20 Greatest Manager Meltdowns in Baseball History

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2012

20 Greatest Manager Meltdowns in Baseball History

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    Being the manager of a major league team, while lucrative and rewarding, is a stressful occupation to have.

    Every once in awhile, that stress builds up to a point where a manager is ready to burst at the seams—and it only takes one questionable call by an umpire, one lackluster play by one of his players or the wrong question from a reporter to set them off.

    In the history of the game, colorful characters—often with colorful language—have been ejected from games by umpires and/or suspended by the league for their actions.

    Meltdowns are inevitable, and we, as fans, are thankful when there is a camera, microphone or both around to capture the moment in history.

    Let's take a look at the 20 greatest managerial meltdowns in baseball history—events that cannot be chalked up to simply having a bad day.

Minor League Honorable Mention: Wally Backman

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    After watching one of his players get thrown out of the game, South Georgia Peanuts manager Wally Backman comes to his defense as he takes the field.

    Rather quickly, the former New York Mets second baseman loses his cool and the situation escalates to something nobody could have seen coming.

    *You can see the video here, but be forewarned: THIS MATERIAL IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.*

Minor League Honorable Mention: Butch Hobson

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    Nashua Pride manager Butch Hobson unleashes what could be the greatest meltdown in history after coming out to argue a call that the umpires had changed.

Minor League Honorable Mention: Joe Mikulik

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    Asheville manager Joe Mikulik comes out to argue a call and ends up tidying up the infield for the umpires.

    *You can see the video here, but be forewarned: THIS MATERIAL IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.*

Minor League Honorable Mention: Phillip Wellman

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    Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman unleashes the greatest tirade in the history of baseball. The video speaks for itself.

20. Larry Bowa Could See It Was Foul, Why Couldn't You?

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    There's no video for this one so it'll start us off at number 20.

    Playing the Atlanta Braves on July 9, 2004, the light-hitting Rafael Furcal hit two three-run home runs against the Phillies.

    While there was no doubt about the second blast, the first one was quite controversial.

    Furcal hit a line drive down the leftfield line that reached the seats and was called a home run. Immediately, Phillies leftfielder Pat Burrell began arguing with the umpires that the ball was foul.

    Phillies skipper Larry Bowa sprinted out of the dugout towards home plate, eyes popping out of his head and hurled a number of unflattering remarks towards the umpire, flailing his arms around like a lunatic.

    Bowa would slam his cap to the ground in disgust to try and prove his point but it was to no avail—Bowa would be tossed from the game.

19. Jim Leyland Tries to Educate the Umpires

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    During a game between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers on June 4, 2006, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was not pleased with how the home plate umpire was calling balls and strikes.

    Leyland started yelling at the umpire from the dugout, which resulted in Leyland getting thrown out of the game. With nothing to lose, Leyland walked to home plate and, after some yelling and screaming, proceeds to show the umpire where the strike zone actually is on the plate.

    Classic stuff from an old-school manager.

18. Terry Francona Isn't Leaving by Himself

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    After watching his centerfielder, Mike Cameron, be ejected by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg for arguing balls and strikes, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona comes out to defend his player.

    While giving Kellogg a piece of his mind, the skipper gets thrown out as well. Not happy with Kellogg's performance behind the plate, Francona proceeds to throw Kellogg out of the game before making his way back to Boston's clubhouse.

17. Billy Martin vs. Reggie Jackson

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    Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson never really saw eye-to-eye, and their tumultuous relationship reached it's boiling point during a game against the Boston Red Sox in 1977.

    Martin thought that Jackson wasn't hustling in the field, so he pulled his slugger from the game. When Jackson confronted Martin in the dugout, the Yankees skipper needed to be restrained as he tried to throw a punch at Reggie.

    Going after Reggie Jackson?

    Unless your name is Lieutenant Frank Drebin and you're with Police Squad, it's just not something you do.

16. Ozzie Guillen Takes on Chicago

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    After getting off to a 14-10 start in 2008, the Chicago White Sox lost seven games in a row.

    With the fiery and unpredictable Ozzie Guillen at the helm, it was only a matter of time before the losing streak got to him—and when it did, Ozzie let loose a rant that virtually attacked the entire city of Chicago.

15. Earl Weaver Forfeits a Game During a Pennant Race

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    Earl Weaver and umpire Marty Springstead never liked each other and that animosity came to a head in the middle of a pennant race.

    The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays met on a September night in 1977 with the Orioles trailing the New York Yankees by two games in the race for the AL East pennant.

    In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Orioles losing 4-0, Weaver walked out to Springstead to discuss what he believed to be a safety hazard in leftfield.

    The pitching mound in the Blue Jays bullpen, which was on the playing field, had a tarp over it. Weaver asked Springstead to have the tarp removed as he was afraid that his leftfielder, Andres Mora, could trip on the tarp and injure himself while trying to field a ball.

    Springstead would only agree to have the tarp partially pulled back, which was unacceptable to Weaver. He pulled the Orioles from the field and refused to finish the game, which led Springstead to declare the game a forfeit and awarded the victory to the last place Blue Jays.

