The 50 Most Shocking Off-the-Field Moments in MLB History
Ever since the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team in 1869, the game has seen countless numbers of players who have shown their talents on the diamond, either through their ability to hit, field, run or pitch.
While many players went on to enjoy a long career of great achievements, others made their mark by being complementary additions to teams, even though their skill levels were not quite at star level. Still, contributions to the game of baseball itself have been made by scores of players with many different skill sets.
However, also since the creation of professional baseball, there have been a number of shocking incidents that shook the very core of the game. Players who died unexpectedly, greedy players and executives who committed egregious acts that sullied the name of the sport, players who tried to gain an edge by taking illegal substances, and a series of other events that caused shock waves throughout the game.
Here then is Bleacher Report’s look at the 50 most shocking off-field events in MLB history.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.
50. 1908: New York Giants Physician Attempts to Bribe Umpire to Throw Game
NY Giants manager John McGraw
On September 23, 1908, the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs were involved in a game that concluded with the famous “Merkle’s Boner,” in which Giants player Fred Merkle committed a major baserunning error that caused the game to be declared a tie, with a makeup game to be played at the end of the season, if necessary.
As it turned out a makeup game was necessary, as the Giants and Cubs were tied atop the standings, and an October 8 game was scheduled to determine the winner of the National League pennant.
On the night before the game, Joseph Creamer, the New York Giants’ team physician, offered a bribe of $2,500 to umpire Bill Kelm to throw the game and guarantee victory for the Giants. Klem refused, and the Cubs ended up beating the Giants for the pennant. Creamer was banned from baseball for life.
There are those who believe that Giants manager John McGraw was behind the bribery offer, and that Creamer was used as the scapegoat to protect McGraw’s reputation.
49. Former Mets GM Steve Phillips Fired from ESPN for Stupidity and Infidelity
Apparently, former New York Mets GM and ESPN analyst Steve Phillips didn't learn his lesson the first time around.
After having taken a leave of absence from the Mets in 1998 for an allegation of sexual harrassment, and then later admitting to having consensual sex with his accuser, Phillips found himself in trouble once again with ESPN in 2009.
Phillips revealed in October 2009 that he had an affair with an ESPN production assistant, and that the assistant was making threatening phone calls to his wife at his home.
After initially being suspended, Phillips was fired by ESPN four days after going public with his affair.
Five words: You just can't fix stupid.
48. 1926: Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker Accused of Fixing a Game
In the early 20th century, two outfielders in particular dominated baseball in the American League—Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Cobb won 12 batting titles during his career, was the all-time hits leader until 1985, and had a lifetime career batting average of .367, the highest in MLB history.
Speaker himself had one batting title, partially because he was beaten out by Cobb himself on several occasions, but still managed a .345 lifetime average, and is still the all-time leader in career doubles with 792.
However, in 1926, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Dutch Leonard leveled an accusation of cheating against both Speaker and Cobb, alleging that the two had conspired along with pitcher Smoky Joe Wood to throw a game in 1919, a contest played between Cobb’s Detroit Tigers and Speaker’s Cleveland Indians, with Cobb and Speaker allegedly betting on the game to be won by the Tigers.
Leonard claimed he had letters from both Wood and Cobb that pointed to their guilt, however Wood and Cobb strongly denied the allegation, admitting that they had written letters, but that the letters had to do with a horse racing bet. Speaker vehemently denied his involvement as well.
Cobb and Speaker were forced to resign at the time, however when a hearing was ordered by then-baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Leonard repeatedly failed to show up to present evidence, and Judge Landis cleared both Cobb and Speaker of any wrongdoing, reinstating them to their original teams.
47. October, 1998: Chipper Jones Admits Fathering Child out of Wedlock
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
By the time the mid-to-late 1990s came around, Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones was one of the stars of the team, and his Christian background played well for a fanbase that was based in the Bible Belt.
So, when the popular third baseman admitted in October 1998 that he had fathered a child out of wedlock with a Hooter’s waitress, it was huge news.
Jones admitted having several affairs after the Braves appeared in the 1996 World Series, and the admission of infidelities ended his marriage to wife Karin in 1999.
46. January 2011: Baltimore Orioles Pitcher Alfredo Simon Shoots Cousin
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Alfredo Simon is currently 3-5 with a 4.08 ERA, jumping to the starting rotation in early July. However, Simon is pretty lucky to be playing baseball at all.
On New Year’s Eve, Simon was in his native Dominican Republic, celebrating the holiday on the streets, and fired several shots in the air to ring in the New Year. His cousin, Michael Castillo Almonte, was felled by bullets during the shooting and later died. Castillo’s half-brother, Starlin Castillo Hernandez, was also shot but survived.
Police held Simon as a suspect for the shootings, but was never officially charged with murder. Simon was released after posting bail in March, and is still implicated in the shootings. He is scheduled to appear in court in the Dominican Republic again in October.
