Baseball is a game of failure. So it makes sense that Failure magazine begins its “quirkiest sports failures” series with vignettes from our national pastime. Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the most monumental failures—à la Bill Buckner or umpire Don Denkinger—merely the most bizarre, unfortunate, and out in left field occurrences in modern baseball history.
July 9, 2003: Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon strikes a Milwaukee Brewers mascot in the head with a bat during a game between the two teams at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. The mascot, an oversized Italian sausage, is racing past the Pirates’ dugout (along with three other processed meat mascots) when the incident occurs. Simon is cited for disorderly conduct, fined $432 by authorities, suspended three games, and fined $2,000 by Major League Baseball. Mandy Block, the teenaged woman inside the sausage costume, isn’t seriously hurt by the blow or resulting fall.
March 11, 2002: The New York Yankees release outfielder Ruben Rivera after the team discovers that Rivera stole a glove from teammate Derek Jeter and sold it to a memorabilia agent for $2,500. Rivera receives a $200,000 settlement in lieu of his $1 million salary.
April 27, 2007: During the bottom of the sixth inning of a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, umpire Ed Montague credits the Orioles with a run his crew had mistakenly waved off three-and-a-half innings earlier. “Only in Cleveland could the Indians go from a tie game to being a run behind—while they were batting,” quips a Cleveland sports columnist after the fact. The Orioles go on to win the game 7-4.
July 12, 1979: An estimated forty-eight-thousand fans show up for a Disco Demolition Night promotion at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, which provides that anyone who arrives at the ballpark with a disco album shall be admitted to this day’s White Sox-Tigers doubleheader for 98 cents. After the Tigers win game 1, a dumpster containing all the collected records is placed in center field, at which time local radio DJ Steve Dahl proceeds to set off an explosion, sending shards of vinyl into the air and creating a hole in the outfield grass. Thousands of intoxicated fans pour out of the stands and begin rioting, and the White Sox are forced to forfeit the second game. In the aftermath, White Sox manager Don Kessinger says, “We have found a lot of ways to lose games this year, but I guess we added a new wrinkle.”
August 15, 2003: On Kahn’s Baseball Card Night at Great American Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds give away a limited-edition set of Reds baseball cards to all fans in attendance. The set includes fired manager Bob Boone, fired coaches Tom Robson and Tim Foli, as well as five traded players.
May 26, 1993: Texas Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco misjudges a deep fly ball, allowing it to hit him on the head and bounce over the outfield wall, counting as a home run for the Cleveland Indians. The Rangers lose the game to the Indians by one run. Three days later Canseco tears ligaments in his elbow while pitching during a blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox.
September 23, 2007: San Diego Padres left fielder Milton Bradley suffers a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee when he is spun to the ground by his manager, Bud Black, during an argument with an umpire.
May 20, 2008: The Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League trade right-handed pitcher John Odom, 26, to the Laredo (Texas) Broncos of the United League for 10 baseball bats—more specifically, “10 Prairie Sticks Maple Bats, double-dipped black, 34-inch, C243 style”—valued at $69 each. “They just wanted some bats, good bats—maple bats,” Broncos general manager Jose Melendez says when asked about the unusual trade. Odom dies six months later, his death attributed to an accidental overdose of heroin, methamphetamine and alcohol.
April 14, 2002: After toiling in the minor leagues for eight years, Seattle Mariners designated hitter Ron Wright makes his major league debut against the Texas Rangers. In three plate appearances, Wright strikes out, grounds into a double play and hits into a triple play. The Mariners ship him back to the minors the following day and he never returns to the majors.
June 4, 1974: The Cleveland Indians hold Ten-Cent Beer Night, and allow fans to purchase up to six cups of beer at a time, which perhaps explains: the heavyset woman who ventures to the Indians’ on-deck circle during the second inning and bares her breasts; the nude male who runs onto the field in the fourth and slides into second base; and the two fans who moon the opposition’s outfielders during the fifth inning. Ultimately, a riot ensues that threatens the safety of the players, and with the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, umpire Nestor Chylak forces the Indians to forfeit to the Texas Rangers on account of the increasingly drunken and unruly crowd.