THE 22ND ejection was never consummated, at least in the strictest sense of the rules, which direct the banished man to the clubhouse, the grandstand or off the premises altogether. Cox did leave the premises once, in Chicago, by taxicab, so angry that, he said, "If I had stayed, I might have murdered somebody." But this is rare for someone who arrives at the ballpark hours earlier than necessary because he's afraid he might miss something. Cox would rather not leave the game at all. And so he lurks.
On this day, Sept. 25, 1983, Cox (managing the Blue Jays after the Braves fired him for not winning fast enough) was ejected for flinging a bat on the field after Derryl Cousins ruled that Toronto pitcher Dave Stieb had hit the A's Mike Davis. So Cox watched the rest of the game through a crack in the fence behind home plate. He may have done some managing from back there. Various beat reporters over the years have noticed him directing the team from the dugout tunnel after he's been tossed. He has never reappeared in the dugout disguised in sunglasses and an eye-black mustache, as the Mets' Bobby Valentine once did, because he has never cared for theatrics. This is the consensus around the major leagues: Bobby Cox never gets ejected for show. If he throws things, it's because he's actually angry. Other managers admit to intentionally provoking umpires to get thrown out and inspire their teams, but Cox insists he's never done that.
Braves broadcaster Brian Jordan said that when Cox is ejected at Turner Field, he goes to a special room within shouting distance of the dugout and watches the game on a plasma television. "He just goes right down the steps," said Jordan, one of Cox's former players. "He's still calling the shots."
THE OCEAN of numbers shows that Cox is most likely to be thrown out in the fifth or sixth inning, least likely in the second or ninth. He's been ejected twice in the 10th inning, three times in the 13th, and 15 times in the first. If these numbers add up to anything, it would have to be anger, sincere and uncalculated. No manager in his right mind goes out in the first or the 13th looking to get tossed.
The 31st ejection came during a rain delay. Toronto had a 3--2 lead over Boston after 4½ innings, making the game barely official, and the Jays couldn't wait to get it in the books. A summer storm had rolled in and parked over Exhibition Stadium. Two hours passed. Jays second baseman Damaso Garcia asked crew chief Joe Brinkman if he would call the game already. Brinkman took offense. Cox rushed to take up the fight, and Brinkman threw him out. The rain stopped, and the bullpen gave up the lead, and the Jays lost 5--3.
So: Cox's teams don't have to be losing when he departs in order to lose after he's gone. It has happened seven times. They're winning. He gets himself tossed. And then they collapse.
THE 35TH ejection took place almost five years later, after one of the strangest plays of all time. Atlanta--Fulton County Stadium was an odd place back then: dark patches on the infield dirt, grass like a bad haircut, desolate banks of orange seats populated only by the occasional shirtless man. Cox had returned to the Braves as general manager, spent four years building a farm system with great young players—Tom Glavine, David Justice, John Smoltz—and then gone back to the dugout, where he could watch them grow up.
Down 5--3 to the Expos in the fourth, the Braves had runners on first and second with two outs and an 0-and-2 pitch coming to Jim Presley. The ball scraped the dirt, but Presley couldn't check his swing. Forgetting to tag Presley out, the Montreal catcher made a wild throw to first base. It sailed into right field. The runner on second took off and slid into home well ahead of the rightfielder's throw. Instead of running to first, however, a confused Presley had moved several feet behind home plate. Finally the third baseman got the catcher's attention and persuaded him to throw to first, finishing a 2-9-2-3 strikeout, ending the inning and erasing the run.
The crowd of 11,237 murmured in perplexity. Cox hobbled out to confront Bob Davidson, followed him up the baseline and demonstrated a checked swing. He went back to the dugout and kept arguing. Davidson urged him to be gone. Cox shook his head, angry words pouring from his lips. He assumed a mock batting stance and took a full swing, as if to imitate what Jim Presley did not do. Never mind that Presley would have saved the run simply by jogging to first. Cox could blame the player or he could blame the umpire. His choice was never in doubt.
FOR THIS STORY the Braves granted a single half-hour interview with Cox, in his office at Turner Field. "In all your life," he was asked, "what are the things that are most important to you?"