    Whether Weaver was correct or not, forfeiting a game in the middle of a pennant race is crazy.

14. Joe Maddon Takes Everyone out with Him

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    Trailing 6-1 in the sixth inning, Dan Johnson grounded to first base but was called safe by umpire Doug Eddings, allowing Johnny Damon to score and giving the Rays another run against the Chicago White Sox.

    Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen came out and asked the umpires to confer on the play, at which point the play was reversed and the run taken away from Tampa Bay.

    Well that set Rays manager Joe Maddon into a frenzy, and by the time he was done he had not only been ejected himself, but he made sure to single out each individual umpire and throw all of them out of the game as well.

    You can see the video here.

13. Sweet Lou Doesn't Like His Hat

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    In his first ejection as manager of the Chicago Cubs, Lou Piniella gets the faithful at Wrigley Field worked into a frenzy.

    After throwing his hat to the ground and getting a mouthful in with one of the umpires, two more need to come over to help diffuse the situation...to no avail.

    Sweet Lou kicks his hat around the field, all the while berating the umpires verbally.

    Cubs fans get in on the fun and litter the outfield with hats of their own.

12. Tommy Lasorda vs. the Phillie Phanatic

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    Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough.

    Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda reached that point in 1988 during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    With the Phillies mascot, the Phanatic, doing not-so-flattering impressions of Lasorda and then beating up and pretending to defecate on a stuffed dummy made to look like the Dodgers manager, Lasorda took matters into his own hands.

    He'd charge the field and go right for the Phanatic, throwing him to the ground and beating him a few times with the stuffed dummy before heading back to the dugout.

11. Lou Piniella Does His Best Rickey Henderson Impersonation

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    In a game between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners on September 18, 2002, Mariners manager Lou Piniella pulled out a move that he'd not used in more than a decade.

    With the game tied at three in the bottom of the ninth inning, first base umpire C.B. Bucknor called Mariners catcher Ben Davis out at first base in a close play to end the inning.

    Sweet Lou flew out of the dugout as if his pants were on fire, slamming his hat on the ground and screaming in Bucknor's face. Bucknor wasted no time in throwing Piniella out of the game—but did so with a smug smirk on his face, a move that only further incensed the Mariners skipper.

    Piniella would then scream at his own first base coach, Johnny Moses, to pick up Lou's hat. Moses retrieved the hat and handed it to Piniella, who proceeded to slam it to the ground again and then, as if it was second nature, Sweet Lou reached down and yanked first base off of the field.

    After doing his best impersonation of RIckey Henderson breaking Lou Brock's stolen base record by holding the bag over his head, Sweet Lou threw first base down the rightfield line. But that wasn't good enough for the fired up skipper, who was apparently unhappy with the distance he got on his first throw.

    He walked down the line, picked the base up a second time, and threw it again before finally being content with his throw and leaving the field.

10. Jim Leyland Puts Barry Bonds in His Place

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    Shortly after spring training started for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991, manager Jim Leyland was already at his wits end.

    Barry Bonds, his talented but moody superstar, had gotten under Leyland's skin one too many times and the skipper couldn't take anymore.

    The two have a colorful conversation with Leyland essentially telling Bonds to take his glove and go home.

9. Lou Piniella vs. Rob Dibble

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    In the late 80's and early 90's, the Cincinnati Reds had a ridiculous back-end of the bullpen in Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble. Named the "Nasty Boys" due to their tempers and penchant for throwing high-and-tight to batters, the duo was an intimidating and formidable combination at Reds manager Lou Piniella's disposal.

    After winning a 3-2 game against the Atlanta Braves on September 17, 1992, Piniella was asked why he did not use Dibble in relief. Piniella intimated that Dibble had a sore shoulder, something that Dibble disputed.

    The fiery reliever started running his mouth, which led to he and Piniella squaring off before ending up wrestling each other as the team tried to break it up.

    As the fracas ended, Piniella shouted towards Dibble "I'd treat you like a man, but you don't want to be treated like a man!"

    Coming to blows with one of your players?

    Billy Martin really had an impact on Sweet Lou.

8. Base Throwing 101 with Professor Piniella

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    It's been said that the first time is the best, and in the case of Lou Piniella and throwing bases around the field, that holds true.

    In 1990 during a game at Riverfront Stadium in front of more than 20,000 Cincinnati Reds faithful, Piniella argued a close play at first base that resulted in an out for the Reds.

    After umpire Dutch Rennert threw Piniella out of the game, Lou decided that he wasn't satisfied with having verbally berated Rennert.

    So he reached down, grabbed first base and threw it—twice,

    Said Reds first baseman Hal Morris:

    I just watched it in slow motion and it was impressive. On the replay, he threw it a lot farther than I thought he did. Some guys were saying that they should make it a new Olympic sport.

7. Bobby Valentine Goes Incognito

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    On June 9, 1999, the New York Mets were going for a sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of a sparse crowd at Shea Stadium.

