Bill Madlock in . . . The Nagging Question

May 1, 2009


On this date in 1980, Bill Madlock shoved a glove in an umpire’s face. He was suspended for fourteen days, the harshest punishment the oft-reprimanded Madlock ever endured in the major leagues. (Once, in the minor leagues, Madlock was suspended for an entire season for apparently using a bat as a weapon—or at the very least as a menacing prop to help illustrate his dark mood—to spark what a long-time scout on hand later called “the best fight I’ve seen in my many years in baseball,” but upon appeal Madlock was allowed to return to the field after a couple weeks.)

I would not normally begin a post on Madlock by focusing on his history of flying into on-field rages, and would instead begin by marveling over the lifetime batting average on the back of the card shown here: .337. My lord! Now that I think about it, this card features the highest lifetime batting average of any card in my collection. In other words, in terms of the most celebrated and worshipped statistic of my childhood, batting average, Bill Madlock reigns supreme. In at least one significant way this underrated card of an underrated player is the holiest of my cardboard gods!

He deserves to be celebrated for this, but I’m going to have to turn over that celebration to you, dear reader, because in honor of Bill Madlock’s May 1, 1980, suspension, I am suspending myself on this day, May 1, 2009, from writing posts on Cardboard Gods.

The duration of this suspension is in relation to an upcoming deadline (or perhaps oncoming would be a better adjective, as when it is used to describe the progress of a train) to produce a book-length manuscript that interweaves the tale of an anonymous, nondescript guy with considerations of that guy’s old baseball cards. I actually planned to temporarily stop writing on this site a little while ago, but I discovered that even the thought of not writing on this site was very difficult to absorb, so I didn’t stop, and the oncoming manuscript deadline hurtled closer, and now, with time growing short, I feel I have to act stridently against myself, as if I were the kind of scofflaw who only understands the harshests of punitive measures. So I am banning myself from writing posts on this site for one month.

I will return from this suspension to full active duty. (I may also make the occasional appeal to myself to shorten the suspension, but I’m hoping to channel my inner Kenesaw Mountian Landis when considering these appeals.) 

Also, I am not banned from being in the stadium, so to speak, and so I’ll often be hanging around and very possibly even yelling my two cents from the cheap seats if any of the hundreds of open conversations on this site flicker with any life.

With that (and Bill Madlock) in mind, I hand this conversation over to you. Have you ever been suspended?


Oh, and one more thing. I’ve been meaning to pass along this link for a while: check out The Baseball Chronicle (created by former Baseball Toaster writer Phil Bencomo) for excellent baseball writing and photography designed to push beyond the well-worn ruts of the genre.


  1. I was once suspended from church league softball. It was a surreal situation to begin with. There were no umpires in the league, the ministers would call the action. Of course, they made Tim Donahey (or whatever that crooked NBA ref’s name is) look fair and impartial. One time I even tried to spike one of the holy men sliding into third, but he backed down.

    We would play at your typical parks and rec fields in the area. One time, just as I took my best Pete Incaviglia hack at the ball, my back cleat got stuck in the protective matting and popped the ligaments in my knee. Obviously in such a situation, “Our Father” was not the first word to come out of my mouth. When the opposing coach, pious churchgoer that he was, piped up and said “hey, buddy, watch the language” I struggled to my feet, fell slightly and then unleashed a verbal attack upon him that even Billy Martin might have called excessive.

    I was suspended from play, actually our entire team was, until I wrote a letter of apology to the other team. Since we were in line for the playoffs I complied. It read:


  2. I was suspended for two games from my sixth grade basketball team for failing to heed my coach’s instruction to run some laps after practice. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t.

    He suspended three of us. Two kids quit. I came to the games and watched in “street clothes” (aka my uniform from De La Salle School).

  3. I got in-school suspension for breaking into lockers during Jr. High, and also for throwing toilet paper from the window of the boys bathroom while cutting shop. The latter punishment was to have interefred with cross-country practice, and I think they figured running 6 miles a day after school was worse punishment (and better for my rehabiliitation) than sitting indoors so it wasn’t really a suspension at all.

