Ron Gardenhire is an outstanding manager with the Minnesota Twins. Perhaps part of the reason for his success is a sense of humor he always carries with him.
This week he was thrown out of a game for the 53rd time in his 10 years at the helm. Since 2000, no manager in the majors has been heaved more.
He finds no reason to be proud of that number, but he does find reasons to smile. A few of the heave-hoes are worth recalling. So, we sat in his office and did just that.
“Once in a four-game series, I argued in each game with the same umpire about different calls at every base,” Gardenhire smiled. “By the time of the last game he was at first base and there was another call that just looked wrong.”
“I headed out,” Gardenhire relates, “and when I reached first base I was rolling. ‘Well, you did it,’ I said. ‘You blew a call at every base in four straight games. I just want to congratulate you on doing the impossible.’”
Gardenhire watched the rest of the game from the clubhouse.
“Another time,” he relates, “I’m in the dugout and there’s a bad call at third, so I grab my hat and try to heave it to the other end of the dugout before I head out to argue. A gust of wind catches the hat and it ends up out by third base before I even set foot on the field.”
Gardenhire laughs. “He threw me out of the game before I even got on the field. I told him the hat was an accident and he couldn’t toss me before I even said a word. He tossed me anyway.”
“Then we’re playing a game where Kelly Shoppach is catching for the other team and I go out to the plate to argue a call,” he said.
“The call is clearly wrong and everyone knows it, but the ump just couldn’t see the play. I told him he embarrassed himself with the call because he called the play in favor of the guy with the ugliest socks in baseball — that was Shoppach with his pants pulled way up showing all the socks.”
“Shoppach,” he said, “has his glove up in front of his mask trying not to laugh and I’m pointing at his socks and hollering at the ump. He doesn’t want to throw me out because he’s trying not to laugh, too.”
“I just kept standing there telling him to look at those socks,” Gardenhire laughs. “He doesn’t want to toss me, but I told him he’s got to do it now because we’ve all embarrassed ourselves.
“He tossed me.”
“The next day,” said Gardenhire, “all the players on the other team are wearing their pants way up and showing every inch of sock. I’m in the dugout laughing my head off.”
“Most of the time,” he said, “I get thrown out to protect my players. When they get mad I want the attention to be focused on me and not them.
“Sometimes, though, I just need to get tossed.”
That is a matter Gardenhire can handle well. He has experience.