Bobby Cox

June 26, 2007

This past Saturday Bobby Cox tied John McGraw’s record for most ejections from a major league game. At the time of the 1978 card shown here, Bobby Cox had not earned his first ejection, mainly because he had yet to manage a major league game. According to an article on sbrforum.com, it took Cox less than a month to earn his first heave ho, for bench jockeying during a May 1 game between the two worst teams in the National League, Cox’s Atlanta Braves and Joe Torre’s New York Mets. Future manager Bobby Valentine was also on hand for that game, batting second and playing second base for the Mets. As he was in the twilight of his disappointingly injury-riddled career, it’s possible Valentine had begun wondering about a second career in baseball as a field general. So maybe Cox being ordered to leave the premises that day in May began the thought process in Valentine’s highly active, unorthodox mind that would result, years later, in one of the greatest moments in manager-ejection history, the game when Valentine, after his expulsion, snuck back into the dugout in a fake mustache and tinted glasses.

The day Cox earned his big record-tying ejection, I watched Bruce Bochy get tossed from the Fox Saturday game of the week between the Yankees and Giants. What does it say about me that I envied Bochy? I imagined being relieved of the burden of making consequential decisions, going back into the cool clubhouse, popping a beer, seeing if there was a good movie on the clubhouse television. As it turned out, the game Bochy was ejected from went on and on, seven more innings beyond Bochy’s 6th inning banishment, so Bochy would have even had time to sneak in a lengthy nap before the team and the press came barging in to wreck his long moment of blissfull purposelessness. 

Thinking of that blissfull purposelessness (which I’m sure Bruce Bochy had none of, instead maybe kicking a chair or punching a locker and then monitering every second of the rest of the game while perhaps relaying pointed messages to the acting manager via the batboy or some bench-warmer) reminds me of rainy days in the summer of 1986, my second living with my grandfather on Cape Cod. That summer I eventually ended up back at the Shell station where I’d pumped gas the previous year, but for a few weeks before that I worked as a canvasser for Greenpeace. On days when it rained really hard they’d cancel the canvassing. It’s been over twenty years and I still can’t get over those rainy days. That job–knocking on door after door to cheerfully recite a scripted spiel about the encroaching environmental apocalypse and the need for monetary contributions–made my stomach hurt, plus I was terrible at it. My last day before I quit I left my route after a couple hours of doors slamming in my face and bought a pack of baseball cards from a Cumberland Farms. I was leafing through them when my supervisor pulled up to bring me back to the office. He asked if a kid had given them to me, implying that buying baseball cards was something I was way too old to be doing, especially on company time. He was my age, or maybe a couple years older, a blond college guy who was a big fan of the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip. The next day I found myself praying for a giant rainstorm so I could sit around the house getting stoned in my room and lying on my grandfather’s orthopedic bed going up and down by remote control as my grandfather and I watched Match Game and M*A*S*H. But the sky was blue with no hope of rain, not a cloud anywhere. So I just quit.


  1. 1.  Way to stick it to The Man. I once had a very short summer career as a auto-glass tinter. When I told the boss I was quitting he asked, “can you stay around till the end of the week?” and I said, “Um… no.”

    There are a lot of misguided fans out there who consider Bobby Valentine’s disguise stunt as a mark against him.

  2. 2.  1: Ha! Funny to think of Greenpeace as “The Man.” The guy I phoned in my mumbling resignation to was one of the canvassing supervisors, a soft-spoken, disheveled, aging hippie who looked like a slightly less worn David Crosby.

    Speaking of quitting, a book recommendation: Dishwasher, by Pete Jordan. It’s the workography of a guy who set out to wash dishes in all 50 states. He’s a good and funny writer in general, and he’s the Shakespeare of the sweet and fetid brief cheap thrill of quitting.

    Never a dull moment when Valentine was at Shea. As a neutral observer, I loved the guy, or at least loved the amount of entertainment he provided. He was also quite the mensch during the 9/11 aftermath, as I recall.

  3. 3.  I will buy that book today. I fantasize about quitting all the time.

  4. 4.  I spent my high school and college summers building garages, and I looked forward to the rainy days too. It was a real bitch if we’d already put the roof on when it rained, because then we could cut the siding or put the door together even in the rain.

  5. 5.  Bobby Valentine has a cool blog of his own about his adventures as a manager in Japan. I’m on the ‘Bobby’s Way’ email list and it’s a fun distraction about once a month to see what he has to say about baseball in Japan even if the email looks like お気に入りの場所 大阪編 when I first open it. It’s in Japanese.


    I’d love to see the Yankees sign Bobby Valentine as their next manager. I’m tired of fans treating the team like it’s UNC and only Tarheels are good enough to manage it. Neither Joe Torre or Casey Stengel had nothing to do with the Yankees before they were hired. Sticking to ‘Yankee family’ is a mistake.

    Fun fact: Bobby V is arguably Connecticut’s greatest high school athlete – he was three times all state in football in addition to being good enough to play pro baseball.

  6. 6.  Inrteresting to note that the initial Cox ejection (the 5th grader in me is laughing at that phrase) you mention was also the first managerial showdown of Torre and Cox — two guys who will enter the Hall of Fame as managers.

    Here’s a quick check of all Cox-Torre games since that first one (Cox won though he wasn’t around to see it):

    Cox (ATL) v. Torre (NYM) 1978-81
    Torre 26, Cox 16

    Cox (ATL) v. Torre (StL) 1990-95
    Cox 40, Torre 32

    Cox (ATL) v. Torre (NYY) 1996-07
    Torre 10, Cox 9 (reg. season)
    Torre 8, Cox 2 (postseason)

    Total: Torre 68, Cox 65 (74-67 incl. postseason)

  7. 7.  5: Does Bobby Valentine speak to his players in Japanese? I mean, does he know the language? I’d sort of think he’d have to, but maybe not.

    6: And of course Torre took over for Cox in Atlanta and reaped the benefits of Cox’s switching of Dale Murphy from catcher to outfield.

    A couple things I meant to include in the original post: First, I was stunned to discover this card in my collection. My first thought was that somehow Bobby Cox had always been the manager of the Atlanta Braves, and he always would be the manager of the Atlanta Braves. It was sort of soothing to think that was the case, and I believed it for a second until I remembered him piloting the Lloyd Moseby-era Blue Jays during the ’80s. Second, Cox’s run at the ejection record has provided the second significant referencing of John McGraw this season, the first being when A-Rod’s “mine” stunt had historians recalling McGraw’s array of dirty tricks as a player for the old Baltimore Orioles.

  8. 8.  I wonder if the current rules of MLB ejections explicitly prohibit an ejected manager from, say, sending text messages to a bench coach or even being on the phone with him by cell phone.

    I understood the purpose of ejection to be a penalty on the team, not just removing the offending party from the situation. If so, any covert attempts to manage from the clubhouse (or elsewhere distant) would be cheating.

    Bobby V’s stunt was absurdly funny, though.

  9. 9.  This Mets fan will always have a soft spot in his heart for Bobby V and all the antics.Those were good years to root for the Mets.

    Great article about him managing in Japan in Sports Illustrated last month. Pretty fascinating stuff, and yes, he learned Japanese.

    Multi-lingual master of disguise, Bobby Valentine.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: