The Screwball: Caught stealingby Azure Texan
October 03, 2013
On Sept. 2, Chicago police arrested a pair of Pennsylvania men for breaking into Wrigley Field and, perhaps as some sort of horticultural project designed for the betterment of all mankind, attempting to steal some of its iconic ivy. Well, as per custom, we can only imagine the same type of attempt at each of the other major league stadiums, in which scalawags, ne’er-do-wells or paid operatives gain unlawful entry in order to steal the park’s most distinctive feature.
For whom the bell tolls
On a muggy morning in June, Phillies officials arrive at Citizens Bank Park to find that the famous 52-foot-tall Liberty Bell sign is missing from its neon-friendly place beyond the right-center field wall. Using surveillance video and street smarts, which, according to the movies, is a trait exclusive to people from the Northeast, the Phillies track the overnight theft to operatives working on behalf of Jeffrey Loria and the Miami Marlins.
Turns out, Loria thought that the Liberty Bell might inspire his power-starved team to launch a few more dongs. “Get it?” he says, giving a playful look at the Philly officials. “Dongs?” Ultimately, however, what the liberty symbol inspires among the Marlins is a heightened passion for free agency.
Hoping to suppress the Texas offense and turn it into a dainty executor of Dead Ball Era small ball, the rival A’s hire a covert operative to sneak into Rangers Ballpark and steal its legendary jet stream. Responsible for turning would-be doubles into definitely-are dingers, and definitely-are dingers into monstrously long moon shots that make pitchers want to call their mamas and beg for a ride home, the RBIA jet stream has long been a meteorological marvel, the sort of pre-Sharknado phenomenon to which The Weather Channel should have given a proper name, something like Brutus or Duke.
Upon arrival, however, the operative finds nothing but a gentle breeze, so gentle that not even Nolan Ryan’s final wisps of hair would ever bend to its energy. What the operative doesn’t realize, but what Adrian Beltre and the Rangers have long since discovered, is that recent architectural changes to Rangers Ballpark have neutered the jet stream like Dame Edna neuters the sex drive, turning would-be dingers into definitely-are doubles or outs.
Shrugging, the operative returns to the airport. (His empty Jet Stream Collection Device passes through security without so much as a fuss, mostly because the TSA agent is currently groping a grandma.) Aboard a jet plane bound for Oakland, he listens as the pilot explains the imminent delay: Irony of ironies, it seems that the jet stream is particularly strong from the west this morning. Even the winds in Oakland are strong—so strong, in fact, that a pair of covert operatives, hired by the Rangers to “see how those dad-blasted A’s are doing it,” were blown off Mount Davis early this morning.
Marine layer? Needs more air force
In the fifth inning of a home game in June, the Angels suddenly realize that the marine layer—that notorious heavy-air mass that moves in from the ocean with specific orders from Lord Poseidon to keep Albert Pujols’ slugging percentage down—is missing, AWOL, gone. In its place, at least from the players’ point of view, is a moon made yellow by the SoCal smog.
Using surveillance video, plus the street smarts of a guy they brought in from Atlantic City, the Angels track the evening theft to a former A’s operative now doing mercenary work on behalf of the Astros. As the league leader in home runs allowed, the Houston pitching staff is in desperate need of whatever help it can get, and management has just gone out and gotten it.
Unfortunately for Astros pitchers, management can’t figure out how to get the marine layer into Minute Maid Park while the retractable roof is closed.
The envy of baseball
Upon waking from a deep, therapeutic hypnosis, Alex Rodriguez glances at the TV and sees that the legendary Green Monster is missing from Fenway.
“What the hell?” he exclaims to his therapist. “I didn’t say I wanted you to get rid of the Green Monster! I said I wanted you to remove the complicated, destructive emotion into which I spiral whenever I think of Derek Jeter!”
Under cover of Kansas City darkness, a dozen seasoned burglars manage to sneak into Kaufmann Stadium with designs on stealing its famous fountains and well-known waterfall, the 322-foot-wide Water Spectacular (brought to you by the same people who named the Ice Capades and Air Supply).