45. November 1992: Former Pirates Reliever Rod Scurry Dies of Overdose
When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted pitcher Rod Scurry in the first round of the 1974 Major League Baseball Draft, he was a highly-touted high school pitcher. They never imagined the type of troubles that would ensue.
Scurry was the first player who was implicated in the famous Pittsburgh drug trials involving several other players and local dealer Curtis Strong. Scurry admitted purchasing cocaine 19 times between 1982 and 1983, and was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony in the drug trial that commenced in September 1985.
In late October 1992, police were called to Scurry’s home in Washoe County, Nevada based on a neighbor’s complaint. Scurry was found outside, completely disoriented and saying that snakes were inside his house and were biting. When police attempted to restrain Scurry, he stopped breathing. Police rushed Scurry to Washoe Medical Center, however Scurry never came to and died a week later.
44. September 1980: Ferguson Jenkins Becomes First Player Banned for Drugs
Former starting pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was without question one of the great pitchers in Chicago Cubs history, winning 20 games a season for six consecutive seasons from 1967 to 1972.
However, Jenkins was involved in an incident in 1980 that put him in the record books for an entirely different reason.
While going through a routine customs check in Toronto in late August, Jenkins was arrested after customs enforcement officials found cocaine, marijuana and hashish in Jenkins’ possession. Two weeks later, MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned Jenkins from baseball for life, making him the first player ever banned due to substance abuse.
Two weeks after Kuhn banned Jenkins, an independent arbiter ruled that that the ban be immediately rescinded, and Jenkins was reinstated, finishing his career in 1983 with the Cubs.
43. 1919: Hal Chase Blackballed from Baseball for Gambling and Corruption
Former major league first baseman Hal Chase was considered by both Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson to be one of the best first baseman they ever saw play, and during his 15-year career, Chase hit .291. However, Chase was also developing a nasty reputation for betting on baseball games and throwing games as well.
Starting in 1910, several managers and players, including Frank Chance, George Stallings and Christy Mathewson, all at one time accused Chase of “dogging it” on the field of play. In 1918 while with the Cincinnati Reds, Chase was accused of paying Reds catcher Jimmy Ring $50 to throw a game against the New York Giants, prompting Mathewson to suspend Chase for the rest of the season.
The following season, National League president John Heydler ordered New York Giants owner Charles Stoneham to release Chase after Heydler has been sent a copy of a $500 check that Chase allegedly received from a gambler to throw a game in 1918.
While Chase was never officially banned, he was blackballed by every team in baseball, and would never play another game in the majors.
42. 1910: Jack O’Connor, Harry Howell and the Conspiracy Against Ty Cobb
On the last day of the regular season in 1910, the St. Louis Browns were scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Cleveland Naps at Sportsman’s Park. Naps’ star Napolean Lajoie was hitting .376 going into the final two games, but was losing in the batting title to Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb, who was hitting .385.
Because Cobb was so hated at the time, Browns manager Jack O’Connor told his third baseman, Red Corriden, to position himself in shallow left field. Every time Lajoie came up to bat against the Browns, he bunted successfully down the third base time five consecutive times. During the sixth at-bat, reached base on an error, which lowered his average.
O’Connor and his coach, Harry Howell, attempted to change the error to a hit by attempting to bribe the official scorer with a new wardrobe. Their efforts were reported to American League Ban Johnson, who immediately ordered Browns owner Robert Hedges to fire both O’Connor and Howell, and then awarded the batting to title to Cobb.
Both O’Connor and Howell were effectively banned from baseball for life.
41. 2005: Jose Canseco Writes Book Outlining Details of Use of PEDs in MLB
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In 2005, former slugger Jose Canseco, who had hit 462 home runs during his major league career and had been involved in several off-field incidents, released the book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.
In the book, Canseco claimed that former teammates Mark McGwire, Juan González, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi all used steroids during their careers, and that he was the one primarily responsible for introducing steroids to baseball.
40. Ted Williams’ Death and Cryogenics
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When Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame slugger Ted Williams died of heart failure in July 2002, no one ever suspected the circus surrounding his remains that would soon follow.
Despite claims by his oldest daughter that Williams was to be cremated, Williams’ son John-Henry and daughter Claudette claimed that their father had signed a “family pact” stating that his body be frozen cryonically.
While the oldest daughter continued to try and fight, Williams’ body was shipped to Alcor, a cryonics lab in Scottsdale, AZ.
A book published in 2009 claimed that workers at Alcor severed the head of Williams, and used it for a bizarre type of batting practice.
So much for the greatest hitter who ever lived.