    Good luck with the project! Perhaps no new CGs out there for a month helps me focus on my work.

    Yeah right.

  4. 1. I have never been suspended.
    2. Bill Madlock was one hell of a hitter.
    3. Good luck sticking with your self-imposed suspension. I will miss your posts, but I understand the importance of shifting your focus to the book.

  5. I was suspended twice in high school for using foul language. Once, I told my friend in the hallway, “Hey, Fuck You!” I said it pretty loudly, but high school hallways being what they are, who would hear it? A school administrator who was walking by, that’s who. On another occasion, I was given a full day’s in-school suspension for inputting vulgar words into the computers that we were assigned in computer lab. This was back in the 1980’s. It all seemed funny at the time. Some administrator came upon the vulgar words while reviewing the computer curriculum to show parents what the school was doing in the new area of computer science. In one instance, I used the word “phuck.” The assistant principal said, “I don’t care you you spell it, it’s still offensive.”

  6. Best of luck with the manuscript. Never underestimate the benefit of short bursts of exercise to get the mind going.

  7. Bear down and grind it out, Josh. Can’t think of a baseball metaphor right now (wait for your pitch? kip your eye onna de bol?), so I’ll just say that we’re all rooting for you & really looking forward to your magnum opus!

  8. Wow – I can’t believe we’re going to be without CG updates. At least it’ll be worth the wait.

  9. I’m happily serving a lifetime suspension (or, in their term, “ban”) from my alma mater’s sylvan campus. Would love to give details, but why clutter up this remarkable site’s board w/ tales from my dark and disturbed youth? It’s all about the baseball, baby! Best wishes to you during your hiatus, Josh, we’ll miss you, but will be looking forward to reading the results.

  10. I’ve been ashamed of myself, but never suspended. There’s still time, I guess. Even at 40. I’ve been wondering how were balancing CG and the book. Very best of luck, Josh. Fight the good fight. And be back soon.

  11. I’m liking the suspension stories. I don’t really have one, unless you count my being officially designated “persona non grata” from my boarding school campus after I get expelled from there. Also, there was the time I threw and kicked my glove all over the field after a kid hit a home run to beat my little league team. My mom was horrified by the display and said I would have to sit out the next game, but she didn’t have the heart to enforce the punishment and just made me stack some fire wood.

  12. I’m going to miss CG updates.

  13. I went to a Catholic high school. It was easy to get suspended there. Skip a class and get caught? You got an extra day off! This was right before in school suspensions were the norm. I think that I also got suspended once when I got enough detentions for piddly shit that I reached the bonus round. These were mainly for acts of omission rather than acts of commission. I was passive-aggressive all the way back then.

  14. I was never ‘suspended’ from anything, but I remember being tossed from a basketball game as a high school freshman. My brother had come home from college early just to see me play and the game wasn’t two minutes old when I was ejected for a ‘hard foul’. A guy was going for a breakaway layup and I grabbed one of his arms; the ref says “14, you’re outta the game”. I compounded the offense by hollering at him, “hey, that’s only my second foul!!” I had to run some extra laps or something in the next practice. Laps, boy , nothing ruined organized sports for me than running laps. We’re thirteen, fer crissakes, nobody’s beating us because we’re outta shape.

    Good luck with the book project, Josh, I’m not alone in looking forward to the outcome of that and I’m going to take the opportunity to re-read all the old posts.

  15. Hmm…I was “banned” from a couple of East Village bars for a while back in the day, but these were usually short-term affairs that would evaporate in due time. Usually it was my friends’ behavior (drunkeness/belligerence/vomiting) that led to the expulsion.
    I believe “Eighty-Sixed” was the common term, and at one time I used to think that it referred to not being allowed back until 1986. (at the time, a year or two away…)

    I was tossed out of a Dead show at the Garden once for toking up under the floor-level “basketball seats” during the “Drums and Space.” Particularly painful as: a) my friend’s new bowl was confiscated. (at least he got to see the rest of the show!); and b) Branford Marsalis was sitting in with the band that night, and they had been playing spectacularly, even having started – but not yet completed – “Dark Star.”

