It takes an elite kind of athlete to advance on the field of play while managing a major league appetite and the extra weight that goes with it. From David Wells to “Butterbean,” these athletes have reached levels on the field nearly as high as their caloric intake. Here’s a comprehensive look at some of the fattest first-class athletes.
Eric “Butterbean” Esch
Known simply as “Butterbean,” Eric Esch is one of the great wonders of the sports world. He tips the scale at the same weight as an entire women’s college cross country team. He’s a Hummer of a boxer and mixed martial artist that has weighed in at 405.5 lbs. on fight night, but manages to be seasoned in all of the fight sports including wrestling, kickboxing, K-1, as well as toughman contests. Butterbean held the IBA boxing super heavyweight title on several occasions and knocked down former world champ Larry Holmes (then 52 years old) despite losing a 10-round decision on another. For all his many accomplishments, his most notable may have been when he nearly gave Johnny Knoxville a concussion in the middle of a department store in Jackass: The Movie.
Before he was analyzing the finer points of major league baseball on ESPN, John Kruk spent a good chunk of his playing career analyzing menus and dissecting steaks. Legend has it that during road games Kruk would reach deep for late game-winning home runs so he could get back to the hotel before room service closed.
William “The Refrigerator” Perry
The “Fridge” was one of the true giants of professional football and had the highest, albiet unconfirmed, playing weight of 382 lbs. during his days with the Chicago Bears, where he won a Super Bowl in 1986. It’s reported that his Super Bowl ring size, at a garganutan 25, is the largest of any player in the history of the game. Unfortunately “The Fridge” didn’t experience the same level of success off the field. As of February 2011, he was dealing with drinking issues and, at 400 lbs., struggles with his weight and numerous other health problems.
One of the most legendary players in baseball, Babe Ruth was far from a paragon of fitness, but he hit an (at the time) unprecedented 714 home runs during his ball-playing days… and probably four times as many hot dogs. He even managed to steal 123 bases over the course of his career—primarily with the Red Sox and the Yankees. “The Sultan of Swat” never met a meal—or a woman or a drink or a bet—he could resist, but his gluttonous lifestyle worked for him for many years, sealing his fate as one of the greats. That is, until Ruth became visibly overweight and out of shape in about 1933.
Despite being a certified blob, David “Boomer” Wells was a remarkable pitcher, highlighted by marquee seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. At 6’4″ and 225 lbs. in his playing days, he definitely was on the huskier side and was considered a liability throughout his career because of poor conditioning. Still, he pitched the first perfect game for the Yankees (while hungover, according to Wells), won two World Series rings, was a three-time All Star, an ALCS MVP and totaled 2,201 strikeouts.
James “Buster” Douglas of Columbus, Ohio is a hero to bullied chubby kids everywhere. In 1990, Douglas got up off the floor and knocked “Iron” Mike Tyson clear into “bolivian.” He’d battled fluctuating weight to slim his 6’3″ frame down to 231 lbs. for the Tokyo fight, with conditioning playing a key role in his victory. While Douglas worked hard in preparation for what he knew would be the fight of his life, Tyson was rumored to have been breaking training camp to attend parties. Douglas may have effectively ended Tyson’s reign as the baddest man on the planet by being in great shape, but he’d also taken his weight for granted the same way Tyson had. Eight months later, Douglas was quickly knocked out by Evander Holyfield and ballooned to over 300 lbs. in the years after the fight, killing his chances of cashing in on a Tyson rematch.
Listed just under 6’0″ and 275 lbs., Prince Fielder is pretty super-sized for a baseball player. It became a running joke when, before the 2008 season, he became a vegetarian after reading Skinny Bitch, a gift from his wife, but still managed to return to the clubhouse without dropping any weight. Not that it matters. With 230 homers in 998 career MLB games, the 2009 Home Run Derby winner lives by his power and
dies also lives by his appetite.
Like father, like son. Prince Fielder’s father, Cecil, was no stranger to being “super-sized” himself. He was listed at 230 lbs. during his playing days, but his weight was actually closer to 260 lbs. In 13 seasons and 1,470 Major League games, Fielder had 319 home runs, but just two stolen bases. That says it all.
Considered one of the toughest players in the history of the NHL (even though his career was cut short by an unfortunate car accident), Link Gaetz earned a reputation as an effective checker and a fierce fighter playing for the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks. After dropping out of the NHL (and effectively off the face of the earth), Gaetz resurfaced in the minor leagues, but as a shadow of his old self. After not seeing any ice time in a semi-pro game in Quebec in 2005, Gaetz notoriously changed out of his jersey and skates, went out to the concession stand to buy a hamburger and ate it. Gaetz—who was out of shape during his entire professional hockey career—was suspended for the remainder of the season.
James Toney turned pro as a middleweight in 1989 at 157 lbs., but by 2003, he had worked his way up the weight classes and fought as a heavyweight. In 2005, he weighed in at a career-high 5’10” and 237 lbs and his nickname had morphed from “Lights Out” to “Let’s Eat.” In his last fight, a loss to rising cruiserweight boxer Dennis Lebedev, Toney slimmed down to 199.5 lbs., his lightest weight since 2003.
Renowned golfer John Daly was known as much for his accomplishments on the fairway as he was for his personal life, alcoholism, rough attitude and penchant for puffing cigarettes between holes. Supplementing his larger-than-life personality was his enormous size—the 5’11” golfer weighed in at almost 300 lbs. at the peak of his career. He joined the PGA Tour in 1987 and won a PGA Championship and an Open Championship. Daly ultimately had Lap-Band surgery in 2009 and whittled his weight down to the 185 lbs. he is today.
A veteran NBA journeyman stood 6’9″ inches tall and was arguably well over the 315 lbs., Oliver Miller was listed as weighing. The hulking NBA center became infamous for allegedly losing a job overseas after arriving late to practice with a bag from McDonald’s. In 2011, he was arrested for allegedly pistol-whipping a man during a barbecue cookout in Maryland. That’s the last time that guy will snatch the last drumstick.
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