March 21, 2023

Remembering Moe Drabowsky

March 28, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

I’m one of those guys who always believed baseball was meant to be fun–REAL fun. After all, it was created as a GAME, right? Baseball currently reeks of economics; players carrying briefcases is now much more common than a good practical joke in the clubhouse. “Players seem to be more serious now,” said Moe Drabowsky in 1987. “I would tend to believe they don’t have as much fun; you don’t find the same kind of characters in the game today.”

Myron Walter Drabowsky died a few years back at the age of 70, a victim of multiple myeloma–a bone marrow cancer that ravaged a body once so full of life. Ask any of his former teammates and they’ll mostly likely tell you that he WAS the “life” of their team–a man who truly immersed himself in the joy of being a professional grown-up simply playing a kid’s game. After being a “bonus baby” out of Trinity College in the mid-1950s, Connecticut’s own Moe Drabowsky would ultimately shed his reputation as a serious-minded kid while with the Cubs and undoubtedly become known as the game’s greatest practical joker. Hell, pitching for eight different clubs over a 17-year career (and fleeing his native Poland from Nazi rule as a kid) may very well render the most serious of gentlemen a bit flexible and carefree. Ah, yes, the “Polish Prankster”–if you will–truly kept his teammates loose; you never knew what was coming next from one Moe Drabowsky.

Orioles teammate Paul Blair was the smoothest, coolest of outfielders–but would become helplessly unglued by the live snakes that Moe would often introduce to him in the sneakiest of ways. How ’bout the night when Drabowsky was the brains behind a chain of firecrackers that went off near the teepee of the Atlanta Braves famous mascot, Chief Nok-A-Homa? He’d often do his famed ‘$50 bill gag’ in various hotels–putting the bill on a thread while a hidden, snickering Moe would tug on it just enough to keep it out of the hands of the frustrated money-seeker. He’d call visiting bullpens on the phone and give his best manager imitations–like only Drabowsky could–instructing on the use of opposing pitchers while the pitchers’ REAL manager would be oblivious to it all. Slipping goldfish into the opposition’s bullpen water cooler was a favorite of this incomparable practical joker. In 1969, while with K.C., he hired a plane to fly over Memorial Stadium in Baltimore towing a sign that read, ‘BEWARE OF MOE.’ Oh, and the “hot foot;” the master of this carefully planned prank was none other than Mr. Moe Drabowsky, whose trail of lighter fluid to the shoe of an unsuspecting victim surely “lit up” the clubhouse–in more ways than one. His most famous victim of the “hot foot”? Then-baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Yep, that was Moe.

By the way, Moe Drabowsky made his mark ON the field, too. No, his lifetime mark of 88-105 didn’t make anyone forget Sandy Koufax during his career. But those who’ll recall the ’66 World Series will always talk about Moe’s Game 1 effort in relief of starter Dave McNally–when Drabowsky pitched 6 2/3 innings of ONE-HIT, shut-out ball while striking out 11 (including six in a row); it was simply marvelous. The owner of two World Series rings, Moe Drabowsky pitched a combined total of 10 innings in the ’66 and ’70 Fall Classics–giving up just three hits while striking out 12; his lifetime, post-season performance–albeit abbreviated–still ranks right up there with the most impressive in World Series history. Yes, many may choose to remember Moe Drabowsky surrendering Stan Musial’s 3,000th hit and/or being on the losing end of Early Wynn’s 300th career win. But how ’bout Moe’s combined ’67 and ’68 seasons in Baltimore; he pitched over 156 innings those two seasons–surrendering a measly 101 hits and pitching to ERA’s of 1.60 and 1.91. Yeah, he was known for making people laugh–but also got some batters out along the way.

Baseball writer/radio host Rich Marazzi told me that Moe Drabowsky will surely be remembered as an ‘MVP’–that is, “Most Valuable Prankster.”  His legacy will be that of a man who had fun playing baseball–like one truly SHOULD–showing us that a grown man could still be a kid at times; sadly, that ‘joie de vivre’ seems to be absent today. He’s probably in a better place right now, keeping a captivated audience loose while warning anyone who will listen to still “BEWARE OF MOE.”

Thanks for keeping things light, Mr. Drabowsky; you were one of a kind.

Bob Lazzari is an award-winning sports columnist for both Connecticut’s Valley Times and NY Sports Day, where his “Sports Roundup” column is featured weekly. He is a member of the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance and host of “Monday Night Sports Talk,” a cable television show on CTV/Channel 14 in Connecticut.


3 Responses to “Remembering Moe Drabowsky”
  1. Tony says:

    Somewhere out there Chief Nokohoma is checking around his tepee.

  2. Bob P. says:

    Oh, and let’s not Forget Drabowsky’s delightful prank of setting cats on fire in the bullpen. He deserved his miserable death.


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