Although the White Sox winning 11 straight games probably should have been the top Chicago sports story over the last weekend, the streaking South Siders were upstaged in a matter of minutes by a gentleman whose last name begins with 'Z.' You've no doubt seen the video, read the articles and heard the talk on the radio, so there's no point in rehashing the Carlos Zambrano incident here. But it got me thinking: Who are the Top Five hotheads in recent Chicago sports history? A few names quickly came to mind:
1. Carlos Zambrano
What, you were expecting longtime Wrigley clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano? Or maybe Milton Bradley? (Nah. He's certainly a hothead, but his time in Chicago was so short, disappointing and embittering that I've decided to live in denial that he ever actually played here.) With his dugout blowup this past Friday, Big Z solidified his place as the No. 1 hothead in Chicago sports history. It's not just the intensity of Z's blowups - it's their consistency.
Virtually every season over the last six has held seen Z detonating on (or near) the field in some way... or at least behaving oddly. In 2004, we had the Jim Edmonds showdown. In 2005, Big Z cited excessive Internet usage for an injury. Something or other probably happened in '06, but no Cubs fan wants to remember that season too clearly anyway. And that brings us to the epic Barrett Brawl in '07 - truly a legendary incident in Chicago sports history. Nothing comes to mind from 2008, but Zambrano battled right shoulder problems throughout that entire, glorious regular season. So he perhaps he wasn't on the field enough to spark an implosion.
Last year, Z returned to form, unfortunately enough, with the ump bump/bleacher toss/Gatorade smashup. And this year... well, we had the dugout pep talk to end all pep talks - and, perhaps, Z's career with the Cubs.
2. Mike Ditka
Ditka. The mere sound of the name conjures the image of a scowling, blustery, mustachioed drill sergeant driving his team to greatness while shoving away a pesky reporter on one side and telling a fan to shut the ____ up on the other. Da Coach was, from one perspective, the inverse of Carlos Zambrano: A man whose hotheadedness drove him to greatness rather than, apparently, away from it. Throughout out the 80s, Ditka's legend grew because of incidents such as a broken wrist suffered punching a locker after an 1983 playoff loss or throwing chewing gum at a 49ers fan in 1987. His press conferences alternated between roughnecked jocularity and outright fury as any question could prompt either a dismissive grumble or an insulting rant.
After his retirement, the fun continued. Ditka's Seventh Inning Stretch performance at Wrigley Field in 1998 was a blurred rush of out-of-tempo warbling that only a few have matched for ridiculousness. And, why, just a week or so ago, Ditka was caught on tape on an airplane railing against his fellow passengers inability to follow simple instructions. No matter where he lives or what he does, Ol' Iron Mike will always be a classic Chicago hothead.
3. Ozzie Guillen
Sure, Ozzie does his best to appear the happy-go-lucky gent we see jawing with fans from the dugout steps and cracking up reporters during the postgame. But he's got a temper that has flared up often enough to make the No. 3 spot on our list. Ozzie fears no ejection, getting the heave-ho often enough to tie for sixth in Forbes magazine's 2009 feature, "Baseball's Most-Ejected Managers. Just this season, he whipped the media into a frenzy (and garnered more than a few deserved applause) by calling umpire Joe West an "a**hole" after West called a balk on Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle.
Ozzie wrath isn't restricted to umpires, however. There have been repeated rumors of a near-violent rift between him and White Sox GM Kenny Williams. Guillen has gotten into it with his superiors over the employment of his son, Oney, who was fired for inappropriate Twitter messages. More recently, the two reportedly battled over the draft position of Ozzie's baseball-playing son, Ozney. (Seriously, Ozzie, what is up with those names?)
One thing that Ozzie and Kenny probably can agree on is their mutual dislike of the Cubs. Guillen has repeatedly grumbled about having to travel northward and play interleague games at Wrigley Field, telling the Chicago Tribune last year, "I puke every time I go there." The cramped clubhouse and general uncleanliness are his most common complaints, though fears of giant rats were brought up at one point as well.
What does Ozzie like? Twitter. And you can partake of his hotheadedness first-hand by following him at http://twitter.com/ozzieguillen. (Be advised that many of his tweets are in Spanish.)
4. Dennis Rodman
Whether you call him hot-headed or just flamboyant, there's no doubt that Rodman was among the most lively characters in Chicago sports history. Bulls players probably called him something else when he played for the Detroit Pistons during the early 1990s. But, when he joined the MJ-era squad in 1996, he became our... er... hothead and went on to contribute to Bulls championships in 1996 and 1997.
Rodman was a temperamental guy who seemed to tempt fate every time he hit the court - mainly because one of the strengths of his game was goading and harassing opposing players during play. This led to inevitable shoving matches and nose-to-nose staredowns. It also put him at odds with NBA refs. Perhaps the most famous example of this was when Rodman head-butted an NBA official during a March 1996 game against the New Jersey Nets.
The following season, an even more memorable example of his hot-headedness took place when Rodman viciously kicked a courtside photographer in the groin after tripping over the cameraman. Rodman was suspended for 11 games and lost an estimated $1 million in compensation.
Sadly, Rodman's post-basketball life has been worsened all the more by his temper. In 2008, he was arrested on domestic battery charges and, just this year, he was ejected from an Orange County, California, restaurant for disruptive behavior.
5. Jeremy Roenick
When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup earlier this month, we were all briefly and somewhat awkwardly reminded of another classic Chicago hothead: Former Hawk Jeremy Roenick. He was one of the TV analysts for the championship game that night and broke down in tears after the big win, saying simply, "It's the Chicago Blackhawks, man."
This well-publicized and much debated incident was a reminder of the emotional approach Roenick took to the game of hockey and life itself. (And, seriously, aren't all hockey players hotheads by default?) His years with the Blackhawks were great ones that saw Roenick establish himself as one of the toughest players on ice, suffering severe dental damage in the 1989 playoffs (a la Duncan Keith) and repeatedly finishing among the team's goal scoring leaders.
In 2004 and 2005, while the NHL was suffering through a player lockout, Roenick told critical fans to "kiss my ass" after they called hockey players spoiled. He also claimed to be "blackballed" from the 2006 USA Winter Olympic Team.
And he still appears somewhat frustrated with how his Blackhawks career ended, telling Sarah Spain in a 2009 interview, "I wanted to get paid $4 million. They didn’t think that I was worth that. They thought that that was a lot of money to pay an athlete. You know, they didn’t think that I’d be able to get that—well, big deal, four years later I was making double that $4 million. That was their thinking, they were wrong."