semifinals at the Orange Bowl. Tyresse Jones' five-yard TD run with 18 seconds remaining capped a 12-play, 99-yard drive. The Bulls won their 29th straight and equaled the Dade County record for most consecutive victories.
Northwestern won back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. They were listed as mythical national champions by USA Today in 2007. Giving the state of Florida a 3 year run, with one of their high school teams winning the high school national championship.
#9) Warner Robbins (Georgia) 1976
The best team the state of Georgia has ever produced, was the 1976 Warner Robbins team. They only gave up 86 points all year, while scoring 614 points. Their defense is considered one of the greatest ever, they had 8 shutouts (including the state championship). Robbins had plenty of stars with 5 future NFL players. Perhaps their greatest weapon was their star studded running game.
One of the best ground attacks ever, featured two future college standouts in the backfield. The powerful Jimmy Womack was a big bruising full back who blocked for future NFL player James Brooks. In college Womack led the way at Georgia for Hershell Walker’s Heisman winning season. Womack racked up 1,467 yards on the ground as a senior in 1976. Future 4 time NFL pro-bowler James Brooks was a dynamo with the ball, quick but still strong enough to break tackles and stay on his feet. He would go on to star at Auburn before staring for both the Bengals and Chargers in the NFL. Brooks rushed for 1,810 yards as a senior. Another standout was two way star Ron Simmons, who went to star at Florida State. There he was an All-American nose guard, before he spent 4 years playing pro football. Simmons even finished 9th in Heisman voting despite being a defensive tackle. Wide receiver Phil Williams accepted a scholarship to Florida State. Jesse Canion played at East Carolina and fellow defensive back Rusty Smith played at Navy.
They faced the top competition of Georgia throughout the season. Like others on the list, they won all their games by a pretty good margin. Their closest game of the season was against Hardaway, in a 35-28 win. Besides that game no other team came within 14 points.
They went insane in the playoffs beating down three teams by a total score of 132-7. They shutout powerhouse Griffin high school 34-0 in the state final. After their dominant playoff run they were named Georgia state champions and "mythical" co-national champions with Moeller High School of Ohio.
#10) Allen High School (Texas) 2013
The most recent team on our list was 2013 Allen, a dominant collection of college talent. The star power was overwhelming with more than 18 division 1 prospects. Although the changing of rules has made it much easier for teams to score, this team was simply an offensive god. No team held them under 31 points the entire season.
Kyler Murray, who is regarded as arguably the top Texas high school football quarterback of all time, was the leader of this Allen squad. Murray had his pick of schools before ultimately ending up at Oklahoma. He was so outstanding at Allen that he was invited to the ESPY’s during his senior season. “The ESPYs had to be the pinnacle. It was like I was just walking on a cloud while I was there,” Murray said. During his junior season he threw for 3,669 and 46 touchdowns. He also racked up 1,328 yards on the ground to go along with 18 touchdowns. Eventually he was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American football and baseball games. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.
Offensive tackle Bobby Evans protected Murray's blind side, he also signed with Oklahoma. Future Notre Dame wide receiver Jalen Guyton, provided a reliable target and was a constant threat in the passing game. Center Cody Wheeler, a future Texas Tech signee sured up the o-line. Linebacker Tay Evans was leader of the defense, the future Sooner intimidated opponents and provided a pass rushing nightmare for offenses. On the opposite side linebacker Christian Sam played an important role before going off to Arizona State. They also had two future division 1 players at defensive back. Chad Adams accepted a scholarship at Arizona State as did Maayomi Olootu jr at Northern Illinois. Tejan Koroma was a load on the offensive line, he would eventually suite up for BYU. Although only sophomores on the team, future Ole Miss signees OT Gregory Little and safety Jaylon Jones provided a spark for the Eagles. So ya, there star power was immense.
They cruised through the regular season, with victories over the likes of Carroll and Cedar Hill. The only really competitive game Allen played was against DeSoto, which it won, 42-35.
They finished the season ranked 2nd by Max Preps and 1st by USA today. Thus capturing the mythical national crown. There is no doubt this Allen team is among the best in Texas state history.
1956 Abilene Texas 14-0, 1961 Washington Massillon Ohio 11-0, 1969 Coral Gabels Florida 11-0, 1971 Valdosta Georiga, 1976 Archbishop Moeller Ohio, 1978 Spring Branch Texas, 1983 Daingerfield Texas 16-0, 1987 North Hills Pennsylvania, 1988 Pine Forest Florida, 1989 Crenshaw California, 1989 Odessa Permian Texas 15-0, 1990 Ruston Lousiana, 1991 Inglewood High California, 1992 Valdosta Georgia 14-0, 1994 John Tyler Texas, 1998 West Monroe Lousiana, 1999 Evangel Christian Lousiana, 1999 De La Salle California 13-0, 1999 Madison Central (Miss), 2001 Long Beach Poly California 12-1, 2003 Pine Bluff Arkansas 15-0, 2004 Colerain Ohio, 2005 Southlake Caroll Texas 16-0, 2006 Oaks Christian California, 2007 Miami Northwestern Florida 15-0, 2007 St. Xavier Ohio 15-0, 2008 Centennial California, 2010 South Panola Mississippi 14-0, 2011 Don Bosco Prep New Jersey 11-0, 2015 Katy Texas, 2016 Bishop Gorman Nevada 15-0.
