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Prankster Drabowsky was master of comic relief


He gave commissioner Bowie Kuhn a hot foot. He put a 15-inch snake in Luis Aparicio's uniform pants. He phoned an opponent's bullpen and told a pitcher to warm up.

Mischievous Moe Drabowsky, one of baseball's great pranksters, back with the Orioles, this time as minor-league pitching coordinator after two hitches as a pitcher and one as the minor-league pitching coach in 1992.

Although he pitched 17 years for eight different teams, Drabowsky, 60, pulled most of his pranks when he was with the Orioles from 1966 to 1968 and in 1970.

He walked into the clubhouse one day with a boa constrictor draped around his neck, prompting Paul Blair to flee to the dugout to change into his uniform.

Before the Orioles-New York Mets World Series opener in 1969, when he was with the Kansas City Royals, Drabowsky rented a plane that flew over Memorial Stadium with a trailing banner that read, "Good Luck, Birds. Beware of Moe."

Beware, indeed. Before the second game, Drabowsky called a Baltimore pet shop and had a boa delivered in a box to Blair in the clubhouse.

During a game in Kansas City, Drabowsky dialed the A's bullpen from the Orioles' bullpen and, posing as manager Alvin Dark, instructed coach Bobby Hofman to warm up Lew Krausse even though starter Jim Nash was breezing through the fourth inning.

Krausse got up and threw for five minutes. Drabowsky phoned again: "OK, sit him down."

Two days later, after the word of the ruse had found its way into the newspapers, Drabowsky phoned Hofman and posed as A's owner Charlie Finley.

"I just got back in town and saw the papers," Drabowsky said. "I'd like to hear your version of what happened Friday night. 'Well, sir,' Hofman said, 'although we didn't know it at the time, it was Moe Drabowsky.' "

Drabowsky led Hofman on and on, but finally could contain his mirth no longer. "You son of a gun!" Hofman yelled.

In 1970, while Kuhn was presenting the world championship trophy in the Orioles' clubhouse, Drabowsky placed a book of matches near the commissioner's feet and ran a trail of lighter fluid to a corner and lighted it.

"The commissioner went up like a Japanese battleship," Drabowsky chortled.

Drabowsky, who appeared in 589 games, 435 in relief, and had an 88-105 record from 1956 to 1972, had perhaps his best season in 1966 with the Orioles. He was 6-0 and, in relief of Dave McNally, shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers after the third inning in the opener of the World Series, triggering the Orioles' sweep.

Drabowsky returned to baseball in 1984 as a Chicago White Sox TV commentator. Two years later, White Sox general manager Ken "Hawk" Harrelson hired him as relief pitching coach, a novel position suggested by Drabowsky. It didn't last long, partly because pitching coach Dave Duncan was offended and also because the Sox got off to a poor start.

Next: The first black Oriole to hit a home run.

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