San Diego minor-leaguer Cody Decker and his teammates on Padres’ Triple-A affiliate El Paso have received (deserved) attention of late for an elaborate practical joke performed over the course of an entire month and at the expense of veteran major-leaguer Jeff Francoeur.
Writing for Sports on Earth, champion of the people Matthew Kory has utilized Decker’s prank as an entrée into further consideration of baseball’s most notable pranks. A creditable piece, Kory’s, and one which has served as the impetus for what follows — namely, a record of five practical jokes from baseball history which have, for one reason or another, been lost to time. Until this very second, one notes.
1906: Famously eccentric and perhaps also mentally disabled left-hander Rube Waddell, attempting an early and particularly zealous form of what later became known as Hot Foot, straps teammate Socks Seybold to the latter’s bed, sets it aflame, and then exits the premises. Thanks only to the heroism of local fire authorities, Seybold is rescued, but is no longer capable of smell.
1933: Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis murders a street urchin.
1968: Given the day off by manager Dick Williams, relentlessly handsome Red Sox outfielder Ken Harrelson excuses himself from the Fenway Park clubhouse and proceeds to cuckold the nearly thirty-thousand men in attendance. Asked about Harrelson’s whereabouts, teammate Jose Tartabull responds only by saying “He gone” — a phrase which Harrelson slyly adopts during his later career as White Sox broadcaster.
1981: Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph, experiencing a shortage of liquid assets during baseball’s mid-season strike, secretly takes up residence in teammate Oscar Gamble‘s ample head of hair during June and July. Ultimately, the joke is on Randolph: he’s eventually ordered by a small-claims court to pay two months’ worth of rent and utilities.
2008: Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist begins joke of cosmic scale, somehow parlaying his broad base of skills into a six-year run of elite-level baseball production — all whilst affecting the bearing and conduct of a small-town youth pastor.
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