39. March 22, 1993: Cleveland Indians Pitchers Killed in Boat Crash
On March 22, 1993, the Cleveland Indians enjoyed a rare day off during spring training, and three pitchers, Tim Crews, Steve Olin and Bobby Ojeda, decided to spend the day together at Crews’ home on Lake Little Nellie in Tavares, Florida.
However, the day ended in tragedy. Crews and Olin died when the bass boat that Crews was piloting crashed into a dock. Ojeda suffered head injuries but survived.
38. 1914: Philadelphia A’s Manager Connie Mack Sells off Team After Losing WS
The decade of the 1910s started with the Philadelphia Athletics being the class of the American League, winning three World Series championships in four years, returning once again to the Fall Classic in 1914 as well.
However, after being swept in the series by the “Miracle Braves,” manager Connie Mack decided to sell of most of his stars, claiming at the time that he was frustrated with the startup of the new Federal League.
Other reports refute that notion, saying that Mack caught wind of A’s players trying to throw the series due to their disenchantment with Mack and his miserly ways.
Whatever the case, the A’s went into steep decline, not returning to the World Series again until 1929.
37. June 14, 1949: Eddie Waitkus Shot by Obsessed Fan
On June 14, 1949, the Philadelphia Phillies were in Chicago to play the Cubs. Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus had played for the Cubs for several years prior to being traded to Philly in December of the previous year.
Following a 9-2 victory by the Phillies, Waitkus was returning to his hotel room when his roommate gave him a note that had been found in their room. A young lady who was staying at the same hotel asked to see Waitkus about an important matter.
When Waitkus got to the room, he encountered a 19-year-old woman, Ruth Ann Steinhagen, who had become obsessed with Waitkus over a period of years while he played for the Cubs. When Waitkus entered the room, Steinhagen produced a shotgun, shot Waitkus in the stomach, and then called the hotel front desk to report the shooting.
Remarkably, Waitkus survived the shooting and returned the following year to play all 154 games for the Phillies.
Steinhagen was released after spending over three years in a mental institution.
Waitkus' story was the impetus behind the writing of the screenplay for the movie The Natural, released in 1984.
36. May, 2007: Alex Rodriguez Becomes Stray-Rod
In late May 2007, while the New York Yankees were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, added the nickname “Stray-Rod” to his repertoire of monikers.
Rodriguez was seen with a woman who was clearly not his wife by the New York Post, first dining at a restaurant , and then again when the couple snuck into a local strip club.
Rodriguez’ wife Cindy left him shortly thereafter.
35. 1999: John Rocker Totally Disses New York and Everyone in It
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
When Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker first came to the Atlanta Braves, he was an instant sensation—his rookie season in 1998, Rocker appeared in 47 games with a 2.13 ERA. In 1999, Rocker became the Braves closer, finishing the season with a 2.49 ERA and 38 saves.
However, Rocker got himself into deep hot water with comments made in an interview with Sports Illustrated, in particular about the city of New York.
Here is just a sample of what Rocker said:
On ever playing for a New York team: "I would retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."
On New York City itself: "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"
Way to endear yourself to the largest city in the country, John.
34. 1970: Detroit Tigers Pitcher Denny McLain and His Remarkable Fall from Grace
In the late 1960s, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain was on top of the world. He was the last pitcher to record a 30-win season in 1968, helping to lead the Tigers to the World Series with his 31-6 record and winning the AL Cy Young Award.
McLain followed it up the next season with 24 wins, winning his second Cy Young Award in a row. However in 1970, things started to unravel. Amid allegations that McLain was engaged in bookmaking and cavorting with underworld criminals, MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended McLain for the first three months of the regular season. Another suspension followed after McLain famously dowsed two sportswriters with a bucket of water, and Kuhn again suspended McLain after he violated his probation by carrying a gun.
The Tigers unloaded McLain in a trade with the Washington Senators soon after, and McLain was out of baseball before the 1973 season started.
McLain’s troubles didn’t end there, however. He was imprisoned for drug trafficking, embezzlement and racketeering, spending a good portion of the 1980s and 1990s behind bars.
Oh yeah, and he tried to have Ted Williams fired as manager of the Washington Senators.
A real likeable guy, that McLain.
33. 2011: Manny Ramirez and His Sudden Retirement
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When Manny Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, the Red Sox had clearly finally had enough of the “Manny being Manny” act. So, Ramirez took his act to Hollywood.
At first, the Manny act played well in Los Angeles, as Ramirez provided instant offense and helped propel the Dodgers into the playoffs with 17 homers and a .396 average in 53 games. However in May 2009, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games in violation of the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Ramirez claimed that he was taking medication prescribed by a doctor that had a banned supplement.
In April 2011, after signing a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, Ramirez, after just six games, suddenly announced he was retiring from baseball. The retirement coincided with a report from MLB that Manny had once again tested positive for a banned substance in a spring training drug test. Rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second offense, Manny opted to walk away from the game.
