The stories concerning baseball’s greatest all round player for miscreant
behavior has always been a unanimous vote; Ty Cobb. His reputation for
playing dirty, starting fights, and running with all the wrong people would earn him regular “thug of the day” honors on TLZ. If you think that poor Charlie Sheen’s personal behavior is web worthy, how about the games biggest star of his time linked to everything from murder to rum running. On May 15th, 1912, Ty Cobb assaulted a semi-handicapped fan in the stands for calling him a derogatory name. The man in question had lost three fingers in an industrial accident and was sitting behind the Tiger’s dugout. As Ty Cobb jumped into the stands and began pummeling the spectator into a bloody pulp, the fans started screaming “He has no hands! He has no hands!” The Georgia Peach continued to pound the man’s face into a bloody pulp as he shouted back, “I don’t care if he has no feet!”
For some reason, baseball is a game that spawns innocence. Perhaps it’s because kids see their future dreams begin between the chalked lines of a hot and dusty diamond. Unfortunately, it’s when we get to the next phase that the truth is often revealed. With the question of steroids removed, history has infinitely displayed that participants learned far more than just the joy of going out for a snow cone after the game to celebrate the big win.
The crimes of passion, drugs, and overall narcissi of some who wear the numbers shadow pale any player associated with steroids. Let’s review a thumbnail history of names that have brought tarnished press to our pristine pastime. Will Cordero was charged with tying up his wife with a telephone cord. Mets pitcher Al Lieter was accused of attacking his wife and burning her with a cigarette over most her body. Former Cardinal Vince Coleman was cited for throwing firecrackers at the fans. MLB drug arrests included Yankee’s pitcher Steve Howell who was busted no less than seven times and still reinstated to play. Other mega- names of the game who were convicted for doing drugs included Dave Parker, Tony Phillips, Dwight Gooden, and Leon Durham. Pirate’s pitcher Doc Ellis admitted in his own autobiography that he was high on an LSD trip when he through a no hitter!
Other felons of the game include the last man to win thirty in a season. Pitcher Denny McClain was convicted for racketeering, extortion, and drug possession. If you’re looking for dirt, you can throw in the revered name of Leo Durocher who was suspended for consorting with gamblers and other unsavory characters. In perhaps the strangest baseball draft round ever, the Detroit Tigers picked the name Ron Leflore from the Jackson State Prison in Michigan. He was there honing his baseball skills and doing time for armed robbery. Even George Steinbrenner got nailed and was indicted for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon. With “hooligans of the horsehide” running amok, there’s certainly no room for larceny plus blind stupidity. Yankee’s pitcher Ruben Rivera was caught and convicted after stealing teammate Derek Jeter’s bat and glove and trying to sell it on EBay for $2500. For that little indiscretion, he lost a million dollar a year job. By the way, there was once a man named Rose! Funny name for a man… Rose.
Even the men hired to keep the peace are not immune from the dark side. American League umpire Al Clark was terminated in June of 2003 after a tenure of 26 years for improperly using league supplied plane tickets. “Hey Uncle Al, this is the best family vacation we’ve ever had!” He was also later popped and spent four months in the slammer for selling baseballs he falsely claimed were game used and historically significant. Some of the biggest crimes of all went unpunished. Dave Winfield once committed murder with over 20,000 witnesses in the stands. The sea gull’s family later testified in a closed hearing and the charge was later reduced to accidental bird slaughter. Fred McGriff still walks the streets today a free man after assaulting the fans for his entire career with the worst nick name in the history of the game.
Steroids? It doesn’t seem like much of a big deal now does it? I’m ready to just sit myself down and enjoy a nice frosty snow cone and then go out and find something else more deserving to worry about. Care to join me?