Drop us a comment and let us know who we missed.
We breakdown the best pitches in baseball history and the pitchers that threw them best. There have been many variations of pitch types and the way those pitches are gripped. However we tried to focus our study on 16 individual pitches.
Curveball - Sandy Kofax
One of the oldest known pitches in baseball, the curveball has been around since 1860. While great men have tried to achieve the perfect curve, only a few can really make a case for that claim.
Sandy Kofax curve seem to strike more fear in his opponents hearts than anyone. Kofax truly puzzled his opponents with his massive breaking ball. His curve was a classic 12-6 curve with the classic wrist snap and the magic forward rotation all culminating in a great curve. The Kofax signature pitch dropped vertically 12 to 24 inches due to his exaggerated arm motion. Kofax also tipped his curve ball and it didn't seem to help hitters out at all. The lefty’s strange elongated alien fingers were his greatest weapon. The extra long fingers allowed Kofax to throw the curveball with extra spin that wasn't often seem from anyone. Pittsburgh Pirates great Willie Stargell once commented that hitting off of Kofax was like “trying to drink coffee with a fork.”
Mr. Cub, shortstop Ernie Banks once described it, “Sandy’s curve had a lot more spin than anyone else’s. It spun like a fastball coming out of his hand. It jumped at the end.”
Reliever Rob Neyer called it “the best curve of all time”.
One slugger most pitchers were forbidden to throw a curveball to was Mickey Mantle. The “Mick” was so strong that even if he was fooled on a curve, he could keep his hands back and drive the ball out of the park. During Mantle’s second at bat of the 1963 World Series (Mantle struck out his first time up). Ball comes in high, just before reaching the plate it dives, crossing the plate by Mantle’s knees. Mantle never moves the bat, umpire calls strike three. Mantle stands there, then turns to the catcher and says, “How the fuck is anybody supposed to hit that shit?”.
The best Kofax story came over 15 years after he retried. When coaching briefly for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he would sometimes throw batting practice. On this day, the batter asked Kofax to throw his famous deuce. So Kofax indulged his request, and begins to throw his hook. First curve comes, swing and miss. Another comes, same result. Then several more big Kofax hooks go by untouched. By this time the entire Dodgers roster was in hysterics. The hitter eventually gives up and others want a piece of the action. The 45 year old Kofax proceeds to embarrass the entire LA lineup (Dodger line-up with Sax, Garvey, Baker and Cey), not one of them touched his curve. Eventually the great Tommy Lasorda walked out to the mound and asked him to stop. He told Kofax that he didn't want his hitters mentally destroyed just before a post seasons series, because they can’t hit a one-pitch man in his 40’s.
Big league scout Tim Dempsey once commuted “Koufax’s curve may have been the very toughest curve to hit ever, because of its steep north-south drop, offering less time in the strike zone.” The sharp breaking ball took a tremendous toll on the arm of Sandy. Over time the blood began draining from his left index finger, leaving it numb. Although Sandy dominated for only 5 seasons, no one can argue with his curveball when it was on.
Runner Up: Barry Zito
Knuckleball - Hoyt Willhelm
Perhaps the Godfather of the modern knuckleball, Hoyt Willhelm’s knuckleballs were so wicked catchers were forced to use larger gloves when catching him. Although their have been many great knuckles, none have been thrown with more movement.
He played for nine different teams during his career, racking up 228 saves to go with a 2.52 ERA. The reliever was able to play in 8 All-Star games and pitched till the age of 49. He was the first pitcher to reach 200 saves, and the first to appear in 1,000 games. Most of those accomplishments are compliments of the knuckleball.
Throwing the pitch required several different procedure steps to ensure its delivery. He carefully aligned his fingers not to touch the laces and then guided the ball out with his fingertips. Willhelm always had to make sure his fingernails were trimmed to a t, as he was often seen with nail clippers throughout his career.
Many think that Phil Niekro was a better knuckleball pitcher, of course Wilhelm was the one that taught Nieko the knuckleball. Former teammate Moose Skowron commented on Wilhelm's key pitch, saying, "He threw the best knuckleball I ever saw. You never knew what Hoyt's pitch would do. I don't think he did either.” Executive Roland Hemond agreed, saying, "Wilhelm's knuckleball did more than anyone else’s”. "He had the best knuckleball you'd ever want to see," said Brooks Robinson. "He knew where it was going when he threw it, but when he got two strikes on you, he'd break out one that even he didn't know where it was going.”
In a funny way a passed balls that get by the catcher are a bags of honor for a knuckleballer, specially at the major league level. These catchers are top of the line and some of them have serious trouble catching the pitch. During one of Wilhelm's appearances that season, catcher Ray Katt committed four passed balls in one inning to set the major league record. Orioles catchers had difficulty catching Wilhelm again in 1959 and they set an MLB record with 49 passed balls.
