Former All-Star closer Ugueth Urbina was released from a Venezuelan prison last Saturday after serving a total of seven and a half years in jail. Shortly after his release, the prison made an official statement claiming Urbina was released early for good behavior from his 14-year sentence for attempted murder during a dispute over a gun on Oct. 16, 2005.
Friends close to Urbina say he still can throw over 90 mph. After hearing this, Juan Vicente Zerpa, manager of the Leones de Caracas of the Venezuelan winter league, said he would “welcome” Urbina on his team and that “he is a Lion.” Urbina started his career with Leones before moving on to the majors, where he went 44-49 with a 3.45 ERA in 11 seasons with the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Marlins, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies.
While Urbina might have paid his debt to society, he is still one of baseball’s ugliest of characters. Since the beginning of its existence, Major League Baseball has had as many villains as it has heroes. Below is a list of the top 15 villains in baseball history. This list could be longer if we added players from the steroid era, or even the classic go-to bad guys like Ty Cobb and Pete Rose, but that would be too easy. This list focuses on players whose lives were dramatically affected by their crimes.
15. Julio Castillo — Castillo was a Chicago Cubs prospect. On July 24, 2008, he got into an argument with the opposing Dayton Dragons manager, which led to an on-field brawl. During the brawl, Castillo threw a baseball at the Dayton dugout in a rage. He missed the dugout and hit a fan in the stands, knocking him out cold. Castillo was immediately arrested and charged with two counts of felonious assault and felonious assault with a deadly weapon. He was eventually released on a $50,000 bond. Castillo, now 26, was later sentenced to 30 days in jail. He as never pitched a game since.
14. John Glenn — Glenn was an outfielder for the Washington Olympics, Washington Nationals and the Chicago White Stockings in the 1870s. After he allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl in Sandy Hill, New York, he fled from a local lynch mob. He was later accidentally shot and killed by a police officer who was trying to protect him.
13. Elijah Dukes Jr. — Dukes was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the third round of the 2002 MLB draft. He was a promising prospect with five-tool potential. Unfortunately, his off-field problems led him further from the game. From 1997-2012, Dukes has been in court more than he’s been on the field.
In 2007, he had a restraining order against him from his wife after he threatened her life on numerous occasions. That same year, he assaulted a 17-year-old foster child who was living with a relative once she accused him of impregnating her. When he was traded to the Nationals in 2007 the team also hired an ex-police officer as a “Special Assistant” who watched over Dukes everywhere he went to keep him out of trouble.
In 2010, Dukes was arrested for failure to pay child support, and again in 2011 for assaulting a pregnant ex-girlfriend. In 2012, he was arrested again for allegedly concealing marijuana; he tried to eat the plastic bag.
12. Dwight Gooden — After a spectacular 1986 season, where he posted a 17-6 record and 200 strikeouts, Gooden was arrested after fighting with police. Durng the following spring training, Gooden tested positive for cocaine.
In 1994, he tested positive for cocaine use again and was suspended for 60 days. To make matters worse, he tested positive again while serving his suspension, which added onto his punishment that extended into the 1995 season.
In 2002, Gooden was arrested in Tampa Bay and charged with driving while intoxicated, having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle and driving with a suspended license. He was arrested again in 2003 for driving with a suspended license.
In 2005, he was arrested for punching his then girlfriend. He was released later on a misdemeanor battery charge. Also in 2005, Gooden was pulled over after driving erratically. When the officer asked for his license, Gooden refused twice then drove away. He turned himself in three days later.
In 2006, he was arrested for violating his probation after having cocaine in his system at a scheduled meeting with his probation officer. This time he chose prison over an extended probation and spent seven months incarcerated.
His last arrest would come in 2010 in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, after he left the scene of an accident. He was found at a nearby location and was under the influence of an undisclosed controlled substance at the time. He was charged with DWI with a child passenger, leaving the scene of an accident, and various other traffic violations. He was later charged with endangering the welfare of a child. He pleaded guilty to those charges and received five years probation.
11. Darryl Strawberry — He was another notable Mets player who was once a bright spot. His choice of drug was cocaine, which resulted in his decline of play. If you look at his wrap sheet, it’s almost as big as his professional resume. In a 10-year window (1995-2005), Strawberry was arrested and charged for failing to pay child support, soliciting sex, hit-and-run, numerous drug-use charges, disappearing from his appointed house arrest drug treatment center and filing a false police report.
10. Arnold “Chick” Gandil — Gandil is mostly known for being the ringleader of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He and seven other Chicago teammates were forced out of baseball for life. Gandil’s history with throwing sporting events has been well documented. Before he joined the majors, Gandil was a heavyweight fighter earning $150 a fight. To provide for his family, he helped fix fights to earn more money.
9. Hal Chase — As far back as 1910, it is believed Chase was throwing games. In the 1918 season, Chase paid off pitcher Jimmy Ring $50 to throw a game against the Giants. Manager Christy Mathewson suspended Chase for the rest of the season when word came around to him. Mathewson then went on to press formal charges, but Chase was acquitted. After evidence surfaced in the offseason, Chase was blackballed from the major leagues.
After he was out of the league, it is believed he was a middleman in the Black Sox Scandal. Chase was never charged but did acknowledge he knew of the conspiracy beforehand. Chase moved his gambling operations to the Pacific Coast League where he bribed many players and umpires to throw games. After baseball and gambling, Chase spent the rest of his life regretting what he had done.
