Beyond the hot foot: Enjoy 10 of the greatest clubhouse pranks in MLB history
Baseball players have a lot of free time on their hands. Sure, they have to work out approximately 25 times a day, take batting practice and then pound protein shakes. But once they finish all that, they have some down time. And that's when it's time to pull pranks.
Given that baseball has existed for 150 years, the math says that there must have been roughly 9.2 billion baseball pranks. Today, we distill those down to the 10 best.
Honorable Mention: On Jeff Ears
Penalized by way of technicality (it happened in the Minor Leagues), the El Paso Chihuahuas must be commended for their ability to keep a straight face as they convinced Jeff Francoeur that his teammate, pitcher Jorge Reyes, was deaf.
For not only was Reyes not deaf, but Francoeur would witness him talking to people and having mound conversations without wondering if anything was up.
To be fair to Francoeur, how do you go up to someone and ask them, "Hey, uhhh, are you really deaf or what?"
10. The ol' underwear stuffed with peanut butter
In the early 2000s, when Corey Koskie and David Ortiz played together on the Twins, Koskie decided to get the soon-to-be Big Papi. After one spring game, Koskie filled Ortiz's pockets with ice and smeared his underwear with peanut butter. While this may seem simple, just remember that some of the greatest works of art have come from such benign beginnings.
Even better: Ortiz was in a rush, so he didn't immediately notice the peanut butter. The image that Tom Powers conveys is one of the best imaginable:
9. Paint the field white and the foul lines black
In perhaps the first recorded instance of a baseball prank, umpire Frank March told a groundskeeper in 1897 that he would need to paint the field white and the foul lines black. The umpire helpfully told the man how he could do the job by getting "hold of a street sprinkler and [filling] the thing with whitewash."
Naturally, when the groundskeeper went to the city council for help, they told him to go away. And March? Yeah, he wasn't even around to officiate that game.
8. Call me, maybe
Mike Trout is known primarily for his eye-popping numbers: In three-plus Major League seasons, Trout has hit .305/.395/.549 with 98 homers and 102 steals.
But before he reached the big leagues, pitcher Jered Weaver made sure the top prospect's phone number was put on the scoreboard with the message to call "Mike Trout directly with your baseball questions."
I can only assume the questions were of the highest quality. Like:
- Do you want to be best friends?
-Is your fridge running? Because you should go catch it.
- What do you think of Immanuel Kant's Theory of Perception, namely that our understanding of the external world had its foundations not just in experience, but in both experience and a priori concepts?
7. Casey Stengel's many exploits
Stengel is largely known for his skills with words, like when he told his players:
"Don't drink in the hotel bar, that's where I do my drinking."
And after trading outfielder Bob Cerv to Kansas City, Stengel told the player:
"Nobody knows this [yet], but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City."
But his greatest talent may have been his ability for pranks.
Back in the early days of baseball, a favorite pastime was for players to catch baseballs dropped from great heights, often from the Washington Monument. This is just what people did before video games or whatever.
In 1915, Stengel's manager on the Brooklyn Robins, former catcher Wilbert Robinson, wanted to prove his mettle by one-upping all those young whipper snappers. Naturally, this meant he would catch a ball dropped from an airplane.
Stengel went up with the pilot and, instead of dropping a baseball, the future Yankees manager dropped a ruby red grapefruit. When it exploded all over Robinson, the juices and pulp splattering everywhere, the skipper screamed, "I'm killed. I'm blind! It's broke open my chest!"
A few years later, Stengel was at it again. During a game in 1918, while getting jeered by the fans, Stengel picked up a sparrow and hid it under his cap. When he doffed it to the heckling crowd during his next at-bat, the bird flew out.
I'm not sure what's more impressive, though: The prank or that Stengel is apparently a Disney princess who can pick up wild animals.
6. Adam LaRoche takes on the Braves ... and wins?
After being traded from the Braves to the Pirates, LaRoche decided he needed to leave on a high note. So, the first baseman grabbed a pair of scissors and cut out the crotch of every pair of pants that were in the locker room with a note saying to "Play with your [synonym for round, spherical object]s out."