Runner Up: Phil Neikro
Fastball - Nolan Ryan
Throwing a baseball 100 mph is a rare physical feat that 1 and every million person could achieve. In a world of special grips and breaking pitches, the fastball has always stayed true. Some believe the pitch is the ultimate symbol of essence and truth in sports.
Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan always had a fastball that was a cut above the rest. Mr. October Reggie Jackson probably summed the pitcher up best "Ryan is the only guy who puts fear in me. Not because he can get you out but because he can kill you."
A legendary Ryan story goes like this, Bo Jackson hit a line drive back at the mound that struck Nolan Ryan in the face. Blood shot out of his lip and splattered on his uniform. Ryan found the ball on the ground and calmly picked it up for the out at first. When Bo came up to bat again no one was left sitting in their seats. We were pumped and cheered because everyone in Arlington Stadium knew what was coming. Four pitches were thrown, all fastballs, and they were the fastest pitches I'll ever see. Bo nicked one of them, but couldn't catch up to the other three.”
Major league baseball decided it would start measuring the speed of the pitch right out of the pitchers hand in 1997. When Ryan was recorded, they measured the velocity of the pitches 10 feet from the plate. It means Ryan’s fastball would probably clock someone around 105 mph, much different than the 100 mph accounted to him by the Guinness Book of World Records. Not to mention his first measurement was made in the 9th inning of a start.
Aroldis Chapman’s pitch at 105.1mph is the fastest in the record books but probably wasn’t truly faster than Ryan’s record setting pitch. That’s because when the two pitches crossed the plate, Chapman’s pitch was moving at an estimated 96.5mph while Nolan Ryan’s was still moving at a staggering 99.1mph.
He was 46, when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament on September 22nd, 1993. He threw one last pitch in order to test his arm before coming out of the game. That pitch was clocked at 98mph, outstanding considering that he didn’t have a functioning elbow.
Some feats of longevity are simply more impressive than others. Ryan’s fastball stayed true until his upper 30’s and even 40s. Spanning 3 different decades Ryan dominated for 27 major league seasons.
The most impressive Ryan stat might stand forever, he struck out 5,714 batters, next highest is Randy Johnson with 4,875 strikeouts. The un-hittable than Hall of Famer set the all-time records for strikeouts (5,714), hits per nine innings (6.6) and no-hitters (seven). Ryan holds the single-season record for strikeouts (383 in 1973), topped 300 six times, and led his league in strikeouts 11 times (4 from 1987-1990, when he was 40-43).
Runner-up Aroldis Chapman
Slider - Randy Johnson
The hard breaking ball that tails down and away through the hitters zone. The speed thrown on a slider is often harder than a curveball. It includes a downwards pull on the ball as it is released, its released off the index finger. Movement is thought to be created from a mixture of fingertip pressure and grip.
The pitcher with the nastiest slider was California native Randy Johnson. One of the most intimidating pitchers in the history of baseball. The 6-10 lefty threw a mostly sidearm delivery, usually resulted in very high velocities. His great size gave him a release point that few batters had ever seen before. His slider dipped about 15 inches and was thrown at 90 mph. The pitch was notorious for running on the hands of right handed batters and running away from lefties. His slider results in many more ground balls compared to other pitchers' sliders and produced a extremely high number of swings & misses. The combination of Johnson's size, his release point and his velocity has made him almost every hitter's least favorite pitcher. Jack Wilson of the Pirates commented “I think it's the greatest strikeout pitch ever, right up there with Nolan Ryan's fastball. Randy's slider might be the best slider in the history of the game." Checkout this clip of Johnson's slider via the catcher cam.
Johnson’s slider gave some of the best hitters alive serious problems. Fittingly, the player with the most career at-bats against Johnson got embarrassed. Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson went 7-for-59 with zero RBIs and 30 strikeouts. Hall of Famer Tony Gwyenn said, "The slider is unhittable for a left-handed hitter. I'd bet the farm it's coming, and I still can't hit it. I got a hit off it once, and I wanted to keep the ball.”
The most fitting tribute to the greatness of Randy Johnson came in the playoffs when Baltimore Orioles manager Davey Johnson benched his three best left-handed hitters, Rafael Palmeiro, B.J. Surhoff and Roberto Alomar (a switch-hitter, but an injury prevented him from batting right-handed) in the first and fourth games of the American League Division Series against the Seattle Mariners. "Raffy told me that he'd like to play against Randy," Johnson said before Game 1 of his first baseman, who had hit 38 homers and driven in 110 runs that season. "But he told me that Randy could mess him up for two weeks. That was all I needed to hear.”
Ex-slugger Chipper Jones had his ups and downs against the Big Unit. “I've also seen him make a ton of mistakes, but his stuff is so good, he gets away with them. If he's on, and your swing is off even a little, he's going to get you, and he's going to make you look really bad. I don't know how left-handed hitters hit him. I thank God every day that my dad made me a switch-hitter.”
Runner Up: Steve Carlton
Change-Up - Pedro Martinez
Many pitchers have dominated the game via the off speed pitch. Mastering the off speed pitch is really more about changing your speeds to make the hitters uncomfortable. The real master of the pitch is Pedro Martinez. Sure, pedro had the 98 mph fastball but it made the change-up even more deadly. Martinez displayed pinpoint control that was uncanny. The pitch helped him to 3 Cy Young awards, 8x all-star appearances and the 1999 Triple Crown award.
