On June 11, 1965, more than 55,000 fans packed in Shea Stadium to catch an old fashioned pitchers duel between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. Warren Spahn made the start for the Mets and Don Drysdale for the Dodgers. Both pitchers would pitch complete games with the Dodgers edging Spahn and the Mets, 2-1.
Former MLB pitcher Al Hrabosky is either certifiably crazy or he is a great actor. Personally, I think it’s a combination of the two.
Now, let me tell you why.
Hrabosky was considered one of baseball’s more colorful and intimidating characters during his 13-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves. Hrabosky earned the nickname the “Mad Hungarian” for his intense persona on the mound.
On a warm summer night in 1980, as a teenager, I had my one and only run in with the madman himself.
The New York Mets were hosting the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium and I was sitting along the third base line with my mom. During batting practice, Hrabosky came out of the Braves bullpen and began marching intensely across the outfield grass toward the visiting dugout on the third base line.
Knowing what I did from watching his antics on This Week in Baseball and an occasional Monday Night Baseball matchup I decided to poke the bear, hurling unpleasantries at Hrabosky. It didn’t take much to get his ire, and before you know it, Hrabosky took a sharp 90-degree turn and began his trek straight for me.
Hrabosky pointed and shouted, and shouted and pointed. The closer he got the bigger his fu manchu and mutton chops looked. They took on a life of their own and my heart began to race. He’s coming directly for me, isn’t he? He’s going to come over the short divider and right into the stands, isn’t he?
I backed up a few steps in hopes that reinforcements would come in the form of Mets faithful, but no. How could they? There couldn’t have been more than a few thousand people in the ballpark. This was quickly coming down to mano e mano. One grown man vs. one teenage punk with a loud mouth. This isn’t going to end well, is it?
Hrabosky reached the railing, all the while pointing at me and shouting for me to join him.
No chance, freak.
In hindsight, the whole incident was like a scene out of WWE. I now applaud Hrabosky for staying in full character.
He loved to intimidate opposing batters … and the occasional teenage fan.
Hrabosky’s name resurfaced this week amid speculation that his role as TV analyst for the St. Louis Cardinals might be coming to an end. For the record, I’d hate to be the poor soul who has to deliver the news to Hrabosky.