Baseball has a long and storied history, and some of those stories are downright bizarre. Seriously, some crazy things have happened in the nation’s pastime, like these things:
1. CAT ON THE FIELD
We’ve all heard that black cats are bad luck but an incident during a game at Shea Stadium in 1969 between the Mets and Chicago Cubs might just have proved it.
Shea stadium was renowned for its colony of feral cats and on this September day a black one ran onto the field, and headed straight towards the Cubs dugout where it stopped and stared down the players.
The Cubs were in first place at the time and had been pretty well the entire season, but went 8-17 after that cat gave them the voodoo stare down and blew their lead in the NL East to those same Mets.
2. RUNNING THROUGH THE CATCHER IN THE ALL STAR GAME
Running the catcher is one of the greatest plays in baseball, the time the mostly non-contact sport becomes a contact one, and the contact is as violent as possible.
However, it’s not a play you expect to see at an All Star game, an exhibition with no stakes, though fans at the 1970 mid-season classic saw just that.
Bare in mind it was the bottom of the 12th, and it was Pete Rose after all—you know ‘Charlie Hustle’ came to play every night—and he did represented the winning run. Plus he scored, so they won.
But still it was kind of dick move. Certainly Ray Fosse didn’t expect it. Then again he was blocking the plate, so fair’s fair I suppose.
3. BIRD MURDER
During a spring training game Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson threw a fastball at the exact moment a dove flew by and the result was an explosion of feathers and a dead dove.
While this incident is well remembered it was not the first bird homicide to occur at the ballpark.
In 1983, while playing for the Yankees, Dave Winfield tossed a ball at a seagull at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium to scare the bird off but the bird held firm, got plucked with the ball and died. Winfield was charged with cruelty to animals after the game and Blue Jay fans mocked him by flapping their arms like wings whenever he came to town, until he joined their flock in 1992.
4. CANCELLING THE WORLD SERIES
Most baseball fans remember the cancelling of the 1994 season with about 40-some odds game to goincluding the World Series—Montreal Expos fans will never forget and never forgave.
But less people are aware that 90 years prior, the series had also been cancelled, only that time it was for spite not greed.
Seriously, John McGraw, manager of the National Champion New York Giants hated the American League and their commissioner so much he refused to allow his team to play, and since the two leagues had no official agreement to play a World Series—the previous year’s was the first—simply declared his Giants World Champions.
After much complaining from fans and media the leagues formally agree to stage an end of season championship every year—provided the owners don’t lock the players out.
5. THE KILLER TARP
Prior to game 4 of the 1985 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Vince Coleman, the St. Louis Cardinals rookie sensation who had stolen 110 bases that season, had his legs taken out from under him, literally.
Fast as he was, Coleman he couldn’t outrun what he never saw, and he never saw the automatic tarp-rolling machine unrolling behind him and got sucked him up in to it. Although Coleman was freed easily enough his leg was bruise and he chipped a bone in his knee.
He had to be stretchered off the field, missing the rest of the playoffs, including the World Series against cross-state rival, Kansas City Royals.
6. EDDIE GAEDEL’S AT BAT
In 1951, Bill Veeck, enigmatic owner of the St. Louis Browns, planned a special surprise during a Sunday double-header to celebrate the American League’s 50th anniversary.
The surprise was Eddie Gaedel, a performer who stood three feet seven inches whom Veeck had signed to a contract on the Saturday that was then sent to League office arriving on Monday, the day after the game.
In the bottom of the 1st of game 2, Gaedel pinch-hit for the Brown’s lead off man wearing the number 1/8.
When the Tigers complained Veeck showed the Umpire the contract and Gaedel had his at bat. He was walked on 4 straight pitches as players from both teams and fans were in hysterics, and was then promptly replaced by a pinch runner.
While the incident is eerily similar to a James Thurber short story “You Could Look It Up” published ten years earlier, Veeck claimed never to have read it.
7. PITCHING A NO-HITTER ON ACID
In 1970, while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD.
Read that sentence again. As far-fetched as this seems today, where players only want to use drugs that theoretically enhance performance, back in 1970 players weren’t drug tested and were on all sorts of things.
LSD was really popular at the time, and sometimes if you were doing a lot of it you might think it was Thursday when it was Friday and not realise you were pitching that night until it was too late, which Ellis did.
It was no problem for Dock, who threw the no hitter despite not being able to feel the ball or see the batter clearly. To truly appreciate this psychedelic feat you have to hear it in Dock’s own words, which the good folks at No Mas made into a short animated film.