The best change ups are thrown with a similar arm slot and speed, but "fall" at the end, while being anywhere from 7 to 15 MPH slower than a typical fastball. His changeup made the best power hitters look like they were trying out for the ballet. They would be so far out in front of the ball they could swing twice and still not make contact. Early in his career when his velocity was in the upper 90s he was nearly flawless. Batters would expect the speedy fastball and nearly always be burned with the changeup.
Pedro used the circle grip for his change up, his long fingers also allowed his for extra spin when the ball was released. Because of his natural motion the pitch would appear to tail away from left handed hitters. The late break caused hitters enormous frustration and is probably the reason Pedro’s change up is the best. You just can’t account for natural movement. Martinez was careful to throw his changeup with the same arm speed as his fastball to deceive the hitter. His footwork was impeccable, giving him the needed momentum off the rubber. Like any pitcher, Martinez would make mistakes. But he was able to correct himself within the inning.
One stat that illustrated the dominance of the change up was opponents swing and missed at an average of 25 percent of the time during the 2006 season. The league average for change-up swings and misses that year was only 15 percent. He threw the changeup a great deal and had more success with it than anyone.
Several heroic pitching performances could be attributed to games when his changeup was on. The batters were helpless in the box against Pedro, in 1999 when he struck out 17 Yankees in a single game.
Runner up: Trevor Hoffman
Cutter - Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera’s cutter was a problem for virtually everyone he ever faced. He’s owned the patent on the pitch no one can duplicate. Batters hated him and wood bat companies worshiped him. Widely regarded as the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera had a tremendous career filled with accolades. One evaluator commented "Mariano's cutter is the single most devastating pitch in MLB history. Probably the only pitch that was equally predictable and devastating.”
Rivera's cutter has been recorded as moving 8.2 inches before reaching home plate. The next closest ever measured was the Phillies Cliff Lee at 7 inches. Anytime Rivera found himself in a tight squeeze there was little question of the pitch he would go with. The cutter made hitters look down right ridiculous, watch this at-bat where he broke the hitters bat 3 times. Everyone knew the cutter was coming, and they still couldn't hit it.
Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated confirmed that the future Hall of Famer discovered his cutter during a 1997 road series against the Detroit Tigers. According to Rivera on that June 23rd "A gift from God, was born”.
“The catcher was upset at me because the ball was moving and he thought I was making the ball move," Rivera says. "From that moment, I told the pitching coach, I have no control over this. The ball is moving, and I have no control.” "Didn't matter how I grabbed the ball," Rivera recalls. "It was still moving. I told Mel that I won't be throwing no more balls in the bullpen because I need to be ready for the game. We worked a lot and this thing is still the same and let's leave it like that.”
The pitch’s genius is in its simplicity: there are no tricks or gimmicks in the delivery or execution. Instead, Rivera follows this simple routine, throw the cutter, make it break too late to detect and feather it over a corner. His pitch is somewhere between a slider and a fastball, as it is usually thrown faster than a slider but with more motion than a typical fastball. The tremendous spin-rate on the cutter, requires a wrist that’s so loose and fingers that are so long they’re able to touch his wrist. His cutter spin so furiously, the rotation delivers the ball in a straight line practically to the front edge of the plate. Only then, after a hitter has begun his swing, does the cutter reveal its lateral movement. That’s what creates the illusion of a fastball until the very last moment.
Since that june 23rd, his regular-season opponents have a .208 batting average. When wielding the cutter in the playoffs, lineups have combined for an microscopic .172 batting average. Among the 178 individuals with at least 1,000 innings pitched since the '97 season, Rivera owns the lowest batting average on balls in play (.260 BABIP).
“It’s like a buzz-saw,” is what Chipper Jones once said. “It just eats you up, especially if you’re a left-handed hitter. You know it’s coming, but that doesn’t really help you much.”
David Ortiz described, “The pitch that you swing at is a fastball. The one you make contact with is the cutter. It’s unbelievable.”
Runner Up: Cliff Lee
Split-Finger Fastball - Roger Clemens
The split-finger has always had more movement than its brother pitches. A split-finger fastball or splitter is a pitch in baseball derived from the forkball. It is named after the technique of putting the index and middle finger on different sides of the ball, or "splitting" them. When thrown hard, it appears to be a fastball to the batter, but appears to suddenly "drop off the table" towards home plate. Although its labeled as a fastball, the pitch actually functions as an off speed pitch. According to Mike Scioscia, the splitter was "the pitch of the ‘80s.”
Six time Cy young award winner, Roger Clemens used the splitter to dominate hitters for his entire career. His splitter was known as one of the nastiest strike out pitches in baseball. The pitch would regularly dive into the dirt a good 10-15 inches before reaching home plate. The splitter helped transform Clemens from a great pitcher to the greatest living pitcher. It also helped Clemens to become the oldest starting pitcher in an all-star game and helped him to more than 3,000 strikeouts. Clemens threw the splitter early in his career he truly mastered the splitter at the age of 34. Many think it was the the chief reason the 11-time All-Star was able to pitch for another decade.