32. 1990: NY Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner Suspended from Baseball
In late 1980, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had already developed a reputation for spending lavish amounts of money on free agents, signed Dave Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract.
In 1985, Steinbrenner referred to Winfield as “Mr. May,” in an interview with New York Times reporter Murray Chass after a late September series against the Toronto Blue Jays, saying, “Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May. My big guys are not coming through. The guys who are supposed to carry the team are not carrying the team. They aren't producing. If I don't get big performances out of Winfield, (Ken) Griffey and (Don) Baylor, we can't win.”
In July 1990, after Winfield had sued the Yankees for not making a $300,000 contribution to his charitable foundation as stipulated in his contract, Steinbrenner hired Howie Spira, a known gambler, and paid him $50,000 to dig up whatever “dirt” he could find about Winfield.
Word of this got back to MLB commissioner Fay Vincent, who suspended Steinbrenner from baseball for a period of two years.
31. June 23, 2011: Washington Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman Suddenly Resigns
Rob Carr/Getty Images
On June 23, 2011, the Washington Nationals were on a roll. After their victory that afternoon, the Nats had won 11 of 12, and were above .500, giving hope to a fanbase that had seen nothing but losing.
However following the game, manager Jim Riggleman sent shockwaves throughout baseball by announcing his resignation.
Riggleman claimed that he had been disrespected by general manager Mike Rizzo for not being willing to negotiate an extension to his contract.
“I know what the right thing to do is,” Riggleman told the Washington Post. “You don’t keep a manager on a one-year deal in major league baseball.
“I’m not happy about it. I just feel in my heart it’s the right thing to do.”
He may have thought it was the right thing to do, but Riggleman will probably never manage again.
30. 1980s: MLB Owners Accused of Collusion
In the 1980s, under the terms of the Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement, collusion is defined as "Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs."
Unfortunately for the owners, that is exactly what they were accused of in September 1987.
Following the 1985 season, of 35 free agents available, only four were signed by other teams. In 1986, the same number of players switched teams during the offseason. And, for the first time since free agency started, the average major league salary dropped.
The MLB Player’s Association filed a grievance against the owners, and in September 1987, independent arbitrator Thomas Roberts ruled in favor of the players, citing the owners had schemed together to create collusion.
29. 1987: Dodgers GM Al Campanis and His ABC Nightline Interview
For 20 seasons, Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis ran the baseball operations for the storied franchise, but in 1987, that tenure came to a shocking end.
In an interview with Ted Koppel of ABC’s Nightline, Campanis was invited to participate in a discussion centered around the 40-year anniversary of Jackie Robinson finally breaking the color line in baseball.
When Koppel asked Campanis why there weren’t more African-American managers and general managers in baseball, this was Campanis’ response.
KOPPEL: Mr. Campanis ... you're an old friend of Jackie Robinson's, but it's a tough question for you. You're still in baseball. Why is it that there are no black managers, no black general managers, no black owners?
CAMPANIS: Well, Mr. Koppel, there have been some black managers, but I really can't answer that question directly. The only thing I can say is that you have to pay your dues when you become a manager. Generally, you have to go to the minor leagues. There's not very much pay involved, and some of the better known black players have been able to get into other fields and make a pretty good living in that way.
KOPPEL: Yeah, but you know in your heart of hearts ... you know that that's a lot of baloney. I mean, there are a lot of black players, there are a lot of great black baseball men who would dearly love to be in managerial positions, and I guess what I'm really asking you is to, you know, peel it away a little bit. Just tell me, why you think it is. Is there still that much prejudice in baseball today?
CAMPANIS: No, I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager.
KOPPEL: Do you really believe that?
CAMPANIS: Well, I don't say that all of them, but they certainly are short. How many quarterbacks do you have? How many pitchers do you have that are black?
Campanis was fired by the Dodgers two days later.
28. 1989: MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti Dies Shortly After Banning Pete Rose
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In late September 1988, MLB owners voted unanimously to elect Bart Giamatti as the new commissioner of baseball following the resignation of Peter Ueberroth.
Unfortunately, Giamatti spent a good portion of the 1989 dealing with the gambling allegations levied against Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose, who was alleged to have gambled on baseball games, including his own team.
In late August 1989, Giamatti finally came to an agreement with Rose, permanently banning him from the game of baseball.
However, eight days after the lifetime ban of Rose, Giamatti suddenly died of a massive heart attack at his home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Giamatti had only been on the job for 154 days, and was only 51 years old. Giamatti was known to be a heavy smoker, which was considered the likely cause of his heart attack.
27. 1992: Steve Howe Becomes Second Player Banned from Baseball for Drugs
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
When pitcher Steve Howe debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1980, he was an instant success, saving 17 games that year and was selected as the National League Rookie of the Year.
