Major league pitchers have a long, rich history of eccentricities and idiosyncratic behaviors. The histrionics and wild antics that occur on the pitcher’s mound have always entertained us and become fodder for discussion and at times debate around the water cooler.
From Bill “The Spaceman” Lee’s quirky gestures and commentary to Mark “The Bird” Fidrych’s meticulous manicuring of the mound by hand and subsequent dialogue with the ball to Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky’s glove-smashing tirade to Gaylord Perry’s touchy feely inventory check of just about every body part, pitchers have always possessed this flare for the unusual.
Even the main character in my Legend of Mickey Tussler novels, a 17 year old fire-balling pitcher with autism, has a signature arm roll that ignites the crowd every time he does his thing.
It is nothing if not fascinating.
Time, however, seems to have ushered in a whole new series of mound escapades, especially where closers are concerned. Here is a list of some of the most unusual (some good, some bad) mound celebrations once the final out of a game has been recorded.
Please note: The very trite and woefully overused kiss the finger and point to heaven has been intentionally omitted due to its lack of interest.
Raphael Soriano (New York Yankees) - “The Shirt Untuck”
Really? This is the best that Soriano can come up with? You just secured a win for your team at the major league level and your first impulse is to begin to undress? Yikes. What’s next, a shower cap, scrub brush and bar of soap? Soriano should re-think this. It is difficult enough to replace icon Mariano Rivera, who is the epitome of professionalism and class. The banality of undressing yourself on the diamond only underscores the fact that he is just cannot handle the role.
Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds) - “The Cuban Missilesault"
OK, I understand the excitement that accompanies earning a major league save, but this is just a tad over the top. A double barrel roll, in which Chapman leaves the mound by somersaulting two times before finally shaking the hand of his catcher, while certainly noteworthy, is better suited for Ringling Brothers than it is for a baseball field.
Jose Valverde (Detroit Tigers) - “Spin and Tiger Claw”
Replication of animal behaviors can be cute when executed by small children, but in the hands of a grown man, especially a professional athlete, it is becomes more than just a little off-putting. The spinning and hopping on one leg is inane, only to be outdone by the pantomime clawing motion that follows. Overkill for sure.
Chris Perez (Cleveland Indians) - “Pure Rage”
It seems reasonable that if you are a MLB closer, one of the qualities that you must possess is fearless determination. However, violent, quasi-psychotic antics tend to diminish the presence of said quality.
It falls under the umbrella of “the lady doth protest too much.” Gratuitous belligerence is a sure sign that you are trying way too hard to convince people that you are a tough guy. Even the throw-up incident is better than this.
Easily one of the more recognizable celebrations in some time. This cross-armed salute is unique, yet simple and quick. It seems a reasonable way of ending a game and celebrating victory. And, if the motivation for Wilson’s trademark is indeed steeped in religious belief, who can really argue with it?
Probably the most colorful and creative celebration of all. With due deference to Cupid and Robin Hood, Rodney’s shooting of the imaginary arrow is rather unique and highly entertaining. Rodney also gets style points for occasionally including his teammates in the post-game antics.
Any opinions out there about these characters or others not listed? Let me hear them!