Baseball's Least Wanted: The Ejected
ANTHONY BROOKS, host:
From college to the pros now, specifically to pro baseball, while Barry Bonds closes in on the all-time homerun record. He needs just six more homers to tie Hank Aaron. But there's another all-time record that's just been tied by Bobby Cox, the manager of the Atlanta Braves.
Kevin Arnovitz reports that Cox is perfectly happy to avoid the spotlight on this one.
(Soundbite of broadcast)
Unidentified Man #1: Third base ump Bob Davidson calling him out. Bobby Cox can't believe that he's out of a dugout. And here we go. Bobby Cox is going to have a word with Bob Davidson.
Unidentified Man #2: I don't blame him.
Unidentified Man #1: He's already out of the game.
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: Bobby Cox is the venerable manager of the Atlanta Braves. His lengthy resume includes over 2,200 wins, 15 division crowns, and a World Series title. Last Saturday afternoon, Cox achieved another, more dubious milestone. He tied the Major League record for most career objections. Is it something he's proud of? Not according to the Brave's veteran third baseman Chipper Jones.
Mr. CHIPPER JONES (Third Baseman, Atlanta Braves): He kind of thinks of it more as embarrassment than anything else.
ARNOVITZ: The record sort of snuck up on Cox. He claims he wasn't aware of it until the media began to make light of it toward the end of last season.
Mr. BOBBY COX (Manager, Atlanta Braves): No. It's nothing that managers keep track of it. It's like their wins. If some press guy didn't tell you how many wins that you've had in your career, you would never know. And you know, being ejected is the same way.
ARNOVITZ: While the sports press has relished the story, little has been said about the man who's record Cox tied, John McGraw, the New York Giants' legendary manager from the early 20th century.
FRANK DEFORD: Umpires found McGraw to a be vile, profane, mean.
ARNOVITZ: Sportswriter and MORNING EDITION commentator Frank Deford has written a book on McGraw and says that the fiery manager is one of the most combative figures in the game's history.
DEFORD: One umpire said once, McGraw starts off every morning by eating gunpowder and washing it down with warm blood.
ARNOVITZ: Cox's argumentative style seems monkish when compared to McGraw's violent outbursts. Deford tells the story of an umpire named Bill Byron, who had numerous confrontation with McGraw.
DEFORD: One time McGraw somehow managed, though God knows how, to get Byron's pocket watch during an argument. He threw it on the ground and stomped on it, breaking it into bits.
ARNOVITZ: In addition to stomping on time pieces and simple assault, McGraw in his 33 years as both the player manager and manager, spiked umpires with his playing cleats, tried to ban an umpire from the Polo Grounds, and pulled his entire team from the playing field in protest of a call.
McGraw's reasons for getting kicked out varied from the simple belief that he was right and the umpires were wrong to, shall we say, a desire to be elsewhere.
DEFORD: McGraw sometimes would purposely try to get thrown out of the game, not for any reasons of strategy but because he wanted to go to the horse races. And so he would come out in the first inning and complain to the umpire, say something very rude, be thrown out, go to the clubhouse, change into his clothes, and take off to the racetrack.
ARNOVITZ: In contrast to McGraw, Cox is an evolved, even courteous ejectee.
Mr. COX : I like to speed up the game. One thing I don't like is some managers when they do get kicked out, it takes them all day to get off the field and holds up the game too long. So...
ARNOVITZ: Cox is being sincere. Some of his contemporaries, such as Lou Piniella, stage performance art when arguing with umpires. They kick dirt, throw their caps, and gesticulate wildly.
Cox is a veritable minimalist, known for his sharp tongue but not for any McGraw-like tantrums. Brave's third baseman Chipper Jones says the recipe for his objections is pretty standard.
Mr. JONES: Yeah. Usually your mutter the word you and then something else behind it and that's pretty much what gets it done.
ARNOVITZ: So what do erect outside a stadium to honor a manager for setting the record for career ejections? Long-time Braves broadcasters Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren had one idea during a recent game.
Mr. SKIP CARAY (Broadcaster, Atlanta Braves): They have a statue of a thumb...
Mr. PETE VAN WIEREN (Broadcaster, Atlanta Braves): Yeah.
Mr. CARAY: Or some digits.
ARNOVITZ: For NPR News, I'm Kevin Arnovitz.