Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ode to Jeff Laubenthal

I'll write this one in honor of the outfielder-turned-doctor who broke the lock on the dugout bathroom door when I was in college. (Since you will probably Google that name to see what school it is, let me add that I'd find it greatly entertaining if the school's football team -- and its chief rival -- were winless until playing each other.)

Jeff Laubenthal was in school on an academic scholarship and technically was a walk-on baseball player. That distinction that didn't allow his stellar GPA to count toward the team's total, which frustrated the head coach because the coach was partly judged on the team GPA. Smart guy, despite his love for the New York Yankees.

One day, probably 1992, he wasn't pleased after an at-bat and let his temper get the better of him. He stormed to the bathroom -- and the door was in full view of my seat in the press box. I remember hearing the door slam and not thinking much else about it. At the end of that half-inning, it was obvious there was a problem.

There was no left fielder and people were moving toward the door. They tried to knock it open ... and tried and tried to no avail. It wasn't too long until someone grabbed a glove and headed to left field, exiling Laubenthal from the game.

A few batters later, the door finally gave way and Laubenthal walked free. He hurridly went to the coach and asked if he was out of the game. He wasn't smiling when he got to the coach, but fully disclosed his plea after the game with a smile on his face. He understood how dumb it sounded.

Me: "Yes, there's this substitution rule that baseball has had for about 100 years. It says once you leave a game, you can't return."

Laubenthal: "I thought there might be an exception for something like getting locked in the bathroom."

That fall, he captained one team in the annual intrasquad series. The Laubey's Legion-Jerry's Kids matchup featured some of the best in-print trash talk I've ever written. Laubenthal graduated the next spring, married a gymnast and became a doctor.

I last saw Laubey at a 1996 NCAA baseball regional. I wrote a story about him -- the former player-turned-doctor angle is a good one, you have to admit -- and, of course, spent much of the story on his bathroom break. He still laughed about it.

It was something I never thought I'd see again. Thank you, Matt Elliott.

1 comment:

Bubba36109 said...

Does Matt Elliott get the bill to fix the door?