Upon entry, however, they notice that something is seriously wrong: Due to apparent budget constraints, Kevin Costner is busy filming Waterworld 2: The World is Shrinking But is Still Pretty Wet in the water fountains (with Felix Hernandez taking his star turn as The Mariner), while in the waterfall, director/explorer James Cameron has deployed his deep-diving submersible to search the bottom for loose change and Mike Moustakas’ potential.
When Cameron and the film crew finally depart, the burglars begin the admittedly tricky business of stealing a pair of water features. With ingenuity, determination and a dogged refusal to make a giant batch of Country Time Lemonade, they finally sneak the features from the stadium, but not without spilling a whole lot of water and leaving a noticeable trail.
After stopping first for donuts, the KCPD’s Anti-Theft Unit arrives at the crime scene at 10:28 a.m., by which time the clues are all dried up.
We’re gonna need a bigger truck
Given the recent spate of ballpark burglaries, the Yankees, being street smart, hire extra security to guard the stadium overnight. The next day, officials perform an inventory of all the things that make Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees, so special: Yankees Museum, check; Great Hall, check; Monument Park, check; Hard Rock Café, check; expensive seats, check.
Pleased, management gives to each guard a generous bonus, namely, a Xeroxed copy of Derek Jeter’s little black book, complete with an auto-penned autograph and a spritzing of Driven by Derek Jeter. (The fragrance notes of musk and oak moss blend especially well with the auto-pen ink.)
Only later, when umpire Ron Kulpa calls ball four on a Mariano Rivera cutter that broke five inches inside, do the Yankees understand what’s missing: the manifest effects of their overwhelming sense of entitlement.
A missed sign
After the famous Minnie and Paul sign goes missing from Target Field one night, the Twins hire a private investigator to find it and bring it back to its rightful place beyond the center field fence. It doesn’t take him long to trace Minnie and Paul to the Minnie Pearl Museum, whose director, though otherwise shrewd and conniving, suffers from poor comprehension skills.
Solved with equal speed is the case of the missing Chase Field pool, heretofore located at the Pool Pavilion beyond the right field wall. Acting on a tip, investigators immediately trace it to the set of Waterworld 3: The World Now Accommodates 35 People (No Running Or Diving, Please.)
Quickly solved, too, is the case of the missing Marlins Park aquarium, heretofore located behind home plate. Acting on a hunch, investigators immediately trace it to the set of Waterworld 4: This Is Getting Ridiculous.
Yes, he looked it up on a Macintosh
As part of his large-scale Carmen Miranda installment, the artist Christo contacts a large-scale thief and whispers, “Listen, large-scale thief. I lost my funding when the American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition got wind of my giant Country Time Lemonade installment. Seems they have an official opposition to powdered-drink mix that contains two percent or less of natural flavors, especially when stirred into Crater Lake. So, I need you to steal something important for my Monumental Miranda.”
Two nights later at Citi Field, the thief is caught red-handed when, perhaps ironically, a local doctor, having not been kept away, contacts the police after seeing the man attempt to harvest the beloved Home Run Apple.
They were tired of The Cornfield Boys
On a balmy night in San Diego, police arrest a dozen burglars working on behalf of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau after seeing them sneak beyond the right-center field fence and begin stealing The Beach. Subsequent mug shots, now available online, show that it wasn’t so much the aloha shirts that gave them away, it was the luminous spray tans.
Choo-choo the scenery
In his long-standing desire to make a movie about the Canyon Diablo Train Robbery of 1889, and, secondly, to render himself suitably proportioned for the leading role, Tom Cruise commissions a daring theft—as daring, indeed, as the robbery he hopes to portray—of the replica train at Minute Maid Park.
Sadly, Seth Green, Daniel Radcliffe and Elijah Wood are injured in the heist.
