When you think about baseball, you think about a game that has been
surrounded by myth, mystification and legends that have a tendency to
get embellished over the years and re-embellished. There were many
reported bizarre and unusual incidents and events in baseball featuring
various baseball characters that seemed to be acting in an epic saga
that combined comedy, mystery, and fantasy. Some of these incidents may
be embellished, or they may not be apocryphal. Some though, are so
unusual and bizarre, that I believe no one could make them up. Some of
the events are well documented and there's no question that they
Chris von der Ahe became the owner of the St. Louis Browns in 1882. He
was said to be the first owner to sell hot dogs at his ballpark. He
encouraged his players to brawl with their opponents for entertainment
value, and by dropping his home game ticket prices to 25 cents, he was
able to lead the Majors in attendance. He claimed to have made back his
losses by selling beer.
Von der Ahe
erected a large statue of himself at a major park in St. Louis, and
throughout his stint as owner of the Browns, he was embroiled in
controversy and was ridiculed by the media. Legal and business
problems plagued him.
At one point he hired Charles Comiskey, who would become legendary in
baseball, to manage his team and play first base. Comiskey turned out to
be a very successful manager, winning the league championship four years
in a row. His fifth year at the helm was less than successful, and von
der Ahe fired Comiskey and managed the club himself.
The Browns¡¯ owner got himself into financial trouble, and his own
bondsman kidnapped him in an attempt to get him to pay his bills. Von
der Ahe also accidentally burned his own ballpark down by setting out
hundreds of candles on the field and near the dugout in an attempt to
get his players to finish a game at dusk.
The 1908 season in the National League produced a bizarre finale that
has come to be known as the Merkle Incident. It started in a regular
season game between the Giants and the Cubs at the Polo Grounds-- tie
score, two outs, bottom of the ninth, runners on first and third. Merkle
was on first.
A single was hit, the runner scored from third, and thinking that the
Giants had won, Merkle ran to the clubhouse instead of advancing to
second base. One of the Cubs¡¯ fielders claimed to have retrieved the
ball and tagged second base, which no official saw. There was an
official protest by the Cubs, and Merkle was ruled a force out at
second, wiping out the game winning run.
The League ordered that if it were necessary the game would be replayed
at the end of the season. The Cubs and Giants ended the regular season
tied for first place. The Cubs won the replayed game and subsequently,
the World Series. The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since.
The White Sox of 1919, or as they have become widely known-- the "Black
Sox", conspired (8 of them) to throw the World Series. After the series
there were rumors about the fix, creating a controversy that led to an
Eddie Cicotte admitted his part in the conspiracy, followed by
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Even though they broke no law, all eight
involved were suspended from baseball. The players were eventually
acquitted, yet baseball ruled they were permanently ineligible to play.
Pitcher Buck O¡¯Brien¡¯s record was 20-13 for Boston. He gave up 5 runs
in the first inning of game six of the 1912 World Series subsequently
losing the game. His teammates beat him up after the game. To add insult
to injury, Boston won the World Series and O¡¯Brien was traded to the
Chicago White Sox.
The Umpire Strikes Back:
Umpire Tim Hurst had a bad reputation for settling arguments by striking
arguing players on their heads with his mask or his fists. In 1897 an
irate fan threw a beer stein at Hurst. The umpire tossed it back, hit an
innocent fan, was fined and dismissed by the American League.
After a stint of 5 years in the National League as an umpire, Hurst
rejoined the American League. An argument with New York manager Clark
Griffith resulted in Hurst knocking him cold. In 1909, he intentionally
spit in the eye of Athletics second baseman Eddie Collins, which ended
an argument but started a riot. The American League fired Hurst for a
Fact or myth?
Here are some strange and bizarre events that have been reported over
* Rumor has it Charlie Hough once broke his finger shaking hands with a
* Some sources say Red Murray and Ray Caldwell were struck by lightning
during a game.
* It is well documented that Ted Williams once picked up a reporter (Hy
Hurwitz) by his necktie, and then cut the tie off with scissors.
* Some sources say Minor league umpires Samuel White and Ora Jennings
were actually killed by fans during a game.
* Babe Herman reportedly once doubled into a double play.
* It has been said that Ed Stewart once swung the bat so hard he knocked
* Some sources say Dan Friend once played the outfield in his robe.
* Legend has it Marv Thorneberry once hit a ball that was ruled a triple
but he was called out for not tagging first and second base.
* Jackie Brandt once said his inconsistent defensive play was due to the
fact that when he ran hard, his eyeballs jumped up and down.
* Jim Kern reportedly once came out on the field with his uniform on
backwards and fell backward off the mound, suffering a concussion.
Perhaps the strangest of the bizarre come in the form of quotes from the
inimitable Yogi Berra:
* "I didn¡¯t really say everything I said."
* "Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical."
* "Nobody goes there anymore; it¡¯s too crowded."
* "This is like deja vu all over again."
* "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
* "It¡¯s never happened in the World Series competition, and it still
* "Nobody can hit and think at the same time."