The other day I was cruising down a main, two-lane street in downtown Baltimore at about 25 to 30 miles per hour. As I approach yet another green traffic light at yet another busy intersection some guy steps off the curb without a care in the world and begins his long leisurely stroll from one sidewalk to the other. This guy sees my 3,000 pound vehicle hurtling towards him at a relatively high rate of speed. He looks right at me, slows his walk down to a near crawl, and essentially challenges me to run him over. I swear, the turtle crossed the road at least a dozen times before this guy crossed it once, even if nobody knows why the turtle crossed the road. I elected to do the right thing and slam on my breaks to wait for him to complete his epic journey to the other side of the street. This guy was holding my life hostage until he finished crossing the street. He believed that his time was more important than mine. He was a jackass. This guy was literally a human rain delay.
It is a common complaint amongst casual baseball fans, and even some hardcore fans, that baseball games take far too long to complete. After every pitch the batter steps out of the box, adjusts his helmet, his gloves, his crotch. The pitcher walks to the back of the mound and plays with his rosin bag, licks his fingers, and shrugs off ten suggested pitches from the catcher before stepping off the rubber and repeating the whole process.
Some players took longer than others. Nomar Garciaparra was almost as famous for the way he played with the Velcro on his batting gloves between every at bat as he was for the way he crushed line drives off the “monstah”. Jonathan Papelbon averages a full 30 seconds between every pitch that he throws. It’s also no surprise that both of these players came up in the Boston Red Sox organization which leads the majors in most time between pitches as an organization with 23.3 seconds between pitches.
But nobody took longer between pitches than the original “Human Rain Delay”, Mike Hargrove.
Hargrove spent 12 serviceable years in the majors, mostly with the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1974 after batting .323 with 66 RBI’s and only 42 strikeouts versus 49 walks in 477 Plate Appearances. He followed that season up with a trip to the All-Star game in his second campaign. Hargrove finished his career with a .290 batting average and he walked almost twice as many times as he struck out. He then went on to manage the Cleveland Indians to the 1995 and 1997 World Series, and also the Baltimore Orioles into relative mediocrity at best in the early 2000’s.
His ability to draw so many walks may have been linked to his ability to bring a game to an almost complete stop. His routine between pitches would drive opposing pitchers crazy.
Between every pitch Hargrove would:
Touch his helmet
Pull his shirt up on his shoulder
Wipe his nose
Adjust his gloves
Pull up his belt
Flick mud off his cleats with his bat
Adjust his helmet again
(Photos courtesy of YouTube)
Repeat after next pitch.
“It really became a time to where I was getting ready to hit physically,” Hargrove told the Amarillo Globe-News. “But I also used that time to think about what pitch the pitcher had thrown, what count it was, so it was mental as well.”
Hargrove’s antics made him about as popular as popular as red-headed step son at Christmas lunch. The fans, the media, and the league were constantly on him about his routine.
Was Mike Hargrove just a superstitious baseball player that couldn’t step into the batter’s box without completing a choreographed routine that made a Beyoncé video look like a fat chick hula hooping? Or was Mike Hargrove just another jackass hijacking the precious time of the fans, the opposing pitchers, and rest of baseball? Probably a little bit of both.
If Mike Hargrove were crossing the street in downtown Baltimore would he challenge me to run him over, or would he dash across the street as quickly as possible to avoid being crushed by a 3,000 pound vehicle? Mike Hargrove may be a superstitious jackass, but he is not a full blown jackass. He would get out of the way.