    The Mets would rally from three down in the bottom of the ninth inning on a two-run single by Robin Ventura and a RBI double by Brian McRae and the game headed to extra innings.

    In the top of the 12th inning, with one out and Shannon Stewart on first base, Blue Jays second baseman Craig Grebeck stepped to the plate against Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.

    Mets catcher Mike Piazza would be called for catcher interference, resulting in Grebeck reaching first base and home plate umpire Randy Marsh throwing Valentine out of the game for arguing.

    Valentine headed for the Mets clubhouse, only to return to the bench in the 13th inning wearing a disguise—a Mets t-shirt, hat, sunglasses and a fake mustache. In the bottom of the 14th inning, Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez would win the game with a single to leftfield, scoring third baseman Luis Lopez.

    Not your traditional meltdown, but Bobby Valentine certainly lost his mind during this game. For as funny a stunt as it was, his costume turned out to be costly—Major League Baseball would fine him $10,000 and suspended him for two games.

6. Lloyd McClendon Swipes First

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    While the Pittsburgh Pirates would beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 in 12 innings during this game in 2001, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon had to watch the final five innings from the clubhouse.

    The umpires started to get under McClendon's skin in the first inning, when Pirates shortstop Abraham Nunez was called out in a close play at first base.

    Six innings later, when Pirates catcher Jason Kendall suffered the same fate, McClendon had seen enough.

    After a quick argument with first base umpire Rick Reed that McClendon saw was going nowhere, the meltdown ensues. McClendon threw his hat towards second base, picked up first base and walked towards the Pirates dugout.

    "I told him (Reed) that he wasn't using it so I thought I'd take it," McClendon told reporters following the game.

5. Lee Elia Attacks the Fans

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    The 1983 season didn't get off to a great start for the Chicago Cubs, and after a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 29th, Cubs manager Lee Elia was full of pent up rage.

    Unfortunately for Elia, he decided to unleash his rage on the one group of people that you never want to attack if you are involved with professional sports—the fans.

    Elia let loose a profanity-filled, three-minute rant that shocked the media in attendance but accomplished the one thing that we can assume Elia was trying to do: put all the attention on himself, alleviating some of the pressure that his players were feeling.

    *You can see the video here, but be forewarned: THIS MATERIAL IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.*

4. Don't Mess with Tommy Lasorda

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    Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer was fined $500 in 1982 for hitting Joe Lefebvre of the San Diego Padres.

    Lefebvre's teammate, Kurt Beveacqua had something to say about the incident, taking a shot at Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

    Reporters asked Lasorda what he thought, and Tommy unleashed a profanity-laced tirade of epic proportions.

    *You can see the video here, but be forewarned: THIS MATERIAL IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.*

3. Hal McRae Redecorates His Office

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    After a 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on April 26, 1993, Kansas City Royals manager Hal McRae was in no mood to talk to the press.

    So when he was questioned as to why he didn't send George Brett up to hit for DH Keith Miller in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and the Royals down by four runs, McRae lost it.

    By the time his meltdown was over, one reporter had blood running down his cheek courtesy of the phone that McRae threw and McRae had secured his place amongst the greatest manager meltdowns in the history of the game.

2. Throwing Dirt Isn't Enough for Billy Martin

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    In a game against the Oakland A's on May 30, 1988, Billy Martin lost his mind...again.

    After Yankees second baseman Bobby Meacham was ruled to have trapped a ball hit by A's shortstop Walt Weiss, Martin became incensed, arguing his point and getting more agitated with each word.

    When crew chief Dale Scott refused to change the call, Martin reverted to his infamous dirt kicking, but decided that wasn't enough. So he reached down, grabbed a handful of the Yankee Stadium infield and threw it at Scott, hitting him in the chest. After being ejected and a flurry of profanity, Martin left the field.

    The league fined Martin $1,000 and suspended him for three games. The umpires said that they would eject Martin anytime he even tried to argue a call, and Martin finally snapped.

    He would pester a friend who had connections for days, trying to convince him to arrange to have Scott murdered in a mob hit. Martin's friend refused and Billy finally calmed down.

    Think about this for a second—Billy Martin tried to have an umpire murdered.

    If that's not a complete and total meltdown, I don't know what is.

1. Earl Weaver Gets Caught on Tape

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    There was no love lost between Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver and umpire Bill Haller, so it was inevitable that the duo would eventually have a fiery run-in with each other.

    In 1972, Weaver complained to American League president Joe Cronin that he didn't think Haller could be impartial when umpiring Detroit Tigers games as Haller's brother, Tom, was a catcher for the team.

    Eight years later, in 1980, the Orioles were playing the Detroit Tigers and Haller was the first base umpire. Three batters into the game, Haller charged Orioles starting pitcher Mike Flanagan with a balk.

    Weaver flew out of the dugout and years of pent up aggression on both sides came pouring out in what some believe to be the greatest (and most profane) meltdown in the history of the game.

    *You can see the video here, but be forewarned: THIS MATERIAL IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.*

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