Can You Identify These Legendary MLB Closers?

Daniel Yetman

Image: Wiki Commons by Keith Allison

About This Quiz

The save has been an officially recorded stat since 1969. The closer usually isn't the highest paid player on a ball team, but is there a position more important? The closer has to be comfortable performing under pressure with the highest stakes. Do you think you could handle it?

As a closer, it's your responsibility to shut down the other team when your team has a narrow lead and the other team has men on base. And if you don't have your good stuff that day, there's nobody else available because everybody assumes that you're going to get the job done.  

Perhaps no other closer has exemplified an ability to perform under pressure more than Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader with 652. He also retired with a career 2.21 ERA over his 19-year career. When it came time for him to be voted into the Hall of Fame, he was the first player to be unanimously selected. Maybe the only closing record he doesn't have is the most saves in a season. That record (62) belongs to Francisco 'K-Rod' Rodriguez. He set it in 2008. 

Not everybody has what it takes to pitch in high-pressure situations, but luckily some guys have excelled in that role. Can you identify these 40 closers who have dominated Major League Baseball? Get ready to put your baseball knowledge to the test!

He's considered to be the best closer of all-time. Who is he?

No matter how you look at it, Mariano Rivera is the best closer to ever play in the majors. He pitched for 19 seasons and holds the record for most career saves with 652. Trevor Hoffman is the only other pitcher with more than 600.

He used to be the all-time saves leader. What's his name?

Trevor Hoffman was the all-time saves leader from 2006 to 2011. However, all records are meant to be broken. He was elected to seven all-star games and is still widely regarded as one of the best closers in the league's history.

Who's this often underrated pitcher?

Billy Wagner pitched in the league for 16 years from 1995 to 2010. He might not be as well-remembered as some of the other pitchers on this list, but he put up solid numbers throughout his career. He racked up 422 career saves with a lifetime 2.31 ERA.

Which of these pitchers led the league in saves four times in the 1980s and 1990s?

Smith had the record for most career saves for 14 years from 1993 to 2006 (at which point Trevor Hoffman passed him). HIs 478 career saves were still enough to get him into Cooperstown on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot.

He played his entire career with three teams. Who is he?

Bruce Sutter played his entire career in the National League. If you were watching baseball in the 1980s, you would have seen him polish off his share of games. He led the league in saves in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1984.

You may recognize him best in a Blue Jays Uniform. His name is ________.

Tom Henke played most of his career in Toronto. He racked up 311 career saves over 14 years. In 1987, he had one of his best seasons. He led the league with 34 saves and accumulated a 2.49 ERA.

Who anchored the Yankees' bullpen in 1996?

John Wetteland accumulated 330 saves over his career from 1989 to 2000. Some highlights from his career include winning a World Series in 1996, leading the league in saves in the same year, and being voted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

Which one of these pitchers spent 12 years in the bullpen?

From 1980 until 1985, Dan Quisenberry had more saves than anybody. He led the league every year during this stretch, except for 1981. He set a career high in 1983 with 45.

Which one of these pitchers is famous for his iconic moustache?

As good as Rollie was as a pitcher, we also have to acknowledge him for growing one of the best moustaches in sports history. He was known as a workhorse throughout his career and led the league in appearances three time.

He played in the league for 22 years, from 1972-1994. Who is he?

Goose Gossage moved around the league every few years. He had 10 different stints throughout his career and even spent 1990 in Japan. During this time, he won one World Series and was a nine-time All-Star.

He didn't become a full-time closer until his 30s but became one of the best ever. Who is it?

Even though he didn't move into a closer role until he was 32, Dennis Eckersley managed to accumulate 387 during his tenure in the league. In 1992, he led the league with 51 saves and had an impressive 1.91 ERA.

Who's this pitcher who closed in the 1980s and 1990s?

In 1991, Harvey was voted the relief pitcher of the year. He racked up 46 saves that year with the Angels. Over his nine-year career, he accumulated 177 saves and a 2.49 ERA.

What's the name of this pitcher who recently retired?

His name may sound like a street in Texas, but Street put up a solid career from 2005 to 2017. He was voted to the All-Star Team twice with the Padres and had 324 saves over his career.

Who is this pitcher who pitched in Major League Baseball from 1991 to 2004?

Rod Beck pitched in the league throughout the 1990s until 2004. He was voted to the All-Star Game in 1993, 1994 and 1997 for his elite performance. He passed away at the age of 38 only three years after retiring.

He won a World Series with Boston in 2004. Who is he?

Keith Foulke played in the MLB for 11 seasons and had 191 saves during that time. He led the league twice in games finished and led the league in saves in 2003 with 43. The following year, he would help the Red Sox win a World Series.

Does this elite closer look familiar?

From 1980 to 1992, Dave Smith polished off 216 games. He was voted an All-Star twice in his career, in 1986 and again in 1990. He set a career high 33 saves in 1986.

Which of these pitchers helped seal a World Series victory for the Phillies?

Lidge put up an impressive resume through the 2000s. In 2008, he threw the final pitch in the Phillies' 2008 Wold Series victory, was voted relief pitcher of the year, and was also voted comeback player of the year.

