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On This Day in Sports History: The Man Behind the Disguise

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On This Day in Sports History: The Man Behind the Disguise
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Actor Lon Chaney, Sr. was known as the “Man of a Thousand Faces” because of his groundbreaking work with film makeup.

Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine did not show as many faces, but he is often remembered for one disguise his displayed in the dugout on this day 12 years ago.

In the top of the 12th inning in a game against Toronto at Shea Stadium, Valentine was ejected after arguing with home plate umpire Randy Marsh. He was upset over a catcher’s interference call on Mike Piazza.

New York won the game, 4-3, in 14 innings, but all the media and fans could talk about the next day were the events in the dugout.

When managers are ejected, they usually stand in the hallway leading to the clubhouse to relay decisions and strategies to the coaches.

Not content to watch the rest of the game on television, Valentine decided to create a new image.

Shortly after his ejection, Valentine went into the trainers’ room and returned to the dugout in a Mets t-shirt, a mustache made of eye black tape and a pair of sunglasses. He also sported a hat different than his Mets cap. Unfortunately for Valentine, his attempt to remain incognito ended when he was quickly identified by a television camera.

Valentine made the situation worse by denying he disguised himself despite the obvious visual evidence. He claimed it was someone else who did not look like him. When he finally admitted his guilt, Valentine said he did it to lighten up his team and not to show up the umpires.

National League president Len Coleman was not amused at the stunt, fining Valentine $5,000 and suspending him for two games.

Valentine was never a favorite of the New York media when he managed the Mets from 1996 to 2002. Despite leading New York to a pair of playoff appearances and the 2000 World Series, the disguise incident gave the media plenty of artillery to humiliate Valentine.    

A few days after the incident, the Mets skipper looked back at his bizarre antics.

“It was an incident that occurred that I can’t take back,” said Valentine. “If I had known what the responses would be and how seriously the outside world would take it, I never would have done it.”

You have to wonder if Valentine will try this stunt on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

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