The Ejection Room sits about 15 feet from the Atlanta Braves dugout at Turner Field.
That's not its official name, though it might as well be. When an umpire throws Braves manager Bobby Cox out of a home game, he huffs down the steps, navigates a short tunnel and hooks a quick right into what used to be the team's video room. Now, with two big flat-screen TVs equipped with satellite and the Extra Innings package, it's more like Cox's bachelor pad of banishment. The only thing missing is a La-Z-Boy.
Sounds like a perfect present for the Braves to bestow upon Cox in the near future when he breaks John McGraw's record for number of ejections.
"I just want to get it over with," Cox said.
As much as Cox tries to slough off the fact that people want to celebrate his 132nd thumbing – he's at 130 after a two-games-in-two-days masterpiece May 25 and 26 – he can't deny that what he has done is special. To enrage so many umpires over his 26 seasons that they felt it necessary to rid their presence of him takes a special blend of the linguistic gymnastics, facial contortions and barbaric posturings that make ejections among the most exciting moments in baseball.
Barry Bonds' 756th home run? Pshhh.
Gimme Cox's 132nd ejection – with a helping of the seven dirty words and a side of argument-generated spittle.
It might be the tougher record to break.
Seriously. Players say hitting a fastball is the most difficult thing to do in sports, and for mere mortals, it might be. While he does so exceptionally well, the act of it, for Bonds at least, is old hat. When Bonds gets a fat pitch and delivers a good swing, it sails.
To get tossed more than McGraw, the longtime New York Giants manager nicknamed Little Napoleon, and more than Leo "the Lip" Durocher, and almost twice as much as his nearest contemporary – St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who's at 73 ejections, according to the Society of American Baseball Research's David Vincent, the wizard behind the ejection list – requires a formula unlikely to ever be matched again.
First characteristic: experience. No rookie manager is going to march out of a dugout, go face-to-face with an umpire and shake like a bobblehead. He needs the respect of the umpires too much to earn a bad reputation, and anyway, a team's management is less likely to give hotheads the benefit of the doubt.
In that vein, winning is paramount. If his team is struggling, a manager will occasionally get tossed to wake up his players. Enough of those ejections, though, and it looks like the manager manifests his frustrations in the wrong manner and could lose control of the team.
Security factors in. In 2001, Cox got tossed 11 times. He went 10 more in '99, and nine in 2003 and 2006. How could he afford all the ejections? Winning 14 consecutive division titles allows him plenty of comfort in doing whatever he pleases.
Which brings us to the fourth, and most crucial, element: Pure, utter cantankerousness.
While his tantrums cannot match Lou Piniella's, and his zero-to-60 from dugout to ump's face is a Prius to Buddy Bell's Lamborghini, Cox incites in his own special manner. His propensity to lace his speech with four-letter cluster bombs gets the job done sometimes, and his mulish insistence works others.
"I loved it when he threw the lineup card," said Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, referencing ejection No. 123 on July 16 last season. "Because he's not going to go out without getting his point across first. He knows what's going to happen. Every time. Every time. The second his foot hits to top step, you know he's getting tossed."
"Actually," Braves starter Tim Hudson said, "I remember one time he got thrown out before he even got out of the dugout."
In his 130 ejections, the Braves' record is 52-78, so it's not as if the they have a particularly positive effect on games. It's just good to know, catcher Brian McCann said, "that Bobby will defend you even if you're wrong."
And that loyalty, more than anything else, gets Cox in trouble. He doesn't suffer bad umpires, which would explain why Bob Davidson has ejected him more than anyone (five times). At least 77 umpires have given Cox the heave, according to Vincent's research, and there still are plenty who could help him set the record.
"I love umpires," Cox said. "Respect the heck out of them. Always have. The umpires, honestly, would be the first ones the players, coaches and managers would help out if there were ever any trouble. They're one of us.
"All this would never have been known it if people hadn't researched it. I don't follow that stuff. The one thing managers don't count is their total ejections. Believe me."
Which would make Seattle's Mike Hargrove unaware of his 47, Houston's Phil Garner oblivious to his 41 and Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire – whose success and youth might make him the likeliest to threaten Cox – clueless to his 30.
No, none of them are close to the 66-year-old Cox, whose career has see-sawed, from his unsuccessful four-year stint with Atlanta starting in 1978 to his tremendous four-year run with the Toronto Blue Jays. Back to Atlanta he went, winning two pennants, being accused of domestic violence and seeing the charges dropped, winning a World Series that same '95 season and continuing as a paragon of consistency since.
He and Bonds share that continued greatness, and much more, too. Eight years ago, when asked by the Contra Costa Times how he hit a fastball so well, Bonds answered: "Reaction."
Earlier this week, asked to explain what caused so many of his ejections, Cox said: "It's all reaction."
Quickly, as though that wasn't a good enough answer, he offered an addendum.
"And just trying to win ballgames."