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When Cox called him into the office that night, Stanton braced himself for a violent tirade. Cox was silent. He shuffled some papers on his desk. He sighed a few times. Finally he said, "We can't have that."
That was all. We can't have that. Stanton didn't sleep that night. It was as if he had disappointed his father. Bobby Cox never called Mike Stanton into the office again. And for the rest of his seven seasons with the Braves, Stanton was never again beaten to the bag on a grounder to first.
THE OCEAN of numbers is clear on this point: Bobby Cox wins baseball games with nearly unprecedented frequency. Only three managers in the game's history—Mack, McGraw and La Russa—have more wins than Cox's 2,467 through Sunday. And Cox's career winning percentage (.556) beats La Russa's (.535) and Mack's (.486). Moreover, Cox holds a record that stretches across all major U.S. professional sports. Starting in 1991 his Braves won their division 14 times in a row.
The ocean of numbers is just as clear about this: When Cox is ejected, his team usually loses. In those 156 games, his winning percentage is .385. But he often gets thrown out when his team is already losing.
What happens after he's gone?
THE WORST THING Bobby Cox ever did to an umpire took place after the seventh ejection, and he swore it was a combination of accident and self-defense. On Aug. 6, 1980, Jerry Dale ruled that Braves shortstop Rafael Ramirez had not stepped on second base while turning a double play. Cox got in Dale's face, cursing, and when Cox threw his cap, Dale threw him out. But Cox kept flapping his mouth, and before you knew it—ping!—he'd anointed Dale with tobacco juice.
Cox later said the initial stream was an innocent side effect of trying to yell and chew tobacco at the same time, but he admitted to firing another salvo on purpose because he believed Dale spat back at him. The umpire was stunned. "I always thought Bobby Cox was a bigger man than that," he said after the game, which the Braves lost 6--2 thanks to the three-run homer they gave up immediately after Cox's departure.
But if Dale held a grudge, the ocean of numbers doesn't reveal it. That was the first time he threw Cox out, and the last.
At least 83 umpires have tossed Cox over the years, and about half have done it only once. As former ump Harry Wendelstedt once said, "Everybody can't be wrong." Major League Baseball would not allow any current umpire to be interviewed for this story, but former Braves coach Ned Yost, now the Royals' manager, said the umps understand that Cox's eruptions are just business: "Every umpire that you talk to will say that you can go out and get into it with Bobby Cox during the game. They may eject him, he may be mad, but the next day it's like it never happened."
Bob Davidson shares the record for most ejections of Cox: six. "If I was a ballplayer," Davidson told The New York Times in 2007, "I'd want to play for Bobby Cox."