The fans at Saturday’s Rochester Red Wings game may not have known what was coming.
But if they knew anything about George “The Animal” Steele’s pro wrestling career, perhaps it wasn’t much of a surprise when Steele took a bite out of a baseball before throwing out the first pitch prior to the Red Wings’ game against Columbus. During his Hall of Fame wrestling career, Steele made a name for himself by taking a bite out of the padded turnbuckles in wrestling rings.
He took that same act to Frontier Field — the New York home of the Twins’ Class AAA team — on Saturday, chewing the baseball before throwing it to Rochester infielder Sean Burroughs.
“Given his wild, unpredictable reputation for chewing up turnbuckles and causing havoc over the course of his wrestling career, I had a pretty good idea that something was going to happen to that baseball,” said Nick Sciarratta, the Red Wings’ director of corporate development. “I could tell by the way he looked at it as soon as we gave it to him that he had something in mind when he was out there.”
Steele was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. The 75-year-old began his wrestling career in the 1960s and made appearances all the way through the 1990s.
Steele was in Rochester this past weekend to take part in a sports card and memorabilia show put on by a local collector who sponsors the Red Wings. As part of his visit, Steele — a minor league baseball fan — made a stop at the park to throw out the first pitch, sign autographs and take pictures with fans.
It was his chewing of the baseball, though, that will stick with those who were in attendance on Saturday.
“It got a great reaction from the crowd,” Sciarratta said.
Was the ball a fake? Turns out Steele is the real deal, just like the ball he chomped.
“We had these little softer balls that we toss into the crowd during the seventh-inning stretch,” Sciarratta said. “He took one look at it and said, ‘No, I want a real ball.’ “