However, Howe had a serious addiction to drugs, most notably cocaine, and was first admitted into treatment in 1983. Howe was suspended for the entire season in 1984 after a relapse, and would eventually be suspended seven times overall.
In June 1992, MLB commissioner Fay Vincent suspended Howe for life based on the repeated suspension for drugs. However, Howe successfully appealed the suspension, and played for the New York Yankees until 1996.
26. 2011: The Barry Bonds Perjury Trial and Knowledge of His Testicles
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
When accused slugger Barry Bonds was finally brought to trial in early 2011 on several counts of lying to a grand jury regarding his testimony about performance enhancing drugs, the world was subjected to a trial that was bizarre to say the least.
During testimony given by Bonds’ former mistress, the world learned more about Bonds’ testicles than they ever really wanted to know.
25. December 1994: Former Slugger Willie May Aiken Gets 20-Year Sentence
When Willie Mays Aikens broke into the majors with the California Angels in 1977, he was a highly-touted slugger. Playing for the Kansas City Royals in 1980, Aikens became the first player ever to hit two home runs in a World Series game twice.
However, in 1983, Aikens was suspended from baseball along with Willie Wilson and Jerry Martin for attempting to purchase cocaine from an undercover narcotics officer.
In 1993 and 1994, Aikens was under surveillance by the FBI after they had received information that Aikens was selling drugs in his home. After a lengthy investigation, Aikens was convicted in August 1994 on four counts of crack cocaine distribution and one count of use of a firearm during drug trafficking, and in December that same year, Aikens was sentenced to 20 years.
Aikens was released in June 2008, and now serves as a minor league coach for the Royals.
24. 1930s and 1940s: Baseball’s Collusion to Avoid Integration
In 1920, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who had served as a federal judge since being named to the bench by former President Teddy Roosevelt in 1905, was selected as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Throughout Landis’ tenure, he ruled baseball with an iron fist, and under his watch, the baseball color line was a hot topic. While Landis on several occasions said that there was no policy that officially banned African-Americans from playing baseball, the color line was never broken during his watch.
On one specific occasion regarding the issue of integration, Landis said:
“Negroes are not barred from organized baseball by the commissioner and never have been in the 21 years I have served. There is no rule in organized baseball prohibiting their participation and never has been to my knowledge.”
It was a line that Landis continually stuck with during his tenure, right up until his death in 1944.
Source: Pietrusza, David. Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
23. June 17, 2009: Former MLB Star Mel Hall Sentenced to 45 Years for Child Rape
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Former outfielder Mel Hall was a sweet-swinging outfielder who played for parts of 13 seasons in the majors, ending his career in 1996 with the San Francisco Giants.
In 2007, it was revealed that Hall had been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault with a women who claimed that Hall had raped her when she was a teenager. Another victim came forth, this time under the age of 14.
After all was said and done, Hall was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child. He was sentenced on June 17, 2009 to 45 years in prison, and is not eligible for parole until the year 2031.
22. October 2006: Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle Crashes Plane into Apartment Bldg.
Pitcher Cory Lidle was part of the trade that sent both him and Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline in 2006 to help the Yankees reach the postseason.
After the Yankees lost to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, Lidle was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed into the side of a New York City apartment building along the East River.
There is speculation as to whether or not Lidle was actually piloting the plane, however the news shocked the baseball community.
21. April 29, 2007: Cardinals Pitcher Josh Hancock Dies in Car Accident
In 2007, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was beginning his sixth season in the major leagues, primarily serving as a relief pitcher through much of his career.
On April 29, in the early morning hours, Hancock was driving his 2007 Ford Explorer when it crashed into the rear of a flat-bed tow truck that had stopped in the left lane to assist another vehicle. Hancock died at the scene.
It was later revealed that Hancock had a blood alcohol level of over .15, nearly double the legal limit in the state of Missouri. Hancock had also been texting at the time of the accident.
20. 1939: Lou Gehrig Forced to Retire Due to Deadly Disease
On May 2, 1939, New York Yankees first baseman approached manager Joe McCarthy before a game with the Detroit Tigers, saying that he was benching himself for the good of the team.
The news was a bombshell, as it ended the consecutive games-played for Gehrig at 2,130 games.
Gehrig knew something was wrong with his body—his suspicions were confirmed when he found out that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on June 19, 1936, Gehrig's 36th birthday.
On July 4, 1939, Gehrig spoke to the Yankees fans at Yankee Stadium on a day marked in his honor.
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that's the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.
Gehrig died on June 2, 1941.
19. Wade Boggs Torrid Four-Year Affair with Margo Adams
Throughout the Hall of Fame career of Wade Boggs, he became known as one of the more superstitious players in the history of baseball. However in 1989, there was another bit of information that came about Boggs that shook the baseball world.
