Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, there’s something mesmerizing about a pitch that leaves the batter – and sometimes the audience – utterly stunned. The MLB has been graced by several legends with golden arms. Let’s count down ten of the best pitchers who have truly left an indelible mark on the sport.
With four no-hitters, including a perfect game, Koufax’s career might have been short due to arthritis, but it was undeniably impactful. His blazing fastball and devastating curveball made him a six-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner.
Despite his legendary status, Koufax played a majority of his career with arthritis in his elbow. By the end of his career, he was essentially pitching in constant pain, which ultimately led him to retire at the young age of 30 – further cementing his legend.
The Ryan Express! With a record seven no-hitters and 5,714 career strikeouts, Ryan’s power and longevity on the mound are unrivaled. Over his 27-season career, he dominated batters with his sheer speed and tenacity.
Ryan is the only MLB player to have his number retired by three different teams: the Angels, Astros, and Rangers.
In an era dominated by hitters, Pedro stood out. With a three-time Cy Young recognition and five ERA titles, Martinez’s changeup was a thing of beauty.
In 1999, he had a staggering 313 strikeouts with an ERA of just 2.07.
It’s no surprise that the award for the best pitcher is named after him. With 511 career wins – a record still unbroken – Young’s ability to control the game was unmatched in his era. Young threw the first-ever pitch in World Series history in 1903, representing the Boston Red Sox.
In 1968, Gibson had an almost unreal 1.12 ERA, leading to a rule change the following year to level the playing field between pitchers and hitters. His fierce competitive nature was legendary.
During his iconic 1968 season, Gibson completed 28 of his 34 starts, meaning he pitched the entire game almost 82% of the time he took the mound.
The Big Unit, standing at a towering 6’10”, Johnson was a five-time Cy Young winner. With a fastball that sometimes touched 100 mph and a slider that seemed to defy physics, he struck out 4,875 batters in his career.
Johnson is one of the few pitchers to hit a bird with a pitch. During a 2001 spring training game, a dove flew in front of the plate just as Johnson released the ball, resulting in an explosion of feathers.
Unlike others who dominated with speed, Maddux was all about precision. With four consecutive Cy Young Awards, Maddux’s ability to read hitters and situations was unparalleled. Maddux won 18 Gold Glove Awards, the most by any pitcher, highlighting his exceptional defensive skills in addition to his pitching prowess.
The “Big Train” played his entire 21-year career with the Washington Senators, racking up 417 wins and a record 110 shutouts. His sidearm fastball was said to be one of the fastest the game has ever seen. Johnson was not just an ace on the mound; he also served as a manager and even ran for political office after his baseball career, though he was unsuccessful in his bid for a congressional seat.
“Tom Terrific” had an incredible 311 wins and 3,640 strikeouts over his illustrious career. A 12-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner, Seaver was known for his powerful leg drive which contributed to his pitching prowess.
Seaver is one of only two pitchers in MLB history to record a 300-win, 3,000-strikeout, and sub-3.00 ERA career – the other being Walter Johnson.
Representing the modern era, Kershaw’s curveball is often described as “public enemy number one” by Vin Scully. With numerous accolades, including three Cy Young Awards, Kershaw is a testament to the ongoing legacy of pitching greatness.
Beyond his on-field achievements, Kershaw is well-known for his philanthropic work, especially his charity, “Kershaw’s Challenge,” which seeks to improve the lives of children in the U.S., the Dominican Republic, and Africa.
From blazing fastballs to artful changeups, the MLB has witnessed a series of pitchers who have redefined the game. As we cheer for our favorite teams, it’s essential to remember and celebrate these legends who made baseball the beautiful game it is.