Imagine if Mark Twain and Grantland Rice drank rye by a bonfire all night and attempted to come up with an American folk hero for the modern sports era.
They could conjure up a backcountry, bull-wrangling giant capable of winning the World Series on his own, and they would still only have a fraction of the character that is Madison Bumgarner.
I say this with confidence due to a feature profile published by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci Tuesday, which—to put it lightly—revealed to readers the tall tale that is Bumgarner's life story.
Verducci lists a number of unbelievable, but reportedly true, stories about the San Francisco Giants pitcher, ranging from wild rabbit saving to dating a woman also named “Madison Bumgarner.” We’ll start with the rabbit, which Verducci writes Bumgarner saved from the belly of a snake he killed.
This may be the best Boone-like tale about the man they call Mad Bum. One day during spring training this year in Scottsdale, Bumgarner and his wife were roping cattle when Madison was startled by a large snake he figured was a rattler. He quickly grabbed an ax and hacked it to pieces. When Ali, an expert field dresser, examined what was left of the snake, she found two baby jackrabbits inside pieces of it and extracted them. A short while later the Bumgarners noticed that one of the rabbits had moved slightly. It was alive. Ali brought the rabbit back to their apartment and for the next few days kept it warm and bottle-nursed it. The rabbit soon was healthy enough for them to release in to the wild.
Bumgarner affirmed this to Verducci.
“Think about how tough that rabbit was,” Bumgarner said. “First it gets eaten by a snake, then the snake gets chopped to pieces, then it gets picked up by people and it lives. It’s all true.”
As for the other Madison Bumgarner, it’s as weird and simple as it sounds. Bumgarner claimed that prior to marrying his wife Ali, he dated a woman also named “Madison Bumgarner.”
“No relation,” Bumgarner told Verducci. “I’m sure of it.”
If that doesn’t do it for you, Verducci writes of the routine a homesick Bumgarner established in 2007 while playing for the Giants’ Instructional League team in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Bumgarner would pass the downtime by walking from his room at a Days Inn to the Scottsdale Fashion Square mall. But he didn’t go inside. In a courtyard there was a statue of a bull. Bumgarner would bring a lasso and practice his roping against the inanimate animal, pretending he was home.
So we’re clear, Bumgarner honed his cow-roping skills on a fake bull outside a mall. Again, this is not a character in a Norman Mailer book.
Verducci’s story goes on to tell of Bumgarner’s first real suit (purchased this year), his days of playing coach-pitch with kids nearly double his age and his father-in-law’s one-eyed dog. It’s a great read for fiction lovers, and an even better one for baseball fans who want to know the full, surreal story of the man who practically won the Giants the 2014 World Series single-handedly.
Just try not to forget this is a real person. It’s difficult at times.
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