A Team of Cut-Ups : Dodgers’ Park Calms Slightly, but a Fraternity of Victims Isn’t One He Wanted to Pledge
Chan Ho Park’s explosive reaction to a prank by his teammates in Chicago on Wednesday had cooled to a slow burn by Thursday.
The Dodger pitcher screamed obscenities and threw furniture and food after discovering teammates had turned his suit into a short pants-and-vest outfit with a pair of scissors.
Park had just pitched three hitless innings in relief to get a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.
Dodger players said it was a traditional clubhouse prank, a rite of passage for the young South Korean with a 5-2 record. He was expected to fly home from Chicago in his altered outfit but wore his uniform pants and jacket instead.
Park, infuriated then, was somewhat accepting of the spirit of the prank Thursday.
“I was so mad because somebody cut off my suit, but [Mike] Piazza [Todd] Worrell and [Tom] Candiotti and Tommy [Lasorda] explained it to me today, so I understand now,” he said.
“I’m not anymore angry, anymore mad. They like me, so they do that. Welcome to team. I’m happy. They like me.”
Park’s agent, Steve Kim, said the player still wasn’t laughing about it.
“He still feels it was a demeaning thing to do to him. He told me he was hazed when he was a freshman in college, but it was just being made to do the laundry of upperclassmen.
“In his first year with the Dodgers, Kevin Gross hit him in the face with a pie while he was doing a TV interview. He laughed at that.
“He just feels cutting his clothes is going too far.”
Kim also said one reason for Park’s anger was his perception that Hideo Nomo, a victim of the same type of prank last year, got his clothes back in one piece a day later.
“He feels like, ‘They hid Nomo’s suit and gave it back. Why cut up my suit?’ ” Kim said.
Dodger clubhouse attendants David Wright and Dave Dickinson seemed to confirm Thursday that Nomo’s suit was indeed returned to him.
“Nomo got his good clothes back,” Wright said.
Doug Hwang, a reporter for the Daily Sports Seoul, said that Park didn’t understand the prank because of cultural differences.
“In Korea, that means humiliation,” Hwang said.
The Dodger manager agreed.
“It’s been taken care of,” Lasorda said. “He understands. He’s from another country. He didn’t realize how it was meant.
“I explained to him that it’s all in fun. They love him or they wouldn’t do it. You can call it chemistry. Some teams like to play golf together, this team likes to cut up clothes together.”
One sports psychologist said the incident reflected American insensitivity to other cultures. But when it comes to American sports, pranksters are capable of being insensitive to anyone.
Tom Tutko, San Jose State psychologist and author of numerous books on sports psychology, compared sports hazing to joining the Marines.
“When you’re an American and you join the Marines and they put you through three months of hazing, that’s one thing,” Tutko said.
“But to suddenly subject someone from a totally different culture to something like that--to something that in Korea might be considered a form of humiliation--that’s something else.
“That’s my interpretation--that he didn’t know what it was all about, that he maybe even interpreted it as an insult.”
At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, some U.S. swimmers hijacked a Korean decorative mask from the wall of a hotel bar and carted it off in a taxi to a jazz club.
It was intended as a prank, but the pranksters wound up in jail.
One explanation at the time for the furious reaction from hotel management and Seoul police was that there was no Korean word for “prank.”
The Dodgers don’t always define it very well, either. Park’s blowup was not a first for them.
The most famous until Wednesday afternoon’s was Kirk Gibson’s reaction to a seemingly harmless stunt by teammate Jesse Orosco during spring training in 1988.
The volatile Gibson put on his cap just before a game, only to find the inside smeared with shoe polish.
Gibson stormed off the field and challenged whoever had done the deed to meet him in the clubhouse. No one showed to fight, so Gibson left the park, missing the game.
Later Orosco said, “Let’s just say I won’t be doing it again. That’s because I don’t want to read my name in the obituaries.”
Another Dodger prank attempt nearly backfired in 1955.
Brooklyn pitcher Don Newcombe recalled the day that season the Dodgers clinched the National League pennant in Milwaukee.
“I was knocked out of the game in the sixth inning, went into the dressing room, showered and got dressed,” Newcombe said.
“Well, we win the game and the guys come in celebrating. I’m sitting there in new clothes, ready to travel, and Duke Snider starts to pour beer on me.
“I said: ‘Duke, if you pour that on my new clothes, I’ll drop you. These are my traveling clothes. I pay money for these clothes.’
“Well, he didn’t pour it. But when we won the World Series later, Snider and I poured beer--maybe it was champagne, I can’t remember--all over each other.”
Cutting up a guy’s clothes, Newcombe says, is pretty serious stuff--even factoring in today’s fat salaries.
“We sure didn’t cut up each other’s clothes,” Newcombe said.
“Basically, rookies were expected to keep their mouths shut and not have much to say, win or lose. But mistreating anyone, I don’t remember anything like that. Now, if Piazza says it’s routine these days . . . OK, I’ll buy that.”
Sometimes trainers can artfully execute a prank to induce a player to change his ways.
In 1948, New York Giant trainer Frank Bowman greeted Johnny Mize in a training room after Mize had worked out vigorously on a hot day. Mize peeled off his sweat-soaked sweatshirt and turned to go to the water fountain.
As he left, Bowman poured alcohol all over the shirt.
When Mize returned for a rub, Bowman said, “John, better stay away from that booze.”
Mize: “What do you mean? I just had a couple of beers last night.”
Bowman: “That’s what they all say. Here, let me prove it to you.”
Bowman lit a match and the sweatshirt burst into flames, while a horrified Mize watched.
“See, John--that’s the alcohol you sweated out.”
Mize, stamping out the fire, said, “Doc, please--promise me you won’t say anything about this to anyone.”
If there’s an expert on Dodger prankster history, it’s Lasorda.
He spent half an hour imprisoned in his Vero Beach room one day.
Jay Johnstone, it turned out, had not only run a rope from Lasorda’s outside doorknob to a palm tree, he had disabled his phone so he couldn’t call out for help.
“I screamed for 30 minutes, until someone heard me,” Lasorda said.
On another occasion, a delegation of Dodgers invaded their manager’s office and removed roughly 150 pictures of celebrities from Lasorda’s wall and replaced them with one team photo.
Then there was Mickey Hatcher in 1980, sneaking into Lasorda’s Vero Beach office, stealing his pants and running them up the center-field flagpole.
There was also the prank played on St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Joe Magrane in 1988.
According to Bruce Nash, author of the 1991 book, “The Baseball Hall of Shame Warped Record Book,” a telephone caller identifying himself as a GQ magazine photographer told Magrane, a clothes horse, that he had been chosen to model for a GQ shoot.
In late summer in St. Louis, he was asked to come to the ballpark with six winter outfits. He posed for two hours in 105-degree heat, for a phony photographer.
Later, he received a telegram: “Due to your subpar season, we’ve decided not to use your session in GQ.”
The next day, another telegram: “Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ve been had. There is no GQ.”
Staff writer Chris Baker contributed to this story.