Sticky fingers, indeed
When an unnamed Pittsburgh mogul pays a well-meaning but no-so-bright burglar to steal a special feature from PNC Park, he is disappointed but not surprised to find inside the unmarked envelope an unwrapped Jolly Rancher.
These days, not everybody knows your name
With plans for a new exhibit, the revered but underfunded American Museum of Movies and Television convinces a volunteer to sneak into Miller Park and steal the long yellow slide that Bernie Brewer uses whenever the home team hits a home run. Courageous, the volunteer does exactly as she is asked, and days later, thousands of museumgoers understand the effect that leaving Cheers had on the career of Shelley Long.
Such a cliché
Handicapped by heavy air and huge ballpark dimensions, San Francisco hitters are begging management for some kind of help. After all, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis have combined to hit more home runs than the entire Giants offense, and even some of the littlest school kids are beginning to taunt Joaquin Arias, Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco, who have combined to hit just two more home runs than Braves pitchers have hit.
“If I don’t hit a home run soon,” a desperate Arias explains to GM Brian Sabean, “that kid Jimmy is going to steal my per diem!”
Opting out of the Barry Bonds approach—diligent weightlifting, healthy protein shakes and eight hours of sleep per night—the Giants hire the former A’s and Angels operative to sneak into Coors Field and steal its legendary thin air, a meteorological medium for long and frequent home runs.
Despite getting winded on the stairs, the operative succeeds, harnessing the air and bringing it west to San Francisco. The following morning, however, Giants officials notice that the thin air has vanished into . . . well, something.
When ballpark fixture Danny DeVito doesn’t return to his seat at Dodger Stadium one night, no one is really surprised. After all, the revered but underfunded American Museum of Movies and Television needed to finish its exhibit, “Actors Whom Shelley Long Really Should Have Emulated.”
Aware, like the Yankees, of all the recent ballpark burglaries, the Rays also beef up their overnight security, stationing extra guards at key places throughout Tropicana Field. Come morning, the guards perform a detailed inventory of the arena’s singular features, including the 900-foot tropical-theme ceramic mural, the Hitters Hall-of-Fame, the Rays Baseball Carnival, Grand Slam Alley, the ProStar video board, Everglades BBQ Smokehouse and the 10,000-gallon saltwater tank, which contains 30 cownose rays.
Satisfied, the security guards collect their belongings, punch their time cards and walk out, only to find that the entire stadium has been dragged out to sea, courtesy of the Tampa Bay Coalition For Getting Rid of That Dump.
Obstacles to scale
After the gargantuan glove goes missing from AT&T Park, Giants officials quickly find the culprit: Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the league leader in errors. Since he leads the league in strikeouts, too, they also find in his keeping the giant baseball bat from the Louisville Slugger Museum. No word yet on whether he’s taken the helmet from the Kevin Mench Museum.
Upon arrival at O.co Stadium early one morning, Oakland officials notice that the red-and-white bulls eye is missing from its usual place in the left-field seats. Not only is the bulls eye a favored target during batting practice, it also comes courtesy of O.co, so management decides that the best course of action is to track it down. Fortunately, they know right where to look.
Sure enough, after a quick flight to Los Angeles, they find the bulls eye exactly where they thought it would be, on the back of Jerry Dipoto.
A real art form
Upon arriving at the Rogers Centre one morning, Blue Jays officials quickly discover that The Audience, a sculpture honoring those who watch the pros, is missing from the stadium’s northwest corner. After a brief discussion, the officials place a call to a Hollywood investigator, who indeed finds The Audience planted at an otherwise unattended screening of The Lone Ranger.
Convicted of first-degree theft, director Gore Verbinski is sentenced to home-theater confinement and repeated viewings of, yep, The Lone Ranger.
In Atlanta one night, several thieves manage to steal the giant Coca-Cola bottle from behind the left-field wall. Their escape is thwarted, however, when, perhaps ironically, they collide with a Jack Daniels delivery truck.
