The reaction of the target is the key to a successful prank. Best I can tell, there is zero tolerance for such things in most workplaces these days, but there always will be those golden days in the Star Tribune sports department, when if you were around from late morning to late afternoon, at least 15 minutes were spent devising a prank on a co-worker.
Often that was Sid Hartman, who would come in the newsroom every weekday shortly after 4, walk down the long, makeshift aisle to the sports area, and have an insult for most every colleague he encountered.
We referred to that ritual as Sid’s drive-by shooting.
Sid was always Type A, and to move that to Triple-A, it took either a one-paragraph revelation in Charley Walters’ notes column in that morning’s St. Paul Pioneer Press or a well-devised prank.
Dennis Brackin was the star planner of such things.
Best ever: Parking spots were being adjusted in the Star Tribune lots to give the closest locations to people working late-night shifts. Employees were supposed to register as to their usual hours in order to facilitate these adjustments. There was a deadline to do so.
Knowing full well that Sid would never have filled out such a form, Brackin was able to construct an in-house Atex message from “Vic,’’ a mythical parking supervisor, informing Sid that his inaction had cost him his favored spot directly across the street from the front door.
Fortunately, Vic informed Sid, he had been secured a spot at the production plant on Plymouth Ave. and could ride the shuttle that would leave on the half-hour
Sid did his drive-by and settled into his cluttered office. We all waited, knowing he routinely looked at his messages to check if an important sports figure had called, offering a scoop.
Five minutes later, Sid came bursting from his office, took a hard right, then another right, and went charging down the long hallway – headed for the office of publisher Roger Parkinson to straighten out this miscarriage of parking privileges.
Brackin caught him a few feet from Parkinson’s door and revealed that he was “Vic,’’ and presumably Sid would continue to park in the best spot in the entire main lot.
Several Sid profanities followed, which is always the signature of a prank gone good.
The media access to a baseball clubhouse was much greater 15-20 years ago than it is today. There also was less-comfortable or spacious hiding places for players to stay out of view or reporters.
There was always a line to straddle between being intrusive and observing the interaction of players. You could smile when overhearing the comic byplay; yet, it was advisable to skip the full-on laughter being shared by players and/or coaches.
Corey Koskie, No. 2 all-time Twins third baseman behind Gary Gaetti, was much-admired as a prankster. He would set it up, move quietly to his side of the clubhouse, feign being occupied with other matters, and wait stoically for the reaction when the prank was revealed to a teammate.
And when it worked magnificently, as I recall, Koskie would respond with a smirk – not a howl of laughter. He would carry on the “who-me?’’ angle as long as possible.
David Ortiz, then the Twins’ Big O, not New England’s Big Papi, was a primary target. And for two reasons: They were pals, and Ortiz’s immediate reaction would be to get mad.
And it was the perfect kind of mad: profane, steamed and, for a man as large as Ortiz, non-violent.
The famous Koskie prank was the ice-and-peanut butter in David’s undies. That wasn’t quite subtle enough to be a great prank, in my opinion.
There was a better one that I had a chance to observe:
The Twins were playing an afternoon game at the Metrodome before heading out on a road trip. David had a new suit hanging inside a garment bag in his locker. He had given a sneak preview to a few teammates before the game. It was colorful, even by the Big O’s standards.
Koskie had a minor injury and was not playing that day. The Twins must have won, because I recall a fairly festive vibe in the postgame clubhouse. And maybe 20 minutes after the game, with perfect timing as David headed toward his locker wrapped in a post-shower towel, Koskie came walking from a back room … striding proudly, bedecked in Ortiz’s new suit.
“Really?’’ Koskie said Tuesday. “There were a few, but I don’t remember wearing his new suit.’’
I’m telling you, Koskie, it happened, and David was highly irritated.
“I’m sure he was,’’ Koskie said.
The baseball world was put into shock on Sunday night when Ortiz was shot in the back in an attack at a bar in his hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. There was internal damage, an emergency surgery at a local hospital, and now he’s being treated at Mass General in Boston.
I was looking up previous Ortiz articles on Tuesday and there was brief from early October 2003, when the Twins were playing the Yankees and Ortiz’s Red Sox were playing Oakland in division series.
A year earlier, the Twins had won a division series in an upset over Oakland, and then Ortiz was released in surprising fashion in December. As the playoffs were taking place in ’03, Koskie mentioned the success that Ortiz was having in Boston – and how he missed him on a personal basis.
“We spent a lot of time together,’’ Koskie said. “He was like my brother. We talk a few times a week on the phone.’’
On Tuesday, Koskie said he hadn’t seen or talked to Ortiz since the Twins honored David before a game in 2016 (Ortiz’ final season) at Target Field. It’s the distance of time, not friendship.
“There were a few of us at his wedding in Florida after the 2002 season,’’ Koskie said. “It wasn’t official, but David already had an idea he was going to be released. He was pretty emotional. And we were telling him, ‘You’ll be fine.’
“He went to Boston, worked harder, and learned what it took to be a superstar. It was the best thing that ever happened to him.’’
By the postseason of 2003, Ortiz had moved into the middle of Boston’s lineup and delivered 31 home runs and 101 RBI. And Koskie was then offering an anecdote about David’s popularity in his new home and then adding:
“They love the Big O in Boston.’’
Change that to Big Papi and it applies more than ever.
You really don’t remember the suit, huh?
“No,’’ Koskie said. “Sounds like it was a good prank, though.’’
The best kind. Effective, yet subtle.