Can you recognize a picture of this bullpen man?

Ugeth Urbina is the only player to ever play in the MLB with 'UU' initials. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 2005 for attempted murder in his home country and served seven years in prison.

Does this face look familiar?

Armando Benitez accumulated an impressive 289 saves in his career. He bounced around the league after moving on from Baltimore in 1998. He would later play with the Mets, Yankees, Mariners, Marlins, Giants, and Blue Jays.

Can you recognize this closer?

Francisco Cordero, otherwise known as CoCo, saved 329 games over his career. He came into the league with the Tigers in 1999 and continued to pitch until 2012.

He was one of the best closers in the league since the year 2000. Who is he?

José Valverde led the league in saves three times in his career. He might be better known for his eccentric celebrations after outs. He retired with 288 saves in 12 years.

Does this closer who pitched through the 1990s look familiar?

Jeff Shaw led the league in saves in 1997 and was voted an All-Star in 1998 and 2001. If you can remember Shaw pitching in league, you're bound to feel old when you see his son manning the infield for the Brewers.

This pitcher played from 1982 to 2000 and only started two games in his entire career. What's his name?

Doug Jones played in the MLB until he was 43. During his career, he put up 303 saves. He set a career high 43 saves in 1990 when he pitched for the Indians.

He holds the record for most saves in a season. Who is he?

Most well-known by his nickname 'K-Rod,' Francisco Rodriguez holds the record for the most saves in a season. In 2008, he polished off 62 games as a member of the angels.

Who is this pitcher who played most of his career with the Dodgers?

Eric Gagne was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league in the early 2000s. He won the CY Young Award in 2003. In that season, he had 55 saves, a wicked 1.20 ERA and a 0.692 WHIP.

He pitched throughout the 1960s. What is his name?

In 1962 and 1964, Dick Radatz led the league in strikeouts. By today's standards, his 24 saves in 1962 might not seem like many, but it was still more than every other pitcher in the league.

He was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league as a member of the Twins. His name is _______.

In a six-year span from 2004 to 2009, Joe Nathan dominated the league as a member of the Twins. During that time, his highest ERA was 2.70 and he averaged 41 saves per season.

His son is a celebrity as well. What's his name?

Tug McGraw won two World Series in his career, one with the Phillies and one with the Mets. He was known for coining the phrase, 'Ya gotta believe," during the Mets' 1973 run for the World Series. He died of a brain tumor in 2004. If you're a fan of country music, you may know him as the father of Tim McGraw.

You might recognize him with a Red Sox logo on his chest. What's his name?

Jonathan Papelbon was a six-time All-Star between 2006 and 2015. He was one of the most feared closers in the league during his tenure and amassed 368 saves.

Have you ever seen this player play?

You would think that in 21 years in the league he would have tried to start a game at least once. However, John Franco pitched out of the bullpen his entire career. He led the league in saves three times.

Who is this closer who played from the 1960s to the 1980s?

Mike Marshall led the league in saves three times during his career. In 1974, he also took home the Cy Young Award. He appeared in more than half the games that season (83) and finished with a 2.42 ERA for Montreal.

He posted an impressive resume in his 16-year career. His name is ______.

Over his 16 seasons in the league, Albert Walter (Sparky) Lyle saved 238 games. He helped the Yankees win the World Series in 1977 and 1978 out of the bullpen and took home the CY Young Award in 1977.

It's hard to find a team with which he didn't play. Who is he?

In 17 seasons pitching in the MLB, Roberto Hernandez played for 10 different teams. HIs resume also includes 326 career saves and an All-Star selection in 1996 and 1999.

This four-time All-Star is one of the best pitchers in MLB history. What's his name?

Troy Percival spent the majority of his career with the Angels, but he also played with the Tigers, Cardinals, and Rays. He was a four-time All-Star in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001.

Which closer played most of his career in the 1990s?

Robb Nenn officially retired in 2005, but he played his last game in the majors in 2002. Rotator cuff surgeries would eventually end his career. Even during his last season pitching, he put up 43 saves.

He played almost his entire career with the Braves. Who is he?

Unlike most of the guys on this list, Smoltz found success in the bullpen and as a starter. After missing the entire 2000 season to Tommy John surgery, the Braves moved him to the bullpen. In 2002, he led the league with 55 saves.

Which one of these pitchers had hands down the best beard of any pitcher?

Brian Wilson became famous for his long, black beard and 'Fear the Beard' slogan. He played a significant role in the Giants' success in the late 2000s and in 2010, he helped the team win a World Series.

Who's been pitching since 2007 and is still in the league?

Joakim Soria is still pitching for the Oakland Athletics. He recorded most of his 220 (at the time of writing) saves between 2007 and 2015. HIs career-high 43 saves were with the Royals in 2010.

Which of these pitchers retired in 2014?

Heath Bell was a three-time All-Star from 2009 to 2011. In 2009, he led the league in saves while with the Padres. He originally worked as the set-up man for Trevor Hoffman before taking over after Hoffman retired.

Who won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2006?

Isringhausen was one of the best closers in the league in the 2000s. In 2004, he led the league with 47 saves while playing with the Cardinals. He also helped them win a World Series in 2006.

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