Patkin, Max

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PATKIN, MAX ("The Clown Prince of Baseball"; 1920–1999), U.S. baseball player and entertainer, known for his goofy antics as a rubber-necked, double-jointed comic genius in a career that spanned 50 years. Born in Philadelphia, Patkin was a minor league pitcher before an arm injury curtailed his career. Patkin then joined the Navy during World War ii, and began clowning around in lopsided games while in the service. One day while stationed in Hawaii in 1944, Joe DiMaggio homered off Patkin, and in mock anger, Patkin threw his glove down and chased DiMaggio around the bases, much to the delight of the fans. Thus a career in show business was born. Patkin, successor to Al *Schacht as the second Clown Prince of Baseball, was hired as a comic coach by Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians and later the St. Louis Browns, to boost the attendance of his teams. Patkin also began performing his celebrated slapstick and pantomime routines at minor league games across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. With his rubbery face transformed into dozens of shapes, an oversize nose, a 6ʹ 3ʹʹ rail-thin body inside an oversized uniform – Veeck said that Patkin was put together by someone who couldn't read the instructions very well – a question mark on the back of his uniform in place of a number, and a ballcap that he wore sideways, Patkin was tailor-made for clowning. He became even more famous after he starred as himself in the movie classic Bull Durham (1988). Patkin estimated that he performed more than 4,000 times – never missing a game between 1946 and 1993 – and played to as many as 75,000 fans in Cleveland and as few as four in Great Falls, Montana, on the night Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. Patkin retired from clowning on August 19, 1995, and his trademark uniform and cap were donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Patkin published his autobiography, The Clown Prince of Baseball, in 1994.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]