Imagine you’re 19-year-old Mike Trout (take a moment, enjoy it) and you’re standing in the Tempe Diablo Stadium dugout waiting for your first spring training game as a major league baseball player and you look up to see your cell phone number flashing on the scoreboard with a message that reads, “Call Mike Trout directly with your baseball questions.” What do you do? Well, you take it in stride then go on to have one of the most impressive rookie seasons on record.
Why was your number up there in lights as tall as you? Simple answer: Jered Weaver didn’t particularly like it when you spoke out of turn during one of manager Mike Sciosci’s team bonding sessions. You needed to be taught a lesson about respect and now you need a new cell phone.
For every written baseball rule, there’s three unwritten rules and the consequences for breaking these league-wide norms is being the butt of a joke. Pranks are to baseball as blood doping and amphetamines are to professional cycling: They separate the real pros from the rooks. Here are the best tricks ever pulled in the MLB. Because the game is about respect and, on the other hand, it really isn’t.
The “Fan Giveaway”
In 1992, Toronto Blue Jays’ right fielder Joe Carter anonymously announced to fans that a car was being given away for Fan Appreciation Day. Rookie center fielder and future All-Star Derek Bell was dumbfounded when the car driven onto the field was his jeep.
The “Autograph Signing”
At the beginning of the Bear’s 2005 season, Olin Kreutz asked rookie Kyle Orton to sign a helmet for his family. Naively, Orton signed without question. He learned his lesson when he found out he had signed his own helmet that he would have to wear for practice.
The “Haunted Hotel”
ESPN teamed up with Braves pitcher Tim Hudson and told first baseman Eddie Perez he was going to be featured in a production highlighting five guys in all different parts of travel. His portion of the feature was getting off the bus, retrieving his key and settling in his room. As he gives a tour of his room, Hudson (dressed up in a Scream costume) jumps out of the closet. Thank god it was all caught on camera to see his priceless reaction.
The “Wrong Paint”
During the 1986 St. Patrick’s Day game, Mickey Hatcher celebrated by painting himself head to toe in green paint. After running out to the field and doing a jig, he realized very quickly that the paint was enamel and he couldn’t breathe. He was rushed to the locker room where he was doused in alcohol to remove the paint.
The “Surprise Wedding”
The Toronto Blue Jays’ chemistry was turned up a couple notches when Roy Halladay and AJ Burnett epically called out Aaron Hill and Russ Adams’ newfound best friendship during the 1996 season. Burning through some extra MLB dough, they had a plane fly over the stadium pulling a banner that read, “Congratulations Aaron & Russ!” The joke continued: Their cars were wrapped in bows with messages of congratulations. The day ended with a players-only “wedding reception,” complete with a DJ.
The “Collect Them All”
Will Ohman felt the wrath of Ryan Dempster after super gluing the zipper of his baseball pants open, removing all the laces from his cleats and smearing eye black along the rim of his hat at the start of the 2005 Cubs season. Three days later, when Ohman arrived to the bullpen, an opposing pitcher yelled, “Hey, is this your wheel?” It was. The team had removed the tires from Dempster’s beloved truck and hid them in various parts of the stadium. Instead of pitching that day, he went on a treasure hunt.
The “Totaled Car”
In 2008, the Cubs were at it again, when Aramis Ramirez encouraged strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss to go outside to “check his car.” When he arrived, Buss saw that his aging ride had been completely destroyed. In disbelief, Buss told reporters who just so happened to be on the scene that he was the most worried about how his wife was going to respond. As he continued to wallow in his sorrows, Ryan Dempster shouted out for him to “quit pouting” and come to the weight room to “see something.” Buss was met by a brand new Nissan Xterra with Carlos Zambrano in the passenger seat bobbing his head to blasting music.
The “High Steaks Bet”
Ken Griffey is no penny pincherwhen it comes to pranks. He became a legendary trickster in 1995 after losing a bet to his Mariners manager Lou Piniella. Piniella bet a steak dinner that Griffey couldn’t hit home runs to each outfield in his last three hits of batting practice. After impressively hitting one to right and center, he failed to get it out to left. When Piniella returned to his office later that week, he didn’t find a steak dinner; he found a cow.
The “Can’t Hear You”
This year MLB veteran Jeff Francoeur signed with the San Diego Padres and joined the El Paso Chihuahuas. As he was meeting his new team they successfully convinced him that pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf. The entire thing was documented by first baseman Cody Decker who followed each player around as the lie deepened and Reyes’ acting intensified. Extremely dedicated to the joke, Reyes went weeks without speaking or listening to music. The type of dedication that makes seeing Francoeur’s reaction to the big reveal that much sweeter.
The “Traded to Japan”
After a wildly successful 2008 season, starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick was in total shock when he was informed he was about to be traded to Japan. Reporters, management and players were all in on the joke, but Kendrick handled it like a true professional. He signed papers he thought symbolized the end of his Phillies career. He was more than a little relieved when he found out it was all nonsense.
Photos by Brian Blanco / Getty Images