Friday April 26 was an anniversary that had little fanfare for the Kansas City Royals. Oh sure, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day by all players wearing the number “42”, they celebrate Memorial Day by wearing flags woven into their logos, they even celebrate Mother’s Day by using pink bats. But April 26 is a date that goes unmentioned.
Not anymore. I hereby decree April 26 as National Bitch And Moan Day. It is because April 26, 1993 was the day that then-Royals Manager Hal McRae flipped his nuggets after being asked whether he considered pinch-hitting George Brett for Keith Miller in the 7th inning of an eventual 5-3 loss against the Detroit Tigers. What followed was the undisputed, undefeated, mother of all meltdowns which included nearly a dozen f-bombs, a bottle of vodka, challenges to reporters’ manhoods a challenge to place “that in your pipe and smoke it” and an assault with a telephone. Classic, classic stuff.
Before the phrase “viral video,” existed this rant went multi-platinum viral. Alan Eskew, sportswriter for the Topeka Capital-Journal, and the one hit by the phone told me this week that he still sees the video come up a few times a year. (Eskew also humbly refuses media requests to talk about the incident, just as he did twenty years ago.)
Following the profanity-laced tyrade, McRae reportedly challenged reporters, bottle of vodka in hand, to “be a man…” whatever that means. We’ve seen some that have come close, see Knight, Bob or Gundy, Mike, but McRae’s is the Mona Lisa.
A rant of that quality, with that depth and texture, may never be seen again. In the age of Social Media, people have become more reserved and are starting to realize that everything is recorded and will likely go on YouTube in minutes. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Royals pitcher Aaron Crow said. Catcher George Kottaras agreed and said that he like the old managers like Lou Pinella and Ozzie Guillen, “because it meant that they were standing up for their players.”
But McRae’s eclipsed them all. This wasn’t just kicking dirt on an umpire or yelling at a reporter, McRae THREW A FRIGGIN’ PHONE AND HIT A GUY.
The major reason McRae’s rant will never be seen again is that leadership positions now come with their own handlers whose job it is to make sure that person isn’t the next viral sensation. The Royals now have Mike Swanson, the Vice President of Media Relations. He’s worked for 17 different managers in more than two decades in baseball. “I tell all my managers they have 10 minutes after the game [before they meet the press]. Blow up at me, but don’t take it out in front of them.” Swanson’s advice is wise. Just last month, video captured Rutgers’ Basketball Coach Mike Rice during a videotaped practice throwing basketballs at players and shouting racial slurs. Rice is no longer employed by Rutgers University.
But on April 26th every year, we should pause, get liquored up (allegedly) and all take a page from Hal McRae.
So. April 26 is the day to let it go. Tell your boss to get out of your office. Tell the guy on that dumb conference call to “stop asking me these stupid f—– questions.” Throw a phone at that idiot in accounting. Let out everything that’s been building for the other 364 days of the year. This is your moment. Put that in your pipe… and smoke it.