8. Byron McLaughlin — McLaughlin played five years with the Seattle Mariners and California Angels. A year after retiring, a warrant was issued for McLaughlin’s arrest after he failed to appear in court on previous drug-related charges.
In 1990, he was arrested for trafficking counterfeit shoes and money laundering. It was believed that McLaughlin was making 80,000 pairs of sneakers monthly and earning up to $750,000 in any given month for the counterfeit shoes. It was also determined that half of all the counterfeit footwear manufactured in Mexico could be traced to McLaughlin. McLaughlin pled guilty to the charges, but fled the country before being sentence. Today, his whereabouts are uncertain.
7. Gregory “Toe” Nash — Nash was a high school dropout who was discovered by the Devil Rays while playing in a semi-professional league. After his first minor league offseason, he was convicted of statutory rape. He spent eight months in jail, and everything went down hill from there for the once promising prospect. He was released from the Rays and was signed by the Reds. Unfortunately, he continued to get into trouble for everything from marijuana possession, domestic violence, battery and robbery. The same year the Reds signed him they released him.
6. Willie Aikens — Aikens was once regarded as one of the greatest hitters in the American League in the early 1980s. Aikens pleaded guilty in 1983 for attempting to purchase cocaine. By 1994, Aikens was heavily addicted to cocaine. He was eventually arrested and charged with four counts of crack cocaine distribution. He received the maximum sentence of 15 years and eight months, and he received an additional five years because he allegedly had a loaded gun in the room where the drugs where sold.
5. Mel Hall Jr. — Hall had a 13-year MLB career with the Cubs, Indians, Yankees and Giants between 1981 and 1996, which also included three years in Japan (1993-1995). In 2007, he was arrested in Lewisville, Texas, and charged with two counts of sexual assault from a 16-year-old girl. In the midst of the investigation, a second victim surfaced who was 12 years old at the time she was assaulted. On June 16, 2009, Hall was convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child. He was sentenced to 45 years behind bars.
4. Denny McLain — McLain was a dominant pitcher in 1968, winning 30 games — the last pitcher to do so. By 1970, McLain was a pitching celebrity making top dollar in the league.
It all came crashing down in February of 1970 when two magazine articles cited sources who alleged that McLain’s foot injury in 1967 was due to an organized crime figure stomping on it for McLain’s failure to pay off a bet. Later that year, McLain and a Pepsi representative attempted to set up a bookmaking operation. When the operation surfaced, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended McLain indefinitely during the 1970 season. Shortly after he was due to return from his punishment, Kuhn suspended him for the rest of the season for carrying a gun on the team’s plane. He was forced into bankruptcy later that year. During this time, he co-schemed with friend Jim Northrup back in Detroit to start a nude baseball model calendar, which fell through.
After baseball, McLain hustled golfers and even flew a wanted felon out of the country. He was later sent to prison for drug trafficking cocaine, embezzlement and racketeering.
In 1996, McLain was sent back to prison for six years on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and embezzlement, which was in connection with stealing $2.5 million from his company’s (Peet Packing Company) employee pension fund.
More recently, McLain was arrested at the U.S.-Canadian boarder after it was discovered he had an outstanding warrant against him in Louisiana. He was jailed, but later released.
3. Ugueth Urbina — A one-time All-Star and World Series champion, the 38-year-old Urbina was sentenced in 2007 to 14 years after being found guilty of attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at his family’s ranch in October 2005.
2. Lenny Dykstra — Dykstra was a stud of a ball player in the 1980s and 1990s. His highlights include being a three-time All-Star (1990, 1994 and 1995), a World Series champion (1986) and a Silver Slugger Award winner (1993).
Shortly after he retired, Dykstra’s business partner accused him of steroid use during his career as well as betting on his former team, the Phillies, in 1993. When the Mitchell Report came out in 2007, he was named in it.
In 1991, Dykstra was injured in a car crash with teammate Darren Daulton. Not only was he the driver at the time, but also his blood alcohol content was measured at 0.179.
In 1999, he was arrested for sexually harassing a 17-year-old woman who worked for him at his car wash. The charges eventually were dropped.
In 2010, Dykstra was accused of writing a bad check to a female escort.
In 2011, Dykstra was once again accused of sexual assault, this time by his housekeeper. Later that year, he was charged with bankruptcy fraud. When released on $500,000 bail, he was arrested two months later and charged with 25 misdemeanors and felony counts of grand theft auto, identity theft, filing false financial statements and possession of numerous drugs. To end the year, he was arrested for indecent exposure to another housekeeper he was interviewing for a job.
In early 2012, Dykstra was sentenced to three years in prison for his grand theft auto and false financial statement charges.
1. Ambiorix Burgos — The Kansas City Royals drafted Burgos. In 2005, he had the highest average fastball velocity among all American League relievers, at 96.5 mph.
In 2008, Burgos was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. Later that year, Burgos was charged with a hit-and-run in his native Dominican Republic. Reports revealed he struck two women in his SUV and drove off. Both women later died of their injuries. Burgos turned himself in six days later, but the charges were eventually dropped by authorities.
In 2010, Burgos was charged with kidnapping and poisoning his ex-wife (attempted murder).