    I was rewarded with a measure of closure this past week, as I went to see the reconstituted band at the Meadowlands where they played the entire show with Mr. Marsalis. It was an amazing experience, and this time I got to stick around for the whole show!

  16. Like you, I too was prohibited from returning to campus after being booted from h.s., which I promptly violated that next fall for home coming.

    Best on the book! My only advice there is don’t burn yourself out every day; write for a few hours and then put it away since it will be top of mind regardless what you do (like eating breakfast, evacuating while reading box scores and brushing your teeth).

  17. I’ll miss the updates, but hey, it’ll give me a chance to catch up on the back issues.

  18. Nooooooo. I’ve just started logging back into your site and have missed it terribly! Even in Costa Rica, you have loyal fans Josh. We have talked about book writing and publishing before. I’ve written two books. Can you speak a little about the book you are working on now? Fiction? Non-fiction? Do you have a publisher lined up yet? As a writer, artist, and musician I know you must follow your heart. You are doing the right thing . . .

    I wish you the best my friend.

    As to Madlock, when growing up for a time in Illinois, as a kid, I thought Madlock was cool. The Cubs teams then were from terrible to average, but as a kid I fell in love with the Cubbies. Madlock, Rueschel, LaCock, Rick Monday, Champ Summers, Larry Biittner, Harry Carey, Sutter, the warm summer days, Ray Burris, Oscar Zamora, simple and fun times as a boy. Great memories.

  19. catfish326:
    The book I’m working on, which Seven Footer Press plans to publish, is–no big surprise–a memoir built around baseball cards.

  20. I was asked to leave the Horshoee Casino in Vegas for “not throwing the dice correctly”

  21. Or maybe the Horseshoe

  22. I never got suspended. When I was in the fifth grade there was an occasion where I got into a shoving match with this one kid, and it ended when he hit me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me, and then a subsitute teacher saw us. He denied hitting me, and I was taken inside after screaming “GOD DAMN IT YOU DID!” The teacher was appalled and eventually I met with the principal. He let me know that he could suspend me, but I kind of knew he wouldn’t (He was an interesting character; I’d get called over to see the principal a few times, and all he wanted to do was talk, like after I went on vacation). My punishment was to stay inside and work on a project with him during recess for a week. The funny thing about that was we never had recess at the same time since he was in the other 5th grade class, so for all practical purpose, not that much happened.

    So I guess Manny Ramirez has some time to read this thread and maybe tell some stories…

  23. Never suspended, but probably should have been. In fifth grade I was elected class president. In this role I was to run a class meeting once a week. The thought of doing this made shoveling shit sound good by comparison. When the time came for the first class meeting, the teacher called me up to the front of the class. I said I had to go to the bathroom first and left the class and immediately ran two flights up to the bathroom that was furthest from my classroom. I went into a stall, tucked my feet up and sat there for close to three hours. I figured they would stop looking for me after a while and resume class(today they would send out an Amber alert!). Eventually I started to fear my eventual punishment so I tried to sneak through the halls back to my class. While hiding just outside the classroom, I could hear my teacher(who would become prinicipal a month later) talking about me on the intercom. At this point I decided to make my mouse-like reappearance into the room. I casually walked into the classroom and in the spirit of the great Josh Wilker, assumed the whole issue would just go away. Of course it didn’t, and I had to answer questions about where I was and what the hell I was doing all that time to my teacher, parents, and most uncomfortably, the other kids in the class who broke my balls for chickening out on the meeting. Amazingly, there was no punishment. Needless to say, I was never asked to run another meeting.

  24. i worked in a supermarket during high school and the summer after my first year of college. one day the assistant manager told us during inventory we could go take a package of hot dogs and throw them in the microwave, because it was a long, late night already. as soon as we all started eating, he came by and wrote each one of us up for stealing. one kid quit, two — including me — were suspended and then reassigned to a different store in queens, and i never really knew what happened to the fourth guy, who was a lifer that the assistant manager was trying to get fired. what a douchebag.