Clemens learned the pitch from a well known split-finger master. "Mike Scott showed it to me at a charity golf event in Houston (in 1986). He'd had some great games with it. I honed it to my own hand because mine is different than his. We grip it the same but apply pressure to it differently.
The pitch has been widely successful the excessive force on the arm has caused a lot of ball players to rethink throwing the pitch. While the spitter may have been the pitch of the 80’s few players are throwing it today. In 2011, only 15 starting pitchers used it as part of their regular repertoire. The pitch has been known to cause injury by the stress the split fingers puts on the elbow. Although several pitchers have thrown it only a few have truly thrown the pitch with longevity. Even though Clemens considers his fastball his signature pitch even he admits "If you see highlights from a 10 strikeout game, you'll see it five or six times for a strikeout.”
Runner-Up: Mike Scott
Sinker - Orel Hershiser
Sinkers are a pitch that behave just like they sound, with downward and horizontal movement. The sinker drops 3 to 6 inches more than a typical two-seam fastball which causes batters to hit ground balls more often than other fastballs, mostly due to the tilted sidespin on the ball. While a hard choice, Orel Hershiser was the most effective sinker ball pitcher of all time. A sinker ball pitcher often times has injury problems, but Hershiser played over a decade with Los Angeles. The fact that he he had a dog named sinker didn’t hurt his cause.
Well let Hershiser tell it “I have a sinking fastball to either side of the plate, a cutter (which changes the direction of my fastball so it breaks instead of sinking), to either side of the plate, a curveball I throw at three speeds and three angles, a straight change—using the same arm speed and position as a fastball but with a grip and a release that slows it dramatically, and changeups to different locations that I throw off my sinker which look like batting practice fastballs. Different locations, different speeds, and slightly different arm angles on all those pitches give me a wide palette of choices.”
"Orel showed me a foolproof way to grip the sinker, so that I didn't ever leave it up," Leary said. "One of the rules we had was: don't miss high. Make your mistakes below the knees. Orel went through his whole streak without ever making a mistake above the knees.”
Hershiser threw seven shutouts in his last 11 starts in 1988. He tied a long time standing record for consecutive scoreless innings previously held by pitcher Don Drysdale. On the night of Sept. 28, Hershiser faced the Padres in San Diego needing nine shutout innings to tie Drysdale's record. "It was the best I've ever seen him pitch," says Tony Gwynn of the Padres, the best hitter in the National League and the hitter Hershiser respects the most. "Oh for four. I grounded to second base each time, each time on a sinker, although he set me up differently each time. He sure as heck knew what he was doing out there.”
They worked at closing the angle a little, and Hershiser's sinker started diving more dramatically and his curveball became sharper. And that's just about when his streak began. "In a way, I am the extension of Koufax and Wallace on the mound," Hershiser says.
Runner-Up: Roy Halladay
Screwball - Fernando Valenzuela
The legend from the south, Fernando was an instant sensation in the MLB. His talents overtook Los Angles from the second he took the mound. One pitch truly amazed fans and hitters alike, his famous “El Turo” pitch which of course was the screwball. The pitch might have taken away from the longevity of Valezuelas career, but the pitch was as good to watch as any.
A screwball itself moves bizarrely, when thrown by a right-handed pitcher, it breaks from left to right from the point of view of the pitcher; the pitch therefore moves down and in on a right-handed batter and down and away from a left-handed batter. If thrown correctly, the screwball breaks in the opposite direction of a curve ball.
It’s thrown by turning the wrist and elbow to the outside, away from the body. If thrown right, the ball breaks away from right-handed hitters. Now, a screwball is like a unicorn, seldom have seen it and few believe it exists. The screwball has seen a sharp decline in recent years. Currently their isn't one guy in the majors who throws the pitch. Which all adds to the intrigue of the unusual pitch. The reasons and ideas behind it are being questioned, check out this article on the screwball’s extinction from the New York Times.
When Valenzuela, then a 20-year-old rookie, faced the Expos in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series. “I’m going to throw mostly screwballs tomorrow,” Valenzuela told the coach Manny Mota over dinner. “Just watch.” Of course he would dominate that game 7 allowing no runs. Valenzuela learned the pitch two years earlier from Bobby Castillo, a mediocre reliever. “It took me a while,” Valenzuela said. “But it ended up being my best pitch.”
The argument goes that throwing a screwball, Valenzuela's most reliable pitch, has put an unusual strain on his elbow and lower arm. "If you analyze it, your arm finishes in a more natural position than a curveball or something," Fernando said. "Whether it puts more strain on the arm, i'm not sure."
Runner Up: Christy Mathewson
Forkball - Dave Stewart
The forkball differs from the split-fingered fastball, because the ball is jammed harder between the first two fingers. The forkball is thrown with the same arm motion and velocity as a fastball. At the release point the wrist is snapped downward, creating a spin off the middle or index finger allowing for extra movement. Although generally thrown much slower than fast balls the movement is closer to the action of a tradition curveball break.