He also has iron hands
While gazing at the left-center field wall one day, a Detroit official sees that something is amiss at Comerica Park: Among the half dozen statues of all-time Tigers greats, that of Hall of Fame infielder Charlie Gehringer is gone.
That night, while watching highlights, he sees exactly where the statue turned up: at third base for the Phillies. By game’s end, it has racked up an ultimate zone rating of 11 runs above that of recently traded Michael Young.
Bang the drum slowly
As the Indians stage a rally in the bottom of the ninth one night, fans quickly realize that something is absent from Progressive Field. Ballpark fixture John Adams and his omnipresent drum, Big Chief Boom-Boom, are gone.
Days later comes the sad announcement: Having snatched Adams to play drums for their Sniff The Boxers Tour, rock group Spinal Tap reveals that the drummer spontaneously combusted on someone else’s pyroflatulence.
To their great horror, Orioles officials arrive at Camden Yards one morning to find that the Babe Ruth statue, heretofore located at the Eutaw Street stadium entrance to commemorate the Bambino’s Baltimore birthplace, is missing. After discussing the matter with Tigers officials, they fly to San Francisco to find that the statue, as expected, is penciled in at the cleanup spot in the Giants lineup. As game time approaches, however, the statue has yet to arrive. Dispatched to track it down, a hireling finally finds the statue in Room 12B of an underground bordello, face down on a plump brunette.
Maybe it’s next to godliness
When the Chicagoland Plumbing Council Shower—a holdover from Comiskey Park, in which fans can rinse off during hot summer days—goes missing from U.S. Cellular Field, authorities decide to use deductive reasoning in efforts to catch the culprit. First, they scratch off the name Russell Brand, and then the name Collin Farrell, and move on from there.
It is early on a midsummer morning, and Nats officials are baffled to discover that among the oversized costumes for their five Racing Presidents, only that of William Howard Taft is missing. Though arguably an important prez, Taft still pales in comparison to the quartet of Mount Rushmore models—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt—left behind.
After scouring presidential history for clues, the officials fly to Houston in the certainty that they’ve identified the culprit. What they’ve found is that on Opening Day in 1910, Taft became the first President to throw out the first pitch, so, as far as the Astros are concerned, who better to start the first game of a doubleheader than a bold, authoritative guy who can throw strikes?
Alas, the Nats find no sign of the costume at Minute Maid Park.
Still determined, they scan the annals once more and find that Taft (allegedly) invented the seventh-inning stretch, when he stood up during a Washington Senators game in 1910. Thus supplied with their eureka moment, they travel posthaste to the Seventh-Inning Stretch Museum.
There they find a sign taped to the door: “Back in five minutes.”
Upon entering their offices one morning, St. Louis officials notice that a pair of Dyson Air Multipliers are missing. Meanwhile, back in Hotlanta, several Braves officials are sweating out the delivery of the best fans in baseball.
Griffey’s slide, not Bernie’s slide
“The Defining Moment” is missing, but the Mariners know right where to look. Though it depicts the game-winning score in Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS, the Safeco Field sculpture has long been a target of a notorious former star, a sad has-been who has gravely misinterpreted its leitmotif.
And sure enough, upon arriving at her house, they find a frazzled and confused Shelley Long, her face twisted in puzzlement over a sculpture that it supposed to portray the precise instant she decided to leave the show.
Kyrie, eléison, through the heat that I must travel
It is a hot summer day at Great American Ball Park, and overheated fans are retreating to the popular misters in efforts to cool off. Yet when they reach the area of the misters, they find that the misters—drum roll—are missing.
After eliminating Waterworld 5: The Moistening as a possible agent of the heist, Reds officials turn to the realm of ’80s rock. Sure enough, on the group’s website, they find that Mr. Mister is now offering Mr. Mister’s Misters. The officials then call the number for the offices of Mr. Mister’s Misters. After asking for the supervisor, they’re told they just missed ’er.
Azure Texan is a writer living in Austin.