Seven years later, near the end of her husband's time with the Blue Jays, Pam Cox was the subject of a feature story in the Toronto Star in which she wistfully estimated that his life was 99.75% baseball. She told of a rare family trip to Toronto's Metro Zoo and Cox's fascination with one species in particular:
"It's those gorillas, he's just mesmerized by them," says Pam, her voice a soft Southern singsong. "He could stand there and watch them all day long. I could not understand why until he said to me, 'Honey, would you just look at the arms on those guys. Could you imagine our team signing one of them up?' "
Cox could not leave the game at the ballpark. And while it seemed as though he had mastered his anger—confined it to the one place where he could churn it into loyalty and success—that notion came into question the night his wife called to have him arrested. It was May 7, 1995. He had been drinking, and he spilled a drink on the carpet. She made a comment he didn't appreciate. The police report said she told an officer that her husband grabbed her by the hair and hit her in the face.
"I asked Pamela Cox if this kind of incident had ever occurred before," officer Sonya Lee wrote. "Pamela Cox told me that this was the first time police had been called but that there had been 5--6 previous incidents involving physical abuse in their 18-year marriage. When asked, Pamela Cox stated that she has sustained blackened eyes and a broken hand, injuries inflicted by her husband."
There was a media firestorm when the news broke, but Cox and the Braves quickly contained it. He held a press conference the next day to deny hitting his wife. The battery charge disappeared when he agreed to take anger-management counseling.
Loyalty is a powerful thing. Pam Cox stood by her husband at the press conference, and she saved him. "He didn't hit me," she said.
You were wrong if you thought Bobby Cox would stay home with his wife that night. The Phillies were in town, and he was needed in the dugout.
HE SLEPT in the clubhouse in Fort Lauderdale when he got his first job as a minor league manager, in the Yankees system in 1971. He had five young children with his first wife, but he made barely $7,000 a year, and that wasn't enough to bring the family with him to Florida. So they stayed behind.
"I put my heart and soul in that," Cox said. "In my mind, everybody was a big leaguer, and it was my job to get 'em to the big leagues. I did work hard. But you wouldn't trade those experiences for anything."
If you tracked down any of his players from those days, they would say the same thing all the other players did. They would say Bobby Cox was the best manager they ever had—showering them with praise in public, gently correcting them in private, cheering for them when nobody else would, fiercely defending them from every conceivable danger. They would help you create a composite sketch of Bobby Cox, and when it was done he would look remarkably like the perfect father.