When Dave Stewart had his forkball going, his was the best. After coming to Oakland in 1986, Stewart would use the forkball to win 20 games or more games in each of the next four seasons. He established himself as one of baseball's most dominant pitchers. He would finish his career with 168 wins and 1,741 strikeouts.
"I always had an idea how to pitch," Stewart said. "I've just never had all the tools. The forkball made me successful." Stewart and the Death Stare put together four consecutive 20-victory seasons.
The removal of the only wrinkle in his repertory, the 71-mile-an-hour forkball, essentially reduced Stewart to a very predictable pitcher. There's very little difference between his 90-m.p.h. fastball and his 88-m.p.h. curve-slider. The forkball simply stopped having its movement or effect. Thus Stewart had a tough time getting hitters out. The whole thing truly illustrated how reliant he was upon his favorite pitch.
Runner-Up: Hideo Nomo
Slurve - Kerry Wood
Although it has been around for a while, not much is known about the slurve. Cy young was the earliest practitioner of the slurve, having first used it in 1890. The slurve is exactly what it sounds like, combination of curveball and slider. It is thrown like a slider with the hand grip of a curveball. People think its a sloppy pitch because of its wide break. The slurve is thrown with a greater velocity than a curveball and is thrown with more downward break than a slider.
They think the slurve accounts for more walks and home run balls than a late breaking slider. For this reason, fans seldom see the pitch being thrown. However when thrown correctly the slurve can be a very effective weapon for pitchers.
Ex-Chicago pitching phenomenon Kerry Wood knows all about the slurve. Wood paired his upper 90’s fastball with one of baseball’s nastiest breaking balls. The slurve could be tough to throw for a strike when a pitcher is in a funk. Wood’s slurve was remarkably accurate, as it broke anywhere from 6-14 inches over the plate. In 1998 the 20 year old Kerry Wood set the baseball world on fire by striking out 20 batters. His career was derailed of injury that most blamed on the use of his slurve. But few could deny the brilliance of his beautiful breaking ball.
Although Wood had a short career his slurve ball remains in baseball immortality. Check out some of his best slurve pitches ever thrown.
Runner-Up: Goose Gossage
Spitball - Gaylord Perry
The pitch, just as it sounds was made effective by altering the ball with spit to affect how the air interacted with the ball as it headed to the plate. There was no telling how the pitch would react once thrown. Most good spitballs have a nasty late break. The spitball was banned following the 1920 season. Since then, the pitch has resulted in a number of ejections and suspensions. The greatest spitball pitcher was easily identified as Gaylord Perry, after he authored a book titled “Me and the Spitter”.
So what was so special about Perry’s spitball? Perry played a particular mental game with his hitters. His pre windup routine featured a bevy of weird motions and touches of his mouth, arms, hat, jersey, and finally the glove (seen here). His philosophy was simple, get the hitters to think about the mysterious use of his spitball so much it would completely take them off their game. This isn't to say the man never let a wet one go. He threw plenty of spit balls in his career, they just weren't as regularly used as people like to think. The mental advantage was the real edge. Focusing on catching someone cheating is a sure fire way to distract their concentration.
But his gamesmanship didn't end there, "When we played the Reds, I'd roll a soaked ball to Sparky (Anderson), and he'd laugh. We had fun with it."I'd shake Johnny Bench's hand. And (Pete) Rose's and (Joe) Morgan's hand," Perry said. "And my hand would be full of Vaseline. "I'd say, 'Look forward to pitching against you tomorrow.' And I go them thinking about it all that night and all day the next day.”
"The easiest guy to get into the head of was Reggie (Jackson). I could throw him a forkball, and he'd swear it was something else. One time in Texas, he hit one off me. When he got back to the dugout, I just tipped my hat at him. We became great friends after that."
Part of his brilliance was he was nearly impossible to catch actually throwing the pitch. Yet he never was ejected from a game for using a substance on the ball until a decade after his career had began. Take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates absolutely loosing their minds over his pre routine.
Perry would put vaseline on his zipper because umpires would never check there. He had a thousand different tricks and hiding places. He used the spitball and mental games to win 314 games and strike out 3,534 batters during his Hall of Fame career.
Runner Up: Burleigh Grimes
Gyroball “Backup Slider” - Tetsuro Kawajiri
Literally dreamed up in the labs of Japan. The pitch was invented by a Japanese scientist, who used computer simulations to create a new style of delivery made to decrease stress on a pitcher’s arm. The pitch is primarily used by players in Japan, we think.
The gyroball is one of the most mysterious sought after pitches in baseball history. When thrown correctly the pitch supposedly has a horizontal circular spin to it, resulting in bizarre breaks away from right handed hitters. The pitch has also been known to mysteriously drop off the table. The spin results in the baseball having no magnus force on it, as it arrives at homeplate. According to its inventor the pitch has nothing to do with the hand and all depends on the use of a pitchers arm. Another magical characteristic of the gyro is the ball leaves the pitchers hand at a fastball speed, but the spin actually causes the ball to loose velocity as it reaches the plate. At the point of release, the pitchers arm doesn’t move inwards towards the body like a typical pitch. Instead the arms is rotated so that it moves away from his body, and then toward third base.
