GM’s of minor league clubs have got to have one the coolest and toughest jobs in baseball. The Minor League GM job description is far different from the Major league guys that purely scout talent and build championship organizations. I have worked for quite a few of the big league guys as well. Most were pretty good when it came to the field on the major league side, but on the minor league side the business of the GM is to put people in the park. They always push the limit on using the field.
Rob Rabenecker (Roger Dean Stadium home to the marlins and cardinals) is one of those guys that sticks out in my mind more than others. He always pushed the envelope on pre-game promotions …which caused a bit of tension! One in particular came before a game in west palm beach, FL. at the old municipal stadium.
This particular promotion featured “Captain Dynamite” . At the time, I was in charge of the spring training complex for the city and all promotions were discussed before approvals were granted. Rob explained that the Captain would setup his “coffin of death” behind second base…the crowd would count down and he would blow himself up! Sounded harmless…in theory!
In order to make the explosion have the bang it was supposed to have the Captain had to use blasting caps around the coffin. Unfortunately, the city’s fire marshall said that would not be allowed so the Captain was forced to use M-80’s. The Captain (70+) years old was a bit upset with the reduction in firepower but surrendered to the request. He really just wanted to give the crowd a good show. He was a showman and had toured hundreds of parks and it sounded like this was the only problem he ever had with Fire Marshall.
Just before game time we prepared the field for the game as usual. As I walked back towards the field just before the game, I noticed the Captain had moved his coffin of death from the infield at second base to a location right behind the pitchers mound and was spraying something all over and around the coffin on the grass. (Later I found out it was Lighter fluid) The count down began 3..2..1. BOOM…The fireball from the explosion went 15 feet high. He staggers out of what is left of the coffin as part of the show as the crowd cheers him and I am standing at the edge of the field speechless. As the smoke clears, I noticed that the natural green beautiful Bermuda grass behind the mound was torched crispy and black. About a 15 x 15 square area. Need less to say my favorite GM Rob, was no where to be found.
On the bright side it was good to know that the good captain was OK after the blast and he was sorry for the dead grass caused by the explosion. He was a professional performer with a lot of BANG in his day! It is my understanding he has a daughter and son that picked up . I am not sure if she is still touring but if she is..beware of the lighter fluid effect. Its expensive!