The Yankees earned the nickname “The Bronx Zoo” with their brawling teams of the late seventies. But in 1990, outfielder Mel Hall gave the term a new twist.
“That was the year he was bringing exotic animals into the clubhouse—a cheetah or a panther,” recalled pitcher Dave LaPoint, who went 7-10 that season. “It’s weird when you come into the clubhouse and they say, ‘Don’t go into that room.’ “
“I think it was a tiger,” said Buck Showalter, then a young coach with the team.
Awesome read from Hollander about a very, very strange season for the Yankees.
I remember a lot of the details from that season. Not the tigers-in-the-clubhouse thing, but Pascual Perez showing up to camp late in an absurdly long stretch limo, Andy Hawkins’ 4-0 loss in a no-hitter, the manager firings, George Steinbrenner’s suspension and all that.
I was nine so I didn’t realize how weird it all was. When you’re young, you don’t have much perspective on strange events because you don’t have a big enough sample size of non-strange events for comparison. That’s pretty much how middle schools get away with it, I think. There was a small zoo in the basement of my middle school, and I never thought it was odd until I went back and subbed there and they were making plans to get rid of the alligator.
Anyway the big thing I remember about the Yankees in 1990 is that they sucked, and they had kinda sucked for a while. When I was coming into consciousness as a baseball fan, it seemed like the Mets were competitive every year and the Yankees were mostly an afterthought or a punchline.
And again, at the time I had no idea how strange it was.
Seems like things are going well for ol’ Harvey the alligator, FWIW.
(Apropos of nothing other than the middle-school zoo stuff: There were also two goats in the school courtyard as part of the same program. One time after football practice my friend set them loose. They roamed the halls all night and ate an entire art project that was hanging on the wall.)