The Braves didn't take this lying down, though -- the retaliation was swift and harsh. They cut up his suit, froze his dress shirt and, in a "Mortal Kombat"-style finishing move, Tim Hudson filled LaRoche's glove with … well, let's let LaRoche himself tell the rest of this tale:
5. The SUV
Before "Operation Shutdown" there was "Operation take a guy's car and make him think it's being given away to one lucky fan." OK, so that's not the most succinct of titles.
But in 1992, Joe Carter staged a giveaway of Derek Bell's new SUV. When they drove onto the field, you could see Bell's heart break:
While Carter may be best remembered by Jays fans for his World Series-winning home run, his best moment was obviously this one:
4. The Hot Foot
Another classic, this one will live on for as long as people have feet. Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven is probably the master. When Blyleven's former teammate, catcher Phil Roof, then the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners, challenged the pitcher ... well, sure enough Blyleven crawled under the stands and got him.
But just because Blyleven was the master, that didn't mean there weren't countless others jumping into the fray.
With this amount of Hot Foots we've seen though, we're soon ready for a post-post modern hot foot. Where the mere idea of the hot foot is the hot foot.
3. Why'd it have to be snakes?
In his 17-year career, pitcher Moe Drabowsky won 88 games, but that's probably a mere fraction of the amount of pranks that he inflicted on people.
If you thought that Blyleven's hot foot was impressive, how about Drabowsky getting then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn? To pull that one off, he set a trail of lighter fluid that went from the trainer's room to the clubhouse.
Like a regular Frank Caliendo, Drabowsky was a gifted impressionist, too. During a game against the Athletics, he impersonated A's manager Alvin Dark and forced reliever Lew Krausse to start warming up. Recalled former Orioles pitcher Dick Hall:
His favorite move though was to hide snakes in lockers and bags, making it a good thing that he wasn't teammates with Indiana Jones.
But my personal favorite came from the 1969 World Series. That's right -- even during the World Series, Drabowsky couldn't be stopped. Before Game 1 could be played, Drabowsky had a plane fly over the stadium with a banner reading "Beware of Moe" for his former Orioles teammates. Naturally, the next day a box arrived with one "large and thoroughly irritated black snake." Because just an airplane isn't enough.
Of course, after years of being the one making the pranks, he was on the receiving end, too. While working as a coach in the Orioles system, a few friends on the police force arrested him while he was on the field for "cruelty to animals" before admitting that it was a gag.
2. Smell the mic
If Drabowsky was known for his pranks, outfielder Jay Johnstone was defined by them. He released a total of three books pretty much just to let people into his world of practical jokes.
Once, when asked to take a urine test, Johnstone filled the cup with apple juice. When the nurse said that didn't look quite right, the outfielder took the cup and drank it.
He was shrewd with his pranking, too. When he filled Steve Garvey's glove with a brownie (and not some other material), he made sure to wipe fudge on Jerry Reuss' uniform. That's genius-level practical joking.
But what helped elevate Johnstone's pranks most was that he managed to get them on tape. Finally, proof for the ages:
Just imagine if his playing days were during the Vine era. He would be a social media god.
1. You're going to Japan
While all of those were contenders, none tops the one that Brett Myers and the Phillies played on Kyle Kendrick during Spring Training in 2008. On that fateful spring day, Kendrick arrived at the clubhouse and was called into Charlie Manuel's office. With Manuel and then-assistant GM Ruben Amaro in attendance, Kendrick was informed that he had been traded to Japan.
The team went all out: The startled pitcher had to sign paperwork, there were flight details discussed and a press conference was even held.
Basically, this prank required the same level of coordination that 007 missions have with the bonus that no one was murdered by having gold poured over them.
But now it's time to look to the future: Who will be the Major League prankster that unseats Myers and the Phillies? While we obsess over prospects' tools and swings and defensive range, perhaps we should begin evaluating them on their abilities to prank their friends.