As long as baseball has been alive, there has always been one indelible identity to the game that every fan can relate to: the prankster.
But as the years go by, this unique breed of players and managers is seemingly vanishing into thin air.
Today, I want to take a look at my top 10 biggest MLB pranksters of all time and go a little into what made them who they were.
As always, this is only a list of 10, so there is plenty of room below to list your nomination and get the conversation flowing with remembrances of the old-time pranksters of the game—historically or current.
So sit back and enjoy!
Those who know Drabowski may be aware of the fact that it was he who was the pitcher on the mound when Stan Musial hit his 3,000th career hit.
But for the prankster that lived in Drabowski, there was few before him that were quite like him.
Among his array of jokes, Drabowski was famously being wheel-chaired to first base after being hit in the foot by a pitch, as well as another instance when, after retiring from the game, he once called the Orioles dugout and imitated manager Earl Weaver to get a reliever up and working.
Joe Carter was one of the best outfielders to ever play for Toronto and had the distinction of being the first person to score a run in a World Series outside of the United States (Game 3, 1992 World Series) and the last person to do so (Game 6, 1993 World Series).
But it is his prankster prowess that also suited him well.
In 1992, Carter announced to fans during a game that the Blue Jays were "giving away" a car in honor of Fan Appreciation Day. The car just happened to belong to rookie center fielder and future All-Star Derek Bell.
Like Mr. Drawbowski—who also played for Chicago—the Cubs pitching staff through the years have always been known for their pranks for some reason.
A more recent example would be the war between Ryan Dempster and Will Ohman.
Ohman thought it would be a great prank to super-glue Dempster's clothes and uniform together, while also putting eye black on his hat prior to a game.
Dempster wound up the victor, as his response was removing all four tires on Ohman's car, placing them randomly throughout the training facility and leaving Ohman's car on cinder blocks out in the middle of the outfield.
Another fine example is the story of Rick Sutcliffe sending out an eight-year-old batboy to ask the home plate umpire if he had the keys to the batter's box.
And an even more classic and over-the-top prank from the Cubs pitching staff can be read here.
Since becoming the Angels manager some 12-plus years ago, it has been a mainstay that manager Mike Scioscia is the last of the true consistent pranksters in the league.
Just a few of his pranks include:
1. John Lackey had to retake a college algebra final he’d failed nine years earlier, the exam hand-delivered to the clubhouse by two Arizona State professors.
2. Upon handing out morning assignments one fine afternoon, the players found themselves returning with the Harlem Globetrotters, toys and, in one instance, an eight-foot-tall ostrich and a palpitating pitcher.
3. Pitchers Matt Meyer and Ryan Chaffee were told to construct a fielder’s glove and a catcher’s mitt from scratch
4. Shy rookies were told to interview Phoenix Suns cheerleaders and write about their personal histories.
Despite McDowell's reputation as a quality pitcher, his reputation as a prankster precedes him all too famously.
His pranks included lighting firecrackers in the dugout and wrapping a wad of chewing gum around a cigarette, then secretly place the contraption on the heels of unsuspecting teammates' cleats—better known as the hot foot.
Once, during a nationally televised game, he was filmed with his uniform on upside down—his pants over his head with his shoes on his hands.
He also took part in an on-field mariachi band and wore earrings in the clubhouse to protest Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott's banning of earrings.
Piersall was one of the greatest pranksters and jokers of all time. But his level of jokes and prank types and frequency did land him in a mental ward for quite some time.
Was he crazy, or just above the top? Matter of opinion, really.
Once, Piersall ran up the screen behind home plate and spread his arms in imitation of an airplane when running to first base, dropped his bat and imitated the pitcher's motion, left the plate and ran to first to give a stage whisper to a runner. When an umpire called him out on strikes in the minors, he pulled a water pistol and sprayed the plate, saying, "Maybe now you can see it."
This one will be long, because Lee takes the cake. Lee was not only known as a prankster, but he was also a sort of political prankster.
His pranks include:
- Worn onto the field, at different times a gas mask, a Daniel Boone cap, a beanie with a propeller and even an astronaut suit once.
- Announced that a baseball represents nothing more than "some Haitian slave's eight-hour day," and that a ballplayer's springtime ritual consists of "unlimbering the body and snorting the new glove."
- Visited China on the cuff of a left-wing publication, after which he grew a beard. "This isn't a Fu Manchu," he said. "It's a Ho Chi Minh."
- Opined that the Red Sox had "the whitest team in baseball. Just look at the hierarchy of the ball club. We could have a winning team made up of the black and Latin American guys who've been traded away."
- Showed up, while rumors of his imminent release were flying, dressed in a black outfit that he described as Mexican funeral wear. "Nobody looks at me," he complained. "They walk by like I've been bitten by a rat from Calcutta and the disease will spread."
- Once accused Don Zimmer (who has a metal plate in his head as the result of two beanings he suffered as a player) of "disliking all pitchers as a basic prejudice. If you've been beaned and nearly killed twice, you're going to want to make pitchers live in fear. Aww, Don's all right. Long as he keeps taking those happy pills."
- Defining, on various occasions, pitching as a form of "sexual expression," the true essence of "aikido—you know, self-defense" and "my own territorial imperative. That's from Robert Ardrey. Or Agatha Christie. I forget which."
Known as a soft prankster, one of the more mentionable aspect of Dock Ellis was his famous LSD no-hitter.
Basically, Ellis left the park, took some LSD at the airport, lost a day mentally, took some more LSD thinking it was still the same day and threw the no-hitter.
But he can tell you in his own words here.
Ironic, he's wearing an Angels uniform.
In this excerpt taken from "Just for Laughs. Appreciate Baseball's Pranksters," Bert Blyleven recalls a specific prank gone horribly wrong from perpetual prankster Mickey Hatcher.
"...One incident in particular at spring training in Orlando in 1986. It was St. Patrick’s Day and Mickey went into the maintenance room next to the dugout and found some green paint that was being used on the outfield walls. He decided to cover himself in that paint. He painted his face green, his arms green, everything that showed under his uniform was green.
So he comes out all green, and he didn’t realize that the paint was enamel. It was a hot March day and everyone was laughing. Well the game started, and Mickey was sitting next to me on the bench, and all of a sudden he told me “Bert, I’m having trouble breathing.” His pores had closed and the paint was going into his system. We had to take him out of there and back into the clubhouse, douse him with rubbing alcohol to get the paint off of him. Luckily he ended up being OK."
I know that this slide is talking more about a specific prank rather than a specific prankster, but this can't go unmentioned.
For those of you who don't know, the skinny is that Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick was convinced he was traded to Japan.
The video can be watched here.