Some people think
baseball is boring. Some people aren’t paying attention. Baseball lends itself to more colorful characters and moments on and off the field more so than other sports. Maybe it’s because the slower pace of the game lets men often play into their 40s, unlike basketball or football (except for sports alien Tom Brady). Maybe it’s because it’s one of the only sports where coaches wear the same uniforms as the players.
As baseball season heats up for summer, here are 10 of our national pastime’s weirdest and wildest moments. Let’s play ball!
Cover photo: Denis Poroy (Getty Images)
Ranked Weirdest and Wildest Moments From Baseball
10. 'Big Sexy' Hits His First Home Run at Age 42
Like Nolan Ryan, Bartolo Colon had a decades-spanning career as a pitcher well into his 40s. At nearly 300 pounds, he resembled a Dominican Boss Hogg. And like most pitchers, he wasn’t a great batter. Yet, in one shining moment in 2016, weeks shy of his 43rd birthday, “Big Sexy” hit his first (and only) home run.
9. An Earthquake Interrupts the 1989 World Series
1989 was a good year for Bay Area baseball fans as the San Francisco Giants faced the Oakland Athletics in a so-called “subway series,” when two teams from the same metro area play. About 30 minutes before game 3 started, an earthquake struck nearby. Veteran sportscaster Al Michaels said on air, “I’ll tell you what, we’re having an earth—” before the live feed cut off. Michaels later said it was “the greatest opening in the history of television, bar none.”
8. The Headbutt Homerun
Jose Canseco was a reliable slugger throughout the '80s and '90s, often leading the league in home runs when he wasn't purportedly resisting Madonna's advances. He’s often remembered, though, for an unfortunate play as an outfielder where he inadvertently headbutted a routine fly ball over the fence, giving the now Cleveland Guardians a surprise homerun on their way to beating Canseco’s Texas Rangers. Oh, he’s also remembered for writing a book,
Juiced, where he admitted to using steroids and outed fellow players he claimed were pharmaceutically jacked.
7. Of Course This Mustache Is Real
One of the fun aspects of baseball is the umpire’s ability to eject coaches and players. Nothing riles up the crowd like watching a 50-something man get unceremoniously kicked off the field for bad behavior. In June 1999, New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine decided to sneak back in after he’d been ejected for pointedly questioning a rare “catcher’s balk.” So, he put on sunglasses and used two black stickers to form a mustache and quietly returned to the dugout. Valentine was ultimately fined $5,000 for his surreptitious stunt, but it was worth it for his legendary place in baseball lore. Fun fact: the Mets' pitcher that day was Pat Mahomes, father of Super Bowl champ Patrick Mahomes.
6. Cleveland Pays the Price for Cheap Beer
The now Cleveland Guardians were not a good team in 1974. Management knew what it took to get people in seats: cheap beer (Stroh’s, to be exact). They soon learned what happens when you mix Clevelanders with unlimited 10-cent beer. A woman ended up on the field, flashing and propositioning an ump. Streakers ran around the bases. As the game progressed, Cleveland fans began openly harassing the visiting Texas Rangers, pelting them with bottles and batteries. The players defended themselves with bats as plastered fans overran the field. Stadium security couldn’t handle the chaos, so the riot squad was called in to clear everyone out. Maybe this is one reason beers are now $19 at a game.
5. Riot! Over Disco
This was another promotional disaster, more related to the Bee Gees than beer. Mid-summer 1979, a Chicago DJ wanted a symbolic end to the days of disco. He encouraged fans to bring disco records to be blown up on the field between double-header games at the White Sox’s Comiskey Park. More than 50,000 people were more than happy to contribute and soon records were sailing onto the field like 12-inch frisbees. The rabid disco-deniers, including actor Michael Clarke Duncan, overran the field, the riot police were activated and the Sox had to forfeit the unplayed second game.
4. Don't Mess With Texas (Or Their Pitchers)
Nolan Ryan was a legendary pitcher, dealing heat into his mid-40s. One day in 1993, he beaned All-Star White Sox Robin Ventura, then 20 years Nolan’s junior. Ventura stormed the mound only to have the 46-year-old Ryan open a Texas-shaped can of whoop-ass and proceed to use Ventura’s dome for some fist-batting practice. Ryan retired later that season, and the Rangers used to play clips of the beatdown to their home stadium’s delight. Don’t mess with Texas.
3. Cubs Can't Catch a Break
Before winning it all in 2016, the Chicago Cubs weathered a century-plus without any championship trophies decorating Wrigley Field. In October 2003, the Cubs were four outs away from advancing to the World Series. Enter super-fan Steve Bartman, who leaned over the left field corner and prevented Moises Alou from making the catch. As the flustered Cubs’ playoff hopes quickly withered, security whisked Bartman away from the vengeful crowd. Bartman had to go into hiding to escape irate Cubs fans, as detailed in the excellent ESPN doc,
2. LSD and the No-Hitter
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis thought he had the day off on June 12, 1970. So, the flamboyant, hair-curler-wearing right-hander dropped some acid. His trip mellow was soon harshed when his girlfriend informed him he was supposed to pitch that night against the San Diego Padres. Keeping his wits about him, Ellis somehow threw a no-hitter. Eventually sobering up and helping young people recover from drug addiction, Ellis unsurprisingly said he remembered little of the game other than being “psyched” with “a feeling of euphoria.” We bet.
1. Big Unit Destroys a Little Bird
Randy Johnson lives up to his nickname of Big Unit. (No, not that way.) Towering over the mound at 6’ 10”, the southpaw pitcher intimidated batters with his 100-mph fastballs. Nature also felt his power when, one day during spring training in 2001, Johnson basically vaporized a hapless bird that swooped into the path of one of his pitches. It was grimly fitting that the bird was identified as a mourning dove.