While their has been video of supped gyro balls, the existence of the pitch is still in question. Ii the pitch real? or just media hype? When westerners first heard of the pitch it was described as everything from a double breaking ball to pure magic. Writers and analysis let their imagination run wild thus claiming the existence of the gyroball the best thing since sliced bread. Reporters Jeff Passan and lee Jenkins approached Bonds and watched a short video of supposed gyroballs. Bonds eventually admitted the pitch just looked like a slider.
When one questions the rotation of the baseball, one would have to think it would behave closer to a chest pass in basketball or a perfect spiral in football. The flight of the ball should be straight and true, specially if the air pressure is the same around the ball. The gyro ball is purely theoretical, born on a computer and thought up by non-baseball players. The chances of a pitcher throwing a ball with perfect perpendicular spin is little to none. Sure gyro balls have been thrown but that is usually not intentionally.
Upon further investigation, the “gyro ball" is actually an old pitch, known under another name “The Backup Slider”. The idea behind the backup slider was that a hitter will expected an inside pitch to come across the plate like a slider but instead it will stay inside jamming the batter. The backup slider was usually known as a horribly risky pitch that routinely got bombed. Bob Gibson commented saying the backup slider was his greatest pitch but he didn't try to throw it because he usually couldn't make it do what he wanted.
Runner-Up: Daisuke Matsuzaka
Rip Sewell's Eephus Pitch
The ultimate low speed lob pitch, the eephus is designed to catch the hitter off guard. The eephus pitch features a high, lob-like arc and typically comes in at no more than 50-60 MPH. The pitch offers hitters two big obstacles, first they have to produce all the power themselves because the pitch is thrown at very low speeds. Second, the hitter needs to be patient and keep his hands back before he can drive the ball.
The inventor of the pitch was its finest practitioner, Rip Sewell was a great pitcher that played in the majors for 13 seasons and was named to 4 all-star teams. Rip Sewell was hardly a strikeout pitcher, he only averaged more than three strikeouts per nine innings four times in his career. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Sewell’s eephus pitch was the fact that the only one player homered off the pitch, that player was Ted Williams in an all-star game. "Eephus" might mean nothing, but against the long ball, it certainly was something. The name eephus was coined by Pittsburgh outfielder Maurice Van Robays who said “Eephus ain’t nothing and that’s what that ball is.” Although we don’t agree that it is a nothing pitch, a few things made Sewell’s eephus stand out. First it had a ridiculous amount of height on it. Many of his eephus pitches were marked at a height of 25 feet.
He learned the pitch when is career came into jeopardy when a hunting companion accidentally fired 14 pellets of buckshot into him. The damage done to his right foot required him to learn a new delivery and a new pitch to make up for his diminished fastball and curve.
Sewell threw his first eephus pitch on April 17, 1941, striking out Cubs center fielder Dom Dallessandro and stranding two runners. The startled hitter pointed his bat at Sewell, saying, "If this was a rifle, I'd shoot you right between the eyes. The Cubs argued that the eephus was illegal, but Bill Klem, the National League's supervisor of umpires, declared it legal, which was the final word on the matter.
Before they realized how effective the eephus could be, many batters regarded the pitch as the ultimate sign of disrespect. St. Louis third baseman Whitey Kurowski made a point of spitting tobacco juice at the ball as it floated past him. Reds shortstop Eddie Miller caught an eephus and fired it back at Sewell. Though that particular eephus never reached the catcher's mitt, the umpire called it a strike.
Many baseball pundits balk at the usual moon ball pitch. That could be attributed to a particularly ugly piece of history that coincides with the eephus pitch. Bill Lee threw an eephus pitch in the game 7 of the 1975 World Series, at the time the Red Sox led the game 3-0. Lee threw the pitch with a 1-0 count, to slugger Tony Perez with a man on first. The pitch resulted in a towering two-run shot over the Green Monster, the Red Sox went on to loose the game 4-3 costing them a shot at their first world title since 1918.
Runner-Up: Satchel Paige
Greg Maddux - Shuuto Pitch
The shuuto itself was born in Japan sometime during the 1970s. Many claim the shuuto is just a term the Japanese use to refer to a number of pitches. It can describe any pitch that tails to the pitcher's arm side, including the two-seam fastball, the circle change-up, the screwball, and the split-finger fastball. Think of a good 2-seam fastball with downward movement then add a knifing motion.
Known as “The Professor” Greg Maddux had a excellent array of pitches. His best might have been his signature shuuto Pitch. A pitch which many experts feel that Maddux throws better than anyone else ever. Similar to a sinker but with a knifing action, the shuuto is some kind of mystery. Although he threw it as a simple 2 seam fastball the pitch came out as a shuuto pitch.
As Maddux threw the pitch it first appears as a fastball, but loses speed and rolls toward the batter. It is effective when thrown outside a batter, as it will drift back and catch the outside of the plate for a strike. It is essentially the opposite of a slider, which breaks away from the batter. The shuuto has lots of variations; Greg Maddux used his on the corner of the plate against left-handed batters.
