Rabbit Maranville

Rabbit Maranville was a 5’5″ baseball clown with a goblin face full of laugh lines. His humor was antic and visible to the fans: handing an umpire a pair of glasses or mocking slow pitchers and ponderous batters in pantomime. Photographers loved him. He would pull the bill of his cap over one ear – baseball’s oldest comic gesture – and jump into the arms of his biggest teammate. He was an after-hours roisterer, too. After a few drinks with kindred souls like banjo-playing Charlie “Jolly Cholly” Grimm, he became the hotel ledge walker, the goldfish swallower, the practical joker. Nicknamed for his speed and rabbit-like leaps, he was always a superior fielder, famous for his unique basket catch of high infield flies. Baseball Library

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Maranville is credited with originating the basket catch that many years later was a Willie Mays trademark. Maranville reportedly kept his arms at his sides until the last second before letting the ball drop into his glove, about waist high.

After the 1914 World Series, he and some of his teammates on the team that was called “The Miracle Braves” did what a lot of baseball players did in those days – they formed a vaudeville act and went on tour during the winter. During a stop in Lewiston, Maine, Maranville demonstrated how he stole second base in the Series and in so doing he slid off the stage and into the orchestra pit, breaking a leg.

Despite his wacky ways, he was named manager of the Chicago Cubs for part of the 1925 season and later managed minor league teams, occasionally playing until he was nearly 50 years old. As manager of the Cubs he is best remembered for the night he went through a Pullman car, pouring water on the heads of his sleeping players, yelling “No sleeping under Maranville management.” Major Smolinski

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[As Cubs manager he] had no set rules for the team except that they couldn’t go to bed before him.

[One] time he held the Cubs traveling secretary out of a hotel window by his feet. Yet another time, and as it turns out, the final incident, he ran through the train throwing the contents of a spittoon at his players. With Rabbit as manager, the Cubs finished in last place for the first time in franchise history. He was fired after eight weeks. Just One Bad Century

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Rabbit’s off-field capers…became a legend, even in baseball’s rough and ready era. There was the time when the Boston police found Maranville and Jim Thorpe high in a treetop, yowling like banshees as they played Tarzan. There was the hot night in St. Louis when the Rabbit dived fully clothed into a fountain pool (though he always denied that he came gurgling to the surface with a goldfish clenched in his teeth). There was the time when he was playing in Brooklyn and staged a fake killing, complete with gunshot, that was daffy enough even by Dodger standards. And there was the time when he got news of his appointment as manager of the Chicago Cubs. “A nice way to celebrate this,” mused the Rabbit, “would be to fight a couple of Irish cops.” So he did. Time, Jan. 18, 1954

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Image via Abravefan11


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