Saturday, February 7, 2009

Major League Baseball's 10 Funniest Confrontations of All-Time

For this installment of the collision between comedy and sports, I'm switching back to the standard article format. The slide-show was fun, but I couldn't add the video links (at least I couldn't figure out how to do it) and those are more important than the pictures.

Plus, it was tough finding shots of relatively old stuff that were clear enough to use. Obviously in some cases, I didn't succeed.

So it's back to the tried and true method for a look at the funniest confrontations in Major League Baseball history.

And that's confrontation in the broadest sense of the word.

I'm talkin' one-on-one stand-offs, bench-clearers, tete-a-tetes with the umpires, and any other example of men matching tantrums. The only rule is it had to be funny—not always in the same way or for the same reason.

But you still gotta laugh. Here we go:

No. 10—Batman goes nuts on his latest caper.

You'll notice I usually hand the tenth spot to an entry that is a bit of a stretch for whatever the list may be. That's because there's usually a borderline case from another arena that is simply too perfect to exclude.

Christian Bale's hissy-fit (caution: a ton of profanity) on the set of the newest Terminator is certainly one of these.

So how can I include his apocalyptic showdown with the director of photography on a movie set? On a list that's supposed to be about sports?

In truth, I shouldn't. But...

A. Bale did play Batman—and Bateman, weird—who defends Gotham. New York City is often called Gotham and is synonymous with MLB because of the pin-stripes all over the game's history.

B. Christian was originally tabbed to play George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's biopic, W. Dubya, as we all know, was a co-owner of the Texas Rangers before moving on to do for America what he did for the Rangers.

C. Robin Ventura apparently went by the nickname, "Batman."

Weak, I know. But more than enough of a reason to include such a priceless clip.

No. 9—Two Korean teams' unintentional intentional comedy.

This one defies explanation. The crowd gets a huge kick out of the players' antics, but I don't get see the joke. So why is it on the list?

Because it's hilarious for a different reason.

When I'm laughing, I'm not laughing with the players (who are enjoying themselves way too much). I'm laughing at them. Clearly, this took a lot of coordination and thought. Yet hopping around on one leg while doing battle with a crooked knee?

That's the punchline for all the effort?

There's a pretty good chance this is the product of cultural divide and the Koreans would be just as confounded by our American counterpart. Let me know what that would be.

I'm not even sure it's a real baseball game. Let's just move on.

Note: this was also listed as Japanese, but I think it's Korean. If it's Japanese, I apologize. In my defense, it's listed as both, the clarity isn't great, and I don't happen to speak either language.

No. 8—Tony Batista makes a Japanese pitcher say, "Oops I crapped my pants."

Yet another great clip of a pseudo-confrontation from the Far East. Batista got plunked, took several vicious steps towards the mound, and then harmlessly trotted to first. But the Japanese hurler bit.


In the pitcher's defense, he was a good sport about it—laughing the incident off—and you can't blame the guy.

For one thing, Tony Batista looked much older and bigger. For another, the guy on the mound had good reason to be worried.

You'll see what I mean.

No. 7—Kyle Farnsworth proves that Jeremy Affeldt picked the right sport and he did not.

Kyle Farnsworth should be a fantastic relief pitcher. He's enormous, which makes him an intimidating presence on the mound.

He throws serious gas, which makes him an intimidating presence on the mound.

And he's a little crazy. Possibly a lot crazy. Again, intimidating.

The only problem is that, to be an intimidating pitcher, you've got to actually throw strikes on occasion. When you do, those strikes must find the catcher's glove or foul territory. Otherwise, all the other stuff is just a fancy waste.

So Kyle Farnsworth is not a fantastic reliever. I'm not even sure he's a good one. On the other hand, he looks like he'd make one hell of a cage fighter or football player.

The apparent error in career choice is what gets this bad rider on the list.

The video clip doesn't do Farnsworth's tackle on Affeldt justice because it's merely a string of stills and none catches the actual tackle. Trust me, it really was a textbook thing of beauty. Incidentally, that's my Giants' new toy at 40 seconds (with Kyle's paw all up in his mug), again at about 62 seconds (beaten and bloodied), and then again later on.

There's also a pretty good shot of a James Shields' haymaker (he looks like he knows what he's doing) and a moment Derek Lee would probably like erased (he does not look like he knows what he's doing).

No. 6—The reason die-hard San Francisco fans knew it was just a matter of time before the Big Unit put on a Giants' uniform.

Unfortunately, there's one in every group—the problem child. In this case, it's a video clip that can't be found. If this were higher on the list, I'd have spent more time looking instead of settling on the above photo. As it was, I spent a good 15 minutes and that's usually long enough to find something if it exists online.

Unless, of course, you're a moron...don't say I didn't warn you.

I forget who sparked off the brawl; that's not really important. The important part is both benches cleared and Randy's Arizona Diamondback hat got knocked off his mullet in the melee that ensued. As order was being restored, a visibly angry Johnson grabbed a lid and jammed it on his head.

After a couple more seconds passed and calmed him down, he began to tug at the cap because it wasn't sitting right. Finally, he whipped it off and, lo and behold, it was the orange and black of San Francisco.

