Losing their cool: Epic tantrums in sports history

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley flung his glove to the ground after allowing a home run. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Shawn Kelley's meltdown Tuesday night was the latest in a long line of tantrums by athletes over the years.

In the ninth inning of Washington's 25-4 drubbing of the New York Mets, Kelley allowed a home run to Austin Jackson after he had been told to slow down by the plate umpire.

Kelley wound up and flung his glove to the ground.

As a result, the Nationals have designated Kelley for assignment.

Many athletes and coaches have taken out their frustrations on watercoolers, bats, chairs and anyone who would listen.

We take a look back on some of the most memorable outbursts that those involved would probably rather have left in the past.


Tommy Lasorda, 1982

The buildup: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tom Niedenfuer hit San Diego Padres batter Joe Lefebvre and was fined $500. Padres infielder Kurt Bevacqua defended his teammate, saying, "The guy they should have fined was the guy who ordered Niedenfuer to throw at Joe, that fat little Italian."

The incident: Lasorda responded with some choice words of his own, saying that he had never told a pitcher to hit anyone and that he would make sure to pitch to poor hitters like Bevacqua and Lefebvre. Listen here. (Warning: contains profanity.)

The fallout: The Dodgers won the NL West but lost in the NLCS to the Philadelphia Phillies. Lasorda was named NL Manager of the Year.

Lee Elia, 1983

The buildup: The Chicago Cubs were off to a 5-14 start and had just suffered a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.

The incident: After the game, Elia, the Cubs manager, went on a three-minute tirade filled with profanities. He was upset with fans for booing and heckling the Cubs and said they should get a job and find out what it's like to earn a living. Listen here. (Warning: contains profanity.)

The fallout: Late that season, Elia was fired by the Cubs.

George Brett, 1983

The buildup: The infamous pine tar incident began when Brett hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning to give the Kansas City Royals a 5-4 lead over the New York Yankees.

The incident: Yankees manager Billy Martin asked the umpires to examine Brett's bat, and it was determined that the amount of pine tar on the bat exceeded the limit and Brett was ruled out -- ending the game. A furious Brett came rushing out of the dugout to protest the call, to no avail. He had to be restrained so he wouldn't make contact with home plate umpire Tim McClelland.

The fallout: The Royals filed a protest with the league and won; however, Brett was retroactively ejected for his outburst. The game resumed 25 days after it had begun with the Royals ahead 5-4 -- thanks to Brett's home run -- and Kansas City went on to win the game.

Hal McRae, 1993

The buildup: The Royals lost to the Detroit Tigers 5-3, and their record fell to 7-12. It wasn't the start that McRae and his team had in mind.

The incident: The postgame news conference was in McRae's office and a reporter asked a question the manager didn't like. McRae threw a tantrum, saying he was tired of being asked "dumbass" questions every night and started throwing everything off his desk, hitting a reporter in the face with his phone and drawing blood. Watch here. (Warning: contains profanity.)

The fallout: McRae