In a sea of right-handers, the left-handed population is often overlooked. Left-handers have achieved a lot throughout history, however, especially in the realm of sports. Here are the 10 greatest left-handers in pro sports history.
1. Steve Young
Left-handed passers in the NFL aren’t particularly common. This is one reason why Steve Young’s rise from Joe Montana’s backup to Super Bowl-winning quarterback was so surprising. Not only did he unseat a legend, but he also did it using a passing hand most quarterbacks don’t use.
2. Lionel Messi
This soccer star tops many lists. You could argue Lionel Messi may even be the best player in the world. One thing you can’t argue? He’s far and away the best left-footed player in the world.
3. Randy Johnson
You’d think being 6-foot-10 was enough of an advantage for Randy Johnson over the hitters of his era. But, on top of this, he was also left-handed. If you were a left-handed batter during Johnson’s career, chances are great you hated facing him.
Former slugger and fellow left-hander Adam Dunn explained the experience of trying to hit Johnson’s famed slider: “It was miserable facing him … 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.”
4. Martina Navratilova
The Serena Williams of her era, Martina Navratilova dominated women’s tennis in the ’80s. She was also a remnant of the last era when left-handed tennis players were consistently successful; only two female lefties have won major titles in the past 20 years.
5. Phil Mickelson
Lefties are rare in golf, and it’s even rarer for a left-handed golfer to be as good as Phil Mickelson. The curious part about Lefty’s stroke? Mickelson is naturally right-handed yet trained himself to swing left-handed.
6. Sandy Koufax
He’s not just the best left-handed pitcher of all time (only Johnson can challenge that claim). But Sandy Koufax is also one of the greatest pitchers of all time, lefty or righty. Koufax’s 12-year career, though cut short by injury, was legendary.
7. Bill Russell
Before the superteam era of LeBron’s Miami Heat and Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors, there was left-hander Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics of the ’50s and ’60s. The defensive wizard led the league in rebounds per game a whopping five times. Russell averaged over 20 rebounds per game 10 times, playing an integral role in 11 Celtics’ championships.
8. Barry Bonds
Though a steroid scandal married Barry Bonds’ late-career domination, there’s no denying he’s among the greatest hitters of all time — right- or left-handed. Bonds currently holds the all-time MLB record for home runs, though some people challenge this due to speculation about performance-enhancing drugs. But even before Bonds’ PED rumors, his place as one of the greatest left-handed hitters was unquestionable.
10. Babe Ruth
Still known as one of the most famous athletes of all time, Babe Ruth stood head and shoulders above his baseball competition in the ’20s and ’30s. His name is synonymous with home runs to this day. For many reasons, including his statistics and dominance over the players of his era, the way he essentially saved a sport after the Black Sox scandal of 1919 made Ruth the greatest left-handed athlete of all time.