By Mike Mooneyham
Aug. 12, 2001
Steve “Mongo” McMichael was a great player in the National Football League as an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears. But as a WCW announcer from 1995-96, he was grating as he babbled his way through color commentary with pet poodle Pepe at his side. Later, as a wrestler and member of one of the final versions of The Four Horsemen, he was even worse.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]McMichael, who mercifully retired from the ring a couple of years ago in the midst of a split with wife Debra (the current Mrs. Steve Austin) and other personal problems, found yet another way to make a fool of himself last week, this time during a guest stint as seventh-inning stretch singer for a Chicago Cubs baseball game.
The grand Wrigley Field tradition had produced many highlights, including Mike Ditka’s campy bad, off-key rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” several years ago. Even when “Macho Man” Randy Savage grunted and groaned his way through the anthem in 1999, it was just another day at the park.
The last thing Ditka said to McMichael before the former Bears tackle went to Wrigley Field on Tuesday night was, “You can’t be any worse than I was.”
“Da Coach” was wrong.
The boisterous McMichael, who recently took a job as a Bears analyst with a Chicago radio station, apparently wanted every one to know he was back in town Tuesday night when he greeted the crowd with a “Mongo’s in the house!” Unfortunately he didn’t stop there.
Before he even had a chance to sing, while many of the 40,266 fans on hand were booing the umpire following a questionable call that went against the Cubs, the ever-expanding, 330-pound McMichael grabbed the microphone. Seizing an inopportune time to further incite an already raucous Wrigley crowd, Mongo declared, “Don’t worry, I’ll have some speech with that home plate umpire after the game.” McMichael’s target was umpire Angel Hernandez, who had called Ron Coomer out at the plate in the sixth inning of the Cubs’ 5-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on what replays showed was the wrong call. The fans already had been harping on the umpire about his strike- zone judgment, and McMichael’s rant only served to fan the flames.
As McMichael sang, Hernandez stood on the field looking up to the pressbox in a staredown, while crew chief Dave Marsh ran to the phone in the Cubs’ dugout and called up to the TV booth to have McMichael cease his taunting. The person in the booth who took the call explained that they couldn’t control what the guests say. “Somebody better control it because that’s not part of the game,” Marsh replied.
Hernandez then looked toward the press box and jerked his thumb into the air in the sign that he had ejected somebody from the game. It may have been the first time that anyone had ever been booted out of the press box made famous by the late, legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray. McMichael’s shameful showing did make him the first seventh-inning stretch singer to be thumbed out of a Cubs game. A hot August night with a team in the midst of a pennant race was a bad time for McMichael to complain about bad umpiring.
McMichael later denied reports that he was escorted out of the stadium, but officials say that’s where they would have taken him had he not exited the premises on his own several minutes after Hernandez gave him the heave-ho signal.
“You know there’s no security guard man enough to come and get me,” said McMichael, sounding more like a wrestler cut ting a promo than a celebrity guest at Wrigley Field.
McMichael, known for a loud lifestyle and wild antics, simply laughed when Hernandez booted him, joking about the way the umpire had walked around upset and toweling off his face while glaring up at the press box at McMichael.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]
“The anger in his eyes. His mama didn’t give him enough attention,” McMichael told the Chicago Sun-Times. “In wrestling, we call it a `Perfect Broadway.’ You talk smack about a guy, and then he comes out and stands behind you and stares at you. It sets up the match. How about him and me in a ring in Wrigley Field? Or me against three umps. I’ll take them all on.”
“It was all press,” added McMichael, who will do pregame and postgame shows on Bears broadcasts this season. “I’m a media whore now.”
McMichael didn’t wait around to talk things over with Hernandez.
“We were back at Ditka’s by the time they said kick him out,” his wife, Misty, said. If he had waited around, “I was going to give him the name of my LASIK surgeon,” McMichael joked. “I had it last year. I was blind, but now can see. Of course, the umpires don’t have a union anymore, so he probably can’t afford the $5,000.”
Hernandez later admitted he had never had heard of McMichael, who was one of the more outrageous characters on the Bears’ fabled 1985 championship team.
“Maybe he took it as an act,” Hernandez said. “I understand he was a wrestler at one time. I don’t know. I don’t follow wrestling. I don’t follow football. Maybe he took it as he’s on stage now.”
WGN-TV play-by-play man Chip Caray, Harry’s grandson, visited the umpires room after the game to personally apologize for McMichael’s actions.
“It crossed the border of good taste,? said Caray, who said he wasn’t sure what McMichael had been drinking from his cup when he made the remarks.
“I find out later it was water, but I don’t know that at the time. He’s a 330-pound former football player who’s also a former pro wrestler. It’s not my job to put myself in jeopardy.”
McMichael later told the Chicago Tribune that he was simply honoring Harry Caray’s legacy by leading the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and criticizing the umpire.
“Didn’t I say, `This Bud’s for you, Harry Caray?'” McMichael said on Wednesday. “Then his grandson, Chip, waits until I leave the booth to stab at me. Now who’s bush league?”
McMichael noted the difference between baseball and other sports.
“They put a screen up in the stands in Green Bay so the fans couldn’t hit me with beer bottles,” he said. “I’ve had death threats standing on the sidelines and I didn’t turn around and have the fan eject ed. That’s (the fans’) prerogative.”
McMichael said it was all for giggles and that he was sorry if he caused the Cubs’ organization any embarrassment. The Cubs, who have had almost 300 “guest con ductors” during the seventh-inning stretch, said they had no plans to discontinue the practice.