In 1989, Margo Adams revealed that she had been a mistress of Boggs and had been involved in a torrid four-year affair with the batting champ. She filed a $12 million lawsuit against Boggs after he had ended the relationship. In a wide-ranging interview with Penthouse magazine, Adams discussed intimate details of her relationship with Boggs.
Amazingly, Boggs' wife Debbie stayed by her husband's side, and the two are still married today.
18. 2007: Ugeth Urbina Sentenced to 14 Years for Attempted Murder
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For 11 seasons in the majors, Ugeth Urbina enjoyed an excellent career as a closer, twice being selected as an All-Star and winning the World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
However, in November 2005, Urbina's world in baseball came to a crashing halt when he was accused of attempted murder for attacking five people at his farm in Venezuela. The attack occurred after Urbina suspected the workers of stealing a gun. Urbina attacked them with a machete and tried to pour gasoline on them for the purposes of lighting them on fire.
A jury convicted Urbina in 2007 and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.
17. September 23, 1978: Angels Outfielder Lyman Bostock Murdered
When outfielder Lyman Bostock broke into the majors with the Minnesota Twins, he had an immediate impact, finishing fourth in the American League batting race in 1976, and then finishing runner-up in 1977 to eventual winner and teammate Rod Carew.
In 1978, Bostock signed a free-agent contract with the California Angels, and while he got off to a sluggish start, was hitting .296 by late September.
During a road trip to Chicago, Bostock was in Gary, Indiana to visit his uncle. While traveling back from his uncle's house, the car in which Bostock was driving was approached by another car, who fired a bullet into the back of the car, striking Bostock in the temple and instantly killing him.
Bostock was not the intended target of the shooter, it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
16. April, 2009: Angels Pitcher Nick Adenhart Killed by Drunk Driver
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Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was a highly-touted right-hander who endured Tommy John surgery and three years in the minors before making his major league debut in 2008.
In spring training of 2009, Adenhart was so impressive that he was named to the Angels' starting rotation. In his first start for the Angels on April 8 against the Oakland Athletics, Adenhart threw an impressive six innings, allowing no runs and seven hits, striking out five.
Later that night, after having dinner with friends, the car in which Adenhart was a passenger was struck by a drunk driver, killing Adenhart and two of his friends, while another friend survived.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Adenhart's car, Andrew Gallo, was convicted and sentenced to 51 years to life on December 22, 2010.
15. July 1989: Former Angels Reliever Donnie Moore Commits Suicide
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For 13 seasons in the major leagues, four with the California Angels, reliever Donnie Moore carved out a nice niche for himself, being selected to the All-Star team once in 1985. However, Moore's career was forever defined for one pitch in 1986.
Entering the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, Moore was called on to snuff out a rally started by Don Baylor's two-run home run. Clinging to a 5-4 lead with two outs and Rich Gedman on base, Moore let a 2-2 pitch fly to batter Dave Henderson, who promptly launched it over the left field fence, giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.
While the Angels would come back in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, Moore gave up a sacrifice fly to Henderson in the 11th, giving the Red Sox a 7-6 victory.
The Angels, clearly deflated by the loss, went on to lose Games 6 and 7, giving the Red Sox the American League pennant.
Moore never recovered from that, and after a failed attempt to reach the majors with the Kansas City Royals, on July 18, 1989, Moore shot his wife Tonya three times after an argument, and after Tonya and daughter Demetria fled the scene, Moore turned the gun on himself.
14. December 13, 2007: The Release of the Mitchell Report
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On March 30, 2006, MLB commissioner Bud Selig appointed former Senator George Mitchell to lead an investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
The investigation was spurred by several incidents—the release of the book Game of Shadows by San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, and negative remarks by members of Congress regarding the ineffectiveness of MLB drug policies.
After a 21-month investigation, The Mitchell Report was released, which cited 89 different players as alleged to have used PEDs or steroids.
The report also gave recommendations as to setting strict enforcement policies and guidelines for MLB going forward, many of which were agreed upon and implemented.
13. 1985: Pittsburgh Drug Trials
In the early 1980s, the Pittsburgh Pirates were a gritty bunch of ballplayers who supplied a fair amount of entertainment for their fans. However, much more was going on behind the scenes than anyone had ever suspected.
In 1985, a shocking cocaine scandal was revealed, involving several current Pirates—Dale Berra, Lee Lacy, Lee Mazzilli, John Milner, Dave Parker, and Rod Scurry. All of the players were granted immunity in exchange for testimony given to a grand jury which led to the Pittsburgh drug trials in September 1985.
Other non-Pirates were also implicated, and provided testimony as well. Willie Mays Aikens, Vida Blue, Enos Cabell, Keith Hernandez, Jeffrey Leonard, Tim Raines, and Lonnie Smith were all called to give testimony in front of the grand jury as well.