Runner-Up: Masaji Hiramatsu
Satchel Paige's Hesitation Pitch
A true throwback, Satchel Paige was one of the greatest pitchers of his era. He had a unique delivery for one of his pitches, perhaps the pitch that he was most famous for throwing. When Paige pitched the move was very much legal, now it would probably be seen as a balk. While corks and weird movements often go unseen during a pitchers delivery, it can’t be ignored.
The "hesitation pitch" was a quirk in his delivery where he would intentionally pause after his left foot hit the ground before releasing the ball. He would hold the ball in the air and pause for an extra second. The small hesitation caused batters to struggle with their weight distribution thus throwing their timing off.
Paige paired his hesitation pitch with his high powered fastball and tremendous breaking ball to form one of the greatest pitch varieties in baseball history. Not much has ever been said about the invention of this pitch.
This week we bring you the greatest jerseys in sports history. Our ratings took five things into consideration. Color, design, popularity, relevance & city influence. Drop a comment below and let us know who we missed.
We usually don't show much love to the NHL, but we couldn't resist these. Their uniform has not changed all that much throughout the years, making only small changes when deemed nessasary. With their trademark alternate "C" logo with crossed tomahawks on the shoulders. Along with the classic image of the Blackhawk Indian across the front of the jersey it is enough for number one.
San Francisco Warriors 1970
No uniform in NBA history better symbolized a city in which a team resided. The jersey features great geographic landmarks used within their design. The logo featured a silhouette of the Golden Gate bridge on a circle. "The City" was a popular term used for San Francisco in Northern California. The back of the jersey features a trolley car (which was popular in SF during the time period), with numbers inside the trolley car. Worn by Hall of Famers Rick Barry & Nate Thurmond.
New York Yankees
If your uniform has been relevant for almost a century, it is safe to say you will make the top 5. The classic pinstripes have been a Bronx bombers mainstay since the early part of the 1900's. The pinstripes have been donned by some of the best ballplayers of all time Ruth, Gerihg, Dimaggio, Mantle, Maris, Mattingly, Rivera, Jeter and many more. Need I say more?
Atlanta braves 1973
Their white home jerseys featured raglan-sleeve design with royal blue and red accents. There sleeve featured a classic feather logo in blue and red. Cursive royal blue font with white and red outline. Hank Aaron would go on to hit home run number 715 in these. One of the best selling throwback jerseys in the 2000s.
When you think Black and Silver, you think Raiders. One of the only sports teams to be synonymous with a color scheme. The first pro franchise to feature strictly black and silver in their uniform scheme. Al Davis became iconic because of the move. The awesome Raider shield logo didn't hurt their cause.
Chicago Bulls 1996
Their jerseys rarely change much and that's for good reason. The red, white and black works in a perfect harmony. The classic bulls font highlighted by an arch. The black numbers are highlighted by white outline along with the red background.
Los Angeles Dodgers 1977
The team has changed their uniform little since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1957. Their classic blue Dodger cursive along with the red lettering makes for a classic uniform look that has stood the test of time. Not to mention the classic LA logo sported on the hats.
Orlando Magic 1996
Maybe its the pinstripes, maybe its the star in place of the letter a. Maybe its the awesome color scheme. These magic jerseys have always been an NBA fan favorite. Featuring white pinstripes on their black away jerseys, the magics letter script was unique among NBA teams. Worn by Shaq & Penny's team of the mid 1990's, these uniforms made an appearance in the 1995 NBA Finals.
San Francisco 49ers 1994
Blessed with a great color combo the 49ers added depth to their numbers in 1994, making the uniform pop. The 94 versions also featured the NFL's 75th anniversary patch. The team also went on to win the Superbowl in these during the 94 season.
Philadelphia 76ers 1977
There are few cities with more history than Philadelphia. The 77 Sixers jersey played great homage to a historic American city. Featuring stars down the side, the patriotic scheme. Unique Sixers font also helped to showcase the flashy team that donned the Jerseys. The 77 team would go on to the NBA Finals where they lost to a more team oriented Portland Trailblazers team.
San Diego Chargers 1967
Classic powder blue Chargers uniforms became an instant hit in San Diego. They remain one of the most popular throwback jerseys in the NFL. The unique helmets featured the letters below the lightning bolt. Their sleeve featured a horizontal lightning bolt above the numbers. The pants had a vertical thunder bolt along the side.
Portland Trailblazers 1988
Featuring two parallel lines running diagonal on the jersey. The design created a unique look for the Blazers. The 1988 version of the jersey featured the blazers script in lower case lettering.
Washington Bullets 1977
Another great jersey illustrates the American feel of the political capital Washington DC. The Bullet uniform payed homage to our American flag. The jersey featured flag like striped on the upper, while the shorts featured stars on the sides.
Los Angeles Rams 1984
The helmet ram design is simple and refined. Circling Ram horns form the best helmet design in the entire NFL. The sleeve featured a ram horn and the color scheme makes it all come together.
Houston Oilers 1983
The iconic powder blue uniforms wore by none other than Earl Campbell. The jersey featured a great use of number script outlined by red. The contrast between the powder blue, white and red worked great. The helmets featured an oiling tower. An image that is synonymous in Houston, Texas.