  25. I got suspended in the 8th grade and was not allowed to attend our graduation ceremony, but I suppose it was worth it. I was always a pretty nondescript kid, especially back then, but when the hottest girl in the whole school dares you to light a smoke bomb outside of math class, there is little else to do but make it happen. I lit it, and they cleared the whole wing until the smoke cleared. So i got suspended, but I did gain some popularity with the girls. Before that I was a skinny dork with a jew-fro, but after that, I was a skinny dork with a jew-fro who was kinda edgy/funny. I even got a summer invitation over to the “hottest girl’s” house by myself to go swimming and inexplicably her mom left us home alone. I was elated. Don’t worry, nothing great happened except she raided her mom and dad’s liquor cabinet, we got drunk, she threw up in her backyard, and I had my first hangover ever. After she passed out, I walked home and well, that was the last I saw of her. She went to the rich kids high school, and I went on to good old Orange High. The last I knew of her, she was on “The Man Show,” bouncing on a trampoline in a bikini. Seriously.

  26. Every summer, huge corn farmers in IL would hire a bunch of kids to get on these huge tractor machines, and all would detassle corn. At lunch we’d all go back to the bus to eat. When clowning with my brother, I tore the back of one of the seats: “riiiiip”. We laughed. My brother then yanked the torn section even more “riiiip”. We laughed again. I did it one more time. “riiiiip” A dinkus kid turned around and saw me, and he goes up to the man who was responsible for us and told on me. The supervisor told me after lunch I was to stay on the bus while the others went out to work again. Fired for good. All alone for hours on the bus, I pi$$ed in the kids water thermos. When he took two big swigs and then jerked the thermos away from his mouth. Me and bro almost fell out of our seats. The kid turned and scowled at us.

    My bro was expelled (not just suspended) from high school. I’ll never forget that notice that came to our house:

    He was “Expelled, for placing human excretement on teacher’s desk.”

    It was X-mas time, and he wrapped the crap as a x-mas present. We watched the teacher open and quickly wiped her chocolate thumb. It was actually dog crap.

  27. The last time I was suspended was freshman year of high school. After leading our basketball “B” team to an undefeated mark (we beat the local Catholic school 80-13), I was promoted to the “A” squad. After one game (a modest 7 points in my debut), the progress reports were released and my grades put me in the bleachers, in street clothes, for two weeks. But- and boy was I lucky- I still got to go the practices and participate in all the wind sprints, ladders, etc. I should have quit and focused on school…

  28. I got banned from a Hilton hotel once. We used to go there all the time–used their tennis courts, walked right into the concierge lounge and sprayed champagne on New Year’s Eve, and in the nerdiest of all trespassing stories, brought a baseball trivia game and played it in their lobby. Well this one time, or five, we were in their sauna, and then their swimming pool, at night when it was closed, when finally an employee saw us and kicked us out.

    A few years later, I got chased by their company van. I was just “driving around” (a suburban tradition) and went down their driveway a few times and they sicked the van on me! They chased me to the edge of town (meaning to the town line between my town and the one the hotel was in), but terribly, I went back! Just for the hell of it! This time they stopped me, asked what I was doing, brought me to the front desk, made a copy of my license, and told me I wasn’t to go back there. Fortunately they didn’t check their “previously banned” file, or they’d have seen that I was a repeat offender.

    Later, I went back (surprise) to their little trailer park-ish sign and stole some letters: G, I, N, A, since I had this crush on a girl named Gina for like 5 years but never did anything about it. It’s weird, at my friend’s wedding last summer (the one I played baseball trivia with), Gina was there, because I guess her parents are friends with his. And I thought, Wow, if I had done something about that crush, and Gina and I had ridden off into the sunset, both of our lives would have been completely different, but we’d still both standing in this room right now.

    But back to that hotel, I’m only realizing now how obsessed with it I was. They became a Hyatt or something, so if I decide to go there for whatever reason, I think I’ll have a clean slate there. So it was a suspension in a way.

  29. seaver41 – surely, all you guys had to do was speak to the asst. manager’s boss, and he would have been either reprimanded or fired. Or his boss’s boss – that’s usually the level you need to get things straightened out. No one even thought of doing this?

  30. Hey, it’s been a month! I expected a post or a note about the progress of the book by now, Josh!

  31. “I like deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

    -Douglas Adams

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