Baseball had a golden opportunity to seriously revise drug testing at the time, but neglected to do so.
12. 1996: Reds Owner Marge Schott Suspended for Racial Comments
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On December 21, 1984, Marge Schott, who was a minority shareholder of the Cincinnati Reds, purchased the controlling interest of the Reds, becoming their CEO and President in 1985. Schott became the second woman in MLB history to have controlling interest in a team without inheriting it.
Schott quickly became a very outspoken owner, but in the early 1990s, Schott was outspoken in not such a nice way.
In 1992, Schott used the "N" word in describing two former players, Eric Davis and Dave Parker, and later in the year, Schott issued a statement that essentially supported Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and wondered why the use of the word "Jap" was offensive.
After an investigation by MLB, Schott was suspended from day-to-day operations for the Reds for the year in 1993.
Her problems didn't end there, however. On May 5, 1996, Schott again voiced her support of Hitler, saying that he "was good in the beginning, but went too far."
Following those comments, Schott was again suspended from baseball, this time lasting through the 1998 season.
Schott sold her controlling interest in the Reds in 1999 after learning that she had lost the support of the board and would be ousted.
Source: Associated Publisher
11. 1970: Pitcher Jim Bouton Releases Controversial Book Ball Four
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In 1970, pitcher Jim Bouton, who was with the Houston Astros at the time, released a book that he had written called Ball Four, in which he chronicled a diary of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, and also recalled memories from his days as a member of the New York Yankees.
The book contained a comprehensive look into the life behind the clubhouse walls, a life that had long been protected and preserved by players and sportswriters alike. Bouton drew immediate criticism for his portrayal of many named players, including the great Mickey Mantle.
MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered Bouton to give a statement saying that the book was a work of fiction, however Bouton refused and stood behind everything he wrote.
For many years, Bouton was blacklisted by players and behind the scenes officials for opening a door that had never previously been opened.
10. 1983: Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays Are Banned from Baseball
In 1983, Mickey Mays and Willie Mays were no longer involved in baseball, and both had already been inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.
Mays and Mantle were both hired by Atlantic City-based casinos to essentially work as PR guys—Mantle was hired by the Claridge Hotel and Casino to become their goodwill ambassador, and Mays held a similar position at Bally's Park Place.
MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn deemed their actions as egregious, saying that any affiliation with gambling were grounds for being placed on the "permanently ineligible" list. Mays had already had action taken against him, and Mantle joined him in 1983.
However in March 1985, after Peter Ueberroth had replaced Kuhn as commissioner, both Mays and Mantle were reinstated.
Source: The Spokesman-Review
9. 1989: The Loma Prieta Earthquake
In October 1989, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics met for for the first time ever in the World Series. Touted as the Bay Series, the powerful A's had stormed off to an early 2-0 lead, easily winning the first two games in their home park.
The third game was scheduled to be played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on October 17. However, during warm-ups before the game, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the San Francisco area, causing massive damage, killing 63 people and injuring another estimated 3,757.
The damage was so severe that is caused the delay of the World Series for ten days, with Game 3 finally being played on October 27.
Since the World Series is televised internationally, it was the first time that millions of people actually viewed an earthquake during the horrifying jolts.
8. Sept. 11, 2001: Devastating Terrorist Attacks of 9/11
When the tragic events of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 unfolded, America was irrevocably changed. The terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, the plane that crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC and the plane that was brought down by the heroic efforts of passengers in Shanksville, PA saw almost 3,000 people lose their lives, including 343 police and fire rescue workers.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig sought the counsel of several people, and decided to suspend baseball games indefinitely.
Baseball resumed on Sept. 17, with Mike Piazza hitting a dramatic home run to carry the Mets to victory at Shea Stadium in New York. That event, and the way that baseball embraced and supported the efforts of police and fire rescue workers throughout the rest of the season and beyond, has left an indelible mark on the country's favorite pastime.
7. June 22, 2002: Cardinals Pitcher Darryl Kile Dies of Sudden Heart Attack
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile had reason for optimism. After playing for teams in Houston and Colorado that weren't exactly stellar teams, he was in his third season in St. Louis.
Winning 36 games in his first two seasons in St. Louis, including a 20-win season in 2000, Kile was fresh off a victory over the Anaheim Angels in interleague play, allowing just one run on six hits over 7.2 innings.
Four days later, the Cardinals were scheduled to play a day game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Shortly before the game started, Cardinals officials noticed that Kile had not yet arrived at the ballpark. After calling the hotel to check on Kile, hotel officials entered his room to find him on the bed, dead of a heart attack.
The Cardinals were shaken to the core, and the afternoon game was cancelled. When the Cardinals clinched the National League Central Division later in the season against the Houston Astros, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols carried Kile's jersey on a hanger with him during the team's celebration.
