In his history of the Detroit Tigers, sportswriter Joe Falls recalled an incident that occurred in 1967 in Kansas City. Jim Price, the Tigers’ reserve catcher, was sound asleep in his hotel room at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning when he heard his roommate, first baseman Norm Cash, pounding on the door and demanding to be let in after a night on the town.
When Price let Cash in, he passed out drunk on his bed. Knowing they had a double-header that afternoon, Price knew he had to sober Cash up. He moved him into the shower and began running cold water over his head.
Price was distracted when the phone rang. It was Cash’s wife. He hadn’t called her the night before, and she was concerned. Price said he was in the room, but discreetly left out his inebriated condition.
As Price hung up the phone, he saw Cash come out of the shower and stagger over to the window. He threw his watch out the window and again passed out on the bed.
Horrified, Price hurried down to the street and began picking up the pieces of the watch. As he was doing this, a police officer asked him what he was doing. It was only then that Price realized he was on a street in downtown Kansas City in nothing more than his bathrobe, pajama bottoms and slippers.
Price was taken in for questioning, but the police bought his story and he was released with no charges being filed. As for the double header, he had to catch both games as regular catcher Bill Freehan was hurt. He got something like one single for eight at-bats.
As for Cash, he bounded out of bed after three hours and headed to the ballpark. He had something like four hits on the day, including a pair of doubles. He also drove in runs and scored some runs himself.
Ah, the wages of sin!
Given how much time ballplayers spend in hotels, it’s no surprise all kinds of stories have been told about their antics while on the road.
As an example, Satchel Paige dubbed Buck O’Neil “Nancy” after something that happened at a hotel in Chicago. Paige had met a girl named Nancy in a bar, and had invited her back to his hotel room for some, er . . . hanky panky. When Paige returned to his hotel, he was surprised to see his wife waiting for him.
Paige discreetly arranged for Nancy to be booked into a room across the hall from his. Late that night, when he thought his wife was asleep, he went across the hall and began knocking on the door and quietly calling her name.
The trouble was Mrs. Paige wasn’t asleep. She was standing in the doorway to the room, watching as Satchel knocked on the door across the hall.
O’Neil was just coming off the elevator when he saw what was happening and realized what was about to happen. He went up to Paige and said, “I’m over here, Satch.”
From that day on, O’Neil was “Nancy” to Paige. As to whether Paige’s wife ever caught on, or whether Paige learned anything from this, is not known.
Of course, sometimes the hijinks can get out of hand. There was a year when the Los Angeles Dodgers were playing poorly, and discipline seemed to be breaking down. General Manager Buzzy Bavasi didn’t like taking a player’s money, but he felt something needed to be done. He told the players that if anyone violated curfew, the fine would be $300.
“Don’t say you weren’t warned,” he told them.
Bavasi went with the team on their next road trip, and one night he was returning to his hotel room after the players’ curfew. The elevator door opened, and there was one of the players holding his tape player.
“Okay, you were warned,” Bavasi said. “That just cost you $300.”
The following evening, Bavasi was on the team bus, still fuming about his order being broken. He noticed the offending player was sitting in front of him. The player didn’t know Bavasi was behind him.
“Man, how’d you let yourself get caught like that?” the player was asked by another player seated next to him.
“Well, my girlfriend was in town, and she likes to have music when we’re together,” the player answered. “I went back to my room to get my tape player.”
“For $300, you could’ve hired a band!” the other player said.
Even Bavasi had to chuckle at this.
As long as ballplayers stay at hotels, they’ll get into mischief. You can be sure some of the things happening today will be included in the funny stories told tomorrow.