If you can find it, let me know because this one is even funnier now that Randy Johnson actually is a Giant.

But don't worry, we'll see the Big Unit later on.

No. 5—If only Nolan Ryan were a director of photography in Hollywood.

I doubt the movie Batman would've been so courageous as to upbraid the all-time strikeout king had he been the one "screwing up" Bale's eye-line. Not after seeing what he did to (apparently) MLB's version.

The funniest thing about this is not the ass-whooping Father Time dropped on a very young Robin Ventura. In truth, most of those punches were to the top of the head so they probably weren't doing much. Only that last one really got through to a soft spot.

The funniest thing is that Ventura sure was in a hurry to get out there. I mean, it's Nolan Ryan—the Ryan Express is/was baseball royalty—and Robin ran out there after a pitch that wasn't even very close.

Then proceeded to get punked. Ah, life is good sometimes.

No. 4—You just do NOT get in the Big Unit's way.

Although this would apply to Randy's confrontation with the camera soon after arriving in the Big Apple, that clip wasn't funny. Predictable? Yep, but not funny.

If you're in PETA, well, this one's probably not gonna be too funny either.

I'm not in PETA. I find that clip outrageously funny. Yes, I feel bad for the bird.

And that's significantly worse than the bird ever felt about the incident because that baby was DOI—dead on impact. Man, did it go down a hero though. In a ball of feathers rather than fire, but still pretty cool.

Plus, the freakish nature of the episode has to make you laugh. Seriously, what are the chances that the timing could ever be that perfect? I'd almost guarantee you that Johnson couldn't do it again in 100 tries.

I doubt the bird could've either. Well played sir.

No. 3—Everyone run! It's Rod Allen!

Before there was Godzilla (with Matthew Broderick), there was Rod Allen. Perhaps the entire city of Tokyo didn't tremble at his name and scurry from his approach, but one guy certainly did.

And I think he might still be running. Because I'm certainly still laughing.

However, I can't say that I blame him.

Mr. Allen looked slightly agitated by that beanball and the Japanese general attitude towards fighting in the midst of a baseball game doesn't seem to be the same as the American one. Shoot, why do you think Tony Batista looked so scary?

Rod had size, motivation, and a sincere head of steam.

It's just a good thing that pitcher could run better than he could throw.

No. 2—Phil Wellman introduces himself the umpire crew...and the rest of America.

God bless YouTube and the wonders of modern technology.

If I had to describe this, I'm not sure the article would ever see the light of day because there is simply no way to put it into words. You simply have to see Wellman's meltdown for yourself.

Oh man, there's just no way that will ever be topped by another manager. How could it be? What would a better tantrum look like?

And what was he thinking? The fast-forwarded version takes over a minute. That means the real thing would've given Wellman plenty of time to simmer down. I'd love to have been watching that game from the first pitch because something egregious must have happened.

No way that anger was fabricated.

The guy had time to get on his hands and knees, carefully cover up and tamp down the dish, and then draw a new plate with exaggerated boundaries.

Then he walked to third base, uprooted it, walked to second base, and chucked third into center field. Then came the soldier crawl to the rosin bag and phenomenal grenade toss at the ump.

Do you think that was an act of premeditation on Wellman's part? Or was it a spur of the moment thing?

Whichever it was, the execution was brilliant. Right down to the little puff of white "smoke" when it landed at the ump's feet.

Lastly, give the umps credit. I would've broken character and left my posterior on the field in a fit of laughter.

Again, well played sir.

No. 1—Armando Benitez proves that HE is the craziest man in Major League Baseball.

There's courage, bravado, reckless bravery, stupidity, and then there's Armando Benitez on the mound against the New York Yankees.

Armando was busy inflicting his brand of torture on the Baltimore Orioles at the time and had just finished surrendering a lead to their rivals in the American League East.

With Tino Martinez at the plate, Benitez unleashed a sizzling fastball that found its mark right in the middle of Tino's back. You can tell everyone was expecting it because (a) the previous batter (Bernie Williams) had just launched a three-run tater and (b) the ump jumped out from behind the plate to thumb Armando like he was coiled and waiting for the chance.

Rightly so. But none of that is what makes this the number one stunna.

No, what earns it the top spot is what Armando Benitez does next.

With the entire Yankee dugout already at the top step—some were already out of it—Armando turned, took a look at the Bombers, and gave the universal sign for "come get some."

To the entire team.

Needless to say, the Yanks took him up on his offer. Particularly some reliever and Darryl Strawberry.

Unfortunately, the clip doesn't show Benitez gesturing at NY.

Still, you get a pretty good feel for the moment around the 2:12 mark and the rest of the video is a great "honorable mention" vehicle.

There's Krukow versus Dave Winfield, Mo Vaughn delivering the smackdown to George Bell, the Boston Red Sox minor leaguer who appeared to have some mixed martial arts training (nice sprawl), two of the more irritating pitchers in recent memory (Pedro Martinez and Jeff Weaver) getting dominated, and Chan Ho Park going at it with Tim Belcher.

All worthy candidates, but not worthy enough.

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