When Jeff Francoeur retires from baseball, he may yet become a nuclear physicist or rocket scientist. He may invent a spacecraft that can escape the outer reaches of the galaxy and send back vital information concerning the origins of the universe. Maybe he'll even set his sights on inventing a jetpack to finally shut up all the people who think they were promised jetpacks (like this band).
Francoeur can accomplish anything he sets his mind to -- but being savvy and aware of his surroundings must not be a prerequisite. This was made clear recently when Francoeur was convinced, relatively easily, by his Triple-A teammates that pitcher Jorge Reyes is deaf.
Reyes, as he explains in the accompanying video without the benefit of sign language, is not deaf. There were ample signs that Reyes wasn't deaf, but Francoeur ignored them because… well, because he's Jeff Francoeur and Jeff Francoeur ignores signs.
Pranks are a time-honored tradition in professional baseball, primarily because the game is played by men with the sense of humor of middle-schoolers, the free time of the retired, and the monetary funds of Scrooge McDuck. Who else has time to set fire to someone else's shoe while they're still wearing it? Or create a bucket full of pickle juice, milk, eggs, rotten fruit, anchovies, and old lunchmeat specifically for the purpose of dumping it on someone's head? Or put human poop in someone else's glove? Or… Stop! Go back! Poop in someone's glove? Yeah, it was… You know what? Forget I asked.
Actually, we should go back, not to the poop glove (never to the poop glove), but the one before that -- the bucket of anchovies and old meat. That prank is called the Three Man Lift, and it's a standard bait and switch. The premise is a simple one. Three men, often (read: always) rookies, lie down on the ground and are tied together so one of their teammates can attempt to perform a feat of strength by lifting them up as many times as possible. Only he doesn't attempt to lift them up because that would be stupid and likely cause injury. Instead he pretends to prepare to lift them while other teammates grab disgusting things. Then he runs away while they dump filth on the three men (read: rookies) lying on the ground. This is hilarious. Never mind that the rookies would have likely sat quietly in foldable chairs and waited patiently after a veteran teammate told them, "Sit there. I gotta find [excrement] to dump on your head." It's the conceit followed by the filth that makes it worthwhile. So worthwhile, in fact, that the joke has been used enough to receive a name. It's at this point that I suggest any potential MLB rookies Google "Three Man Lift" and make sure, should anyone bring this little trick up, that they're conveniently sick or in the rest room when it all goes down.
There are of course dozens of other common baseball pranks. There's the "bubble gum on the hat" trick, for example, where someone blows a bubble out of chewing gum and deposits it discretely on someone else's head without their knowledge. Then the unsuspecting player walks around with gum on their head for upwards of a few innings while the other dugout denizens giggle uncontrollably. It's no poop glove, but it's tradition and it's silly -- so, on those grounds, it's a good one.
Another traditional prank, though these days a rather mundane one, is the old shaving cream pie in the face. The set-up is simple. Walk behind someone, preferably mid-interview on live television, then reach around and smash them in the face with a towel or pie tin sprayed full of shaving cream. Then they have shaving cream on their face, which
isn't where shaving cream goes and therefore is hilarious is where shaving cream goes but remains hilarious! For some reason this is often applied to a player who did something to win their team the game. Nothing says 'thanks for your effort!' like public humiliation mixed with an acute stinging in the eyes.
There's nothing particularly wrong with the traditional fare. Smearing bathroom gels into the mucus membranes of a teammate has its appeal, but I prefer more inventive avenues of expression. Here are my personal top five, in reverse order of awesomeness:
5. Moe Drabowsky
Some players have a talent exceeding the limitations of a single prank. No player before or since has put on the continuing show that Myron Walter Drabowsky did.
Moe Drabowsky was known for... well, pretty much every trick in the book. He set people's shoes on fire, including once the Commissioner of Baseball's. He loved goldfish, which he put in the opposing team's water coolers, and sneezing powder, which he put in their air conditioning ducts, and snakes, which he put absolutely everywhere. Drabowsky was the very definition of "journeyman," playing for eight different teams over 17 seasons -- which had its advantages when it came to pulling pranks.
Perhaps the most famous example came when he was playing against the Kansas City A's in Kansas City. Having played for the A's, Drabowsky knew the intricacies of the stadium's bullpen phone system. He also knew the number for the home team's bullpen. So one day, while A's starter Jim Nash was pitching a dominant shutout, Drabowsky, seated in the opposing bullpen, summoned his gruffest manager voice, grabbed the bullpen phone and called the A's pen. "Get Krausse up!" he bellowed, and slammed the phone down.
"You should've seen them scramble, trying to get Lew Krausse warmed up in a hurry," Drabowsky said later.
4. Joe Carter raffles off Derek Bell's jeep at "Fan Appreciation Day" (1992).
Bell was particularly proud of his Ford Explorer SUV, so it makes his dumbfounded expression all the more wondrous when he sees his beloved car driven onto the field at then-SkyDome while the public address announcer intones "one lucky fan will win Derek Bell's jeep." The whole thing was orchestrated by teammate Joe Carter who, for his use of the crowd and public address announcer, wins as many FunPoints as I'm legally allowed to award.
3. Buck Showalter gets "mad" at Darren O'Day for product placement (2012).
Pranks are funnier when they involve the manager. Here, Orioles manager Buck Showalter berated reliever Darren O'Day for demonstrating an electric people-mover device to a reporter who, it turned out, wasn't a reporter after all. O'Day thought he'd upset his manager something fierce, and was never quite was able to get all the fear out of his face while the cameras were rolling.
2. Charlie Manuel tells Kyle Kendrick he's been traded to Japan (2008).
The level of involvement is what sells it. Manuel delivers an Oscar-worthy performance, members of the Philadelphia press corps dutifully took notes on something they knew to be bunk, and there was even a bunch of fictitious paperwork that Kendrick had to sign. On the one hand, you have to feel badly for Kendrick, who never had a chance. His manager and GM called him into their office, and while their story might have been a bit outlandish, it was hardly impossible to believe in the moment. On the other hand, ha ha!
1. Jared Burton and Brian Duensing stage a bullpen fight (2013).
On August 9 of last season, Twins right fielder Chris Colabello hit a home run in what would become a 7-5 White Sox home win. As it happened, the homer was headed straight for the visiting team's bullpen, occupied at the time by Twins relievers Jared Burton and Brian Duensing. Realizing that the television camera would be following the ball, and realizing that the ball was going to land very close by, and realizing that the bullpen at US Cellualar Field is behind a see-through fence, Burton, just as the ball was landing on the awning that shades the bullpen benches, coldcocked Duensing, whose head snapped back like a boxer's in a prize fight. The whole thing is perfectly executed -- and planned well ahead of time.
Fans following the flight of the ball are never, ever, ever expecting to see one reliever unload a haymaker on another. It preys on our expectations. I love this one most of all, perhaps, because unlike pranking a (mostly) defenseless player, this is a prank on me, you, us -- every one of the thousands of fans who were watching that day. How many people across the greater Minneapolis and south Chicago areas watched that homer land and then, out of the corner of their eyes, saw Burton's fist fly and saw Duensing hit the deck, and did a double-take. Wait, what the heck was THAT??? That is, in a word, beautiful.
The truth about all these pranks is that, for a game set on failure, where the best players make outs all the time and career implosion is always just a few at-bats away, laughing at yourself and, most importantly, others can be therapeutic. And apparently, so can putting poop in someone's glove.