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LIVIN' LARGE
Tom Verducci
June 16, 1997
Oft-injured Kevin Mitchell loves toys and clubhouse high jinks, but the former MVP is also a guardian angel—and more
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June 16, 1997

Livin' Large

Oft-injured Kevin Mitchell loves toys and clubhouse high jinks, but the former MVP is also a guardian angel—and more

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"Kevin Mitchell is so funny, he should charge a cover."
JOE OLIVER, CINCINNATI REDS CATCHER

Our headliner comes to us from San Diego. And New York, San Diego again, and San Francisco; Seattle, Cincinnati and Fukuoka, Japan; Boston, Cincinnati again, and Cleveland, where his most recent gig ended abruptly after only nine hits, not including the one upside a teammate's head for messing with the clubhouse ' stereo. Trust us on this one, folks: Kevin Mitchell is the master of the limited engagement.

You know him for his gold tooth, his silver tongue and his Blue Cross & Blue Shield. We wouldn't want to say the guy is injury-prone, but he once strained his rib muscles while vomiting. Another time he showed up late for spring training because he needed emergency dental work after munching on a microwaved chocolate doughnut.

He is the Wile E. Coyote of baseball. He keeps falling off cliffs, getting conked on the head with anvils, opening packages that explode and, inevitably, coming back for more. Just before the Indians designated him for assignment on May 24—a move that led to his being released on June 3—Mitchell, 35, cracked, "Either trade me someplace where I can play or send me home. I'd rather be playing paintball in the desert [than sitting on the bench]."

Our man—all 5'11" and 255 pounds of him—is undeterred from livin' large. He wears $1,800 crocodile-skin combat boots, which presumably will come in handy should we ever have to send troops to Rodeo Drive. He has a fleet of land and sea vehicles, including one customized truck in which the voice-activated stereo system cost $19,000. When he wants to hear music, he says, "Wake up, bitch," and a sexy voice coos, "Good morning."

Like a lot of people, Mitchell has pen pals. It's just that some of his pals are in a pen called Folsom. He's no stranger to the law himself. How many players can quote the California penal code?

No wonder one of his former coaches, current New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, called him "the most misunderstood man in baseball." Mitchell's bat we know about. He won the 1989 National League MVP award with such a ferocious season (.291 average with 47 homers and 125 RBIs) that he drew more intentional walks that year (32) than any other righthanded hitter in history. Since he turned 30, in '92, he has batted .308 in 1,258 major league at bats. But who knew he was a clubhouse cutup? Toy collector? Generous humanitarian? A real-life guardian angel? Yes, he's all of that, too.

So come, zing along with Mitch. You may have seen him on Letterman. Or maybe it was Cops. Presenting, for your entertainment, a very funny man: Kevin Darnell Mitchell.

A guy walks into a bar. O.K., it's Mitchell—on the same night he had begged out of a game with the Reds in 1994 because of "battle fatigue. "According to Mitchell, a woman throws a glass across the bar, accidentally smacking him above the right eye, opening a bloody gash and causing the eye to swell. "I'm not going out anymore," he said. "Or until they start using plastic cups."

Things happen to Kevin Mitchell. During a game with the Reds in 1994, he asked the trainer for eyewash. Inexplicably, someone had put rubbing alcohol in the eyewash bottle. Mitchell suffered burns on his eye. "I was right behind him in line," teammate Hal Morris says. "It's always Kevin."

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