6. August 2, 1979: Yankees Captain Thurman Munson Killed in Plane Crash
When catcher Thurman Munson made his debut with the New York Yankees in 1969, they could clearly see that they had a rising star on their hands. Sure enough, the following season Munson won the 1970 American League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .302 with 57 RBI.
Munson continued playing at a high level, and at the start of the 1976 season, Munson was named captain of the Yankees, the first since Lou Gehrig.
Munson responded by winning the Most Valuable Player award and leading the Yankees back to their first World Series appearance since 1964. The Yankees would lose to the Cincinnati Reds, but with Munson at the helm, the Yankees won back-to-back World Series championships in 1977-78.
The following season, Munson was again enjoying a fine campaign, hitting .296 by the time August rolled around. On Aug. 2, enjoying a rare day off, Munson, who had taken up flying two years earlier, was practicing take-offs and landings at an airport in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
On the third landing attempt, Munson clipped a tree and crashed his Cessna, killing himself and badly injuring two passengers.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner immediately ordered the retirement of Munson's jersey No. 15 upon his death.
5. May 28, 1957: Giants and Dodgers Receive Permission to Move to California
On May 28, 1957, fans of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers received an absolutely crushing blow.
During a mid-season, National League owners approved the request by Walter O'Malley of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Horace Stoneham of the New York Giants to move their teams to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively.
For two teams that had built a fanbase in the city of New York since the 1880s, it was a very sad day, indeed.
4. Dec. 31, 1972: Roberte Clemente Dies Delivering Relief Supplies to Nicaraqua
Puerto Rican-born Roberto Clemente was one of the most gifted right fielders ever to play the game. His ability to hit, run, throw and field were second to none at his position, and he played each game with an unwavering passion.
In late December 1972, the country of Nicaragua was devastated when an earthquake struck the capital city of Managua.
From Puerto Rico, Clemente set to work in delivering relief supplies to the devastated area. On Dec. 31, Clemente decided to accompany the supplies, as the first three planes he loaded with supplies had been diverted by a corrupt Nicaraguan government.
However shortly after take-off from Puerto Rico, Clemente's plane crashed, killing him and the pilot.
The baseball Hall of Fame elected to waive the five-year waiting period and inducted Clemente in 1973, the year after his death. In addition, MLB set up the Roberto Clemente Award, given each year to the player who best follows Clemente's example of humanitarian work.
3. August, 1989: Pete Rose Permanently Banned from Baseball
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When Pete Rose finally broke Ty Cobb's long-standing record for most hits in a career in Sept. 1985, he was considered to be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. However, something else got in the way.
In early February 1989, MLB starting investigating gambling allegations levied against Rose, and specifically that he had bet on baseball. Following a meeting with MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth and NL President Bart Giamatti, Giamatti, who had taken over as MLB commissioner, launched an investigation by hiring attorney John Dowd to conduct an more intense background check of Rose's possible gambling dalliances.
Dowd started his investigation which lasted three months. Sports Illustrated also ran a cover story detailing Rose's gambling as well.
After months of speculation, allegations and investigations, Giamatti and Rose came to an agreement whereby Rose voluntarily agreed to accept a lifetime ban, and also admitting at the time that the evidence presented against him was in fact enough to agree to the ban.
However, Rose continued to vehemently deny that he had bet on baseball for the next 15 years. Finally, in 2004, Rose admitted in his book My Prison Without Bars that he had indeed bet on baseball games, including games involving his own team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Rose is still awaiting reinstatement.
2. 1919: Chicago White Sox Players Conspire to Throw the World Series
It has famously became known as the Black Sox Scandal. Eight former players accused of conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series. The shocking events of the day spawned the famous movie, Eight Men Out, as well as countless other books, TV specials and cable documentaries.
The great Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven others were tried and acquitted of all charges in 1921, however MLB commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who had just been elected as commissioner the year before, decided to permanently ban all eight players regardless of the outcome of the trial.
The day after the players were acquitted, Landis levied the lifetime ban and issued this statement.
Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.
1. 1973: Yankee Pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich Swap Wives and Families
Ever since 1969, New York Yankees pitcher Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson were inseparable, becoming great friends. However in 1972, they took their friendship to a whole new level.
Sometime in 1972, while Kekich and Peterson were double-dating with their wives, they got to talking and joking about swapping wives. Later in the year, they in fact did swap wives. The swap apparently worked so well that in October 1972, the couples swapped complete families, with Mike Kekich moving in with Marilyn Peterson and Fritz Peterson moving in with Suzanne Kekich.
The story became public in spring training, 1973, to the absolute shock of just about everyone.
Unfortunately, Mike and Marilyn ended up splitting, but Fritz and Suzanne got married in 1974.
Gives a whole new meaning to the Henny Youngman joke, "Take my wife, please!"