Baseball's jerks the stuff of legend

Ty Cobb was a Hall of Fame baseball player and one of the game's original jerks. (QMI Agency)

Ty Cobb was a Hall of Fame baseball player and one of the game's original jerks. (QMI Agency)

Mike Strobel, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:24 PM ET

Jocks are generally jerks, especially in baseball.

Which makes Jose Bautista’s reaching out to a dying fan so refreshing — and surprising.

The Jays slugger phoned lovely Doris Rudy at a Kitchener hospital to wish her a happy 90th birthday this week — and a lot of you thought that was a tape measure home run.

“He’s no phoney, he’s the real deal,” writes limo man Marty Greenberg. “Torontonians are very fortunate to have him here.”

Sadly, there’s far more crass than class in baseball players. For every Jose Bautista, there are 100 Ty Cobbs.

“Tie Domi?” you whippersnappers ask. No, though Tie did throw water at a fan in Philadelphia. No, I mean Ty Cobb, the original baseball jerk, and for my money still the biggest.

The Georgia Peach won a dozen batting titles a century ago, but he’s best known for beating the crap out of a fan who had no hands.

“I don’t care if he has no feet,” Ty snarled as he pounded away on the poor schmuck.

True, the fan was heckling, but it’s not as if he flipped Ty the bird.

Since cranky Cobb retired in 1928, legions of ballplayers have tried to match his talent — and his tantrums.

You don’t have to look far. The guy who edited this video had an uncle who played for the Cleveland Indians and tells the story of Mickey Mantle shoving aside an autograph seeker — who was in a wheelchair.

Closer to home, two years ago, Blue Jay Alex Rios infamously snubbed a kid asking for an autograph, then swore at another fan who objected. Rios was soon traded, learning one of baseball’s truisms the hard way:

If you must be a jerk, keep a decent batting average.

Funny, eh, how hockey players are jerks mostly to each other. The Todd Bertuzzi, Steve Moore, Markus Naslund love triangle comes to mind. They vent their frustrations on ice with their elbows and fists.

Baseball players barely touch each other, so they take it out on us mere mortals. Among steroids-slugging Barry Bonds’ many charms is a knack for refusing autographs with a sneer.

Pitcher Kenny Rogers jumped a cameraman for no apparent reason.

Even birds come out losers in encounters with ballplayers such as Dave Winfield and Randy Johnson. Still, those two were generally peaceable (Johnson less so), when they weren’t hitting fowls.

Yankees manager Billy Martin, on the other hand, punched every animal, mineral or vegetable he met, including team staffers, fans, a cab driver, a marshmallow salesman, bar patrons, sportswriters and bouncers. Frankly, the marshmallow salesman had it coming.

Jays’ all-star George Bell was notoriously touchy and once told us all to “kiss my purple butt,” though I always liked ol’ George. A jerk with a twinkle in his eye.

He and Whipper Billy Martin were among baseball’s loveable jerks. It’s the Charlie Sheen syndrome.

Same for Babe Ruth, whose drinking, womanizing and generally unhealthy lifestyle were jerk-worthy — yet he was a pussycat with teammates and fans.

A true jerk is never loveable.

But there’s no love lost on these names:

Bonds, Rogers, Johnny Bench, Alex Rodriguez, A.J. Pierzynski, Albert Belle, Roger Clemens, John Rocker. Jeff Kent? He disgusted even Bonds. When I did an all-jock jerk list a few years ago, Clemens and Bonds made baseball the runaway winner.

The dishonour roll keeps growing. Baseball’s Ass Hall of Fame. Jerks, every one of ‘em, for treating fans like infield dirt.

Jose Bautista ought to sit ‘em all down for a little chat.

Mike Strobel’s column runs Wednesday to Friday, and Sunday. mike.strobel@sunmedia.ca, 416-947-2265 or twitter.com/strobelsun

Strobel’s new collection, Bad Girls — And Other Perils, is available in bookstores, online or by calling the Toronto Sun News Research Centre at 416-947-2258 or toll-free 1-877-624-1463


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