There was a time when Major League Baseball had a similar approach as Minor League Baseball has now. The game was more fun. Players fooled around and there was pre game and in-between-innings entertainment, arranged by baseball clowns.
Players like Wiliam Schaefer (Washington Senators), Al Schacht (also Washington Senators) and the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, known as the Gas House Gang, had a lot of comical acts. The Gas House Gang, for example, was known for several acts, like using their bats as musical instruments or as rifles. But they were most known for their act as a rowing team when they sat in a row and used their bats as oars.
Al Schacht on his turn turned into a baseball clown with acts in which he imitated fellow players and coaches that earned him the nickname Clown Prince of Baseball. Schacht was famous for his act during rainouts, when he sat in a puddle and used two bats as oars. In this youtube clip, you will see al Schacht doing his act on the mound. Go to 2.03 and you will see a guy with a top hat on the mound.
Jackie Price was also called the Clown Prince
of Baseball. Price played six games with the 1946 Cleveland Indians as a shorstop. He entertained his team mates and the crowd with acts like batting while hanging upside down or throwing three balls to three different men in one movement. For a short time Price teamed up with Max Patkin.
Max Patkin was also called the Clown Prince of Baseball. He may look familiar to you as he had a cameo in the movie Bull Durham. Patkin was famous for his grimaces and funny walks and dances. Patkin’s baseball career was cut short due to injuries. During WWII joined the Navy. During a game Joe DiMaggio hit a homerun off him. In anger he slammed his glove to the ground and chased DiMaggio rounding the bases, much to the delight of the fans and his team mates. This was the birth of a new career. Patkin was hired by Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians. As the latter sold the team, Patkin barnstormed the country with his acts. He wore a question mark on the back of his jersey instead of a uniform number. In 1995 he retired from the clowning business.
Next to these three clowns, there were plenty of others baseball clowns. Perhaps, nowadays we would not consider their acts as funny anymore. But still there is at least one baseball clown around in Minor League Baseball: Myron Noodleman or Rick Hader as his real name goes. Hader comes from an artistic family as he is the brother of screenwriter Matt Hader and uncle of Saturday Night Live cast member Bill Hader. Before he started his career as a clown, he was math teacher and football coach at Union High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The birth of Hader’s act was in the 1980s when he appeared at a football game, dressed up as a nerd. One of his signature acts titled “DuelingSignals” is performed to music with a player or coach. It starts with Myron flashing a baseball coach’s signal and is answered by his act partner. The signals keep coming faster and faster until there is nothing left to do but break into some contemporary dance moves mixed with a little do-as-I-do. When each act is over, Myron goes into the stands and moves among the fans, providing comedy. In November 2004 Myron Noodleman was given the title Clown Prince of Baseball by baseball administrator Roland Hemond, who worked for Bill Veeck as GM, when the latter owned the Chicago White Sox.
Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but the baseball clown has become a rare species. You will only see them at Minor League games nowadays. Unfortunately the game has become too serious in the Bigs for acts like this.