When it comes to athletes, there’s no shortage of bizarre behavior. But forget Dennis Rodman and John McEnroe. Neither of them ever got as weird as baseball player Rube Waddell, and they definitely didn’t have as many zany adventures. You don’t have to be a sports fan for this one—you just have to enjoy a good story, because Waddell has a heck of a compelling one.
Not Quite A Prodigy
Rube Waddell may have only lived for 37 years, but he jampacked enough action in that time to make him an absolute legend. How did he do this? Well, for one thing, he got an early start. From the very beginning, Waddell was remarkable—and not in the sense that he was a baseball wunderkind. He came into the world on a Friday the 13th in 1876. Waddell seemed, from the very beginning, like any parent’s nightmare.
Multiple anecdotes from this part of his life foreshadow the two pursuits that later defined him. There was the time that he walked over to the local fire station as a toddler and stayed for three days. That fascination with firefighting never left him. There was also the fact that he spent a lot of his time throwing rocks at birds—early practice for his career as a pitcher.
While Waddell may have grown in stature and talent as the years passed, he never left behind his childlike sense of wonder…or the same child’s attention span or interests. Even as an adult, Waddell could easily be distracted on the field. Sometimes, he’d run off after a fire truck. His short attention span was a feature that fans of opposing teams would try and exploit. They’d use shiny objects and even bring dogs into the stands—and sure enough, he’d run over and play with them. Early in his career, he’d often walk off the field in the middle of a game to go fishing. During the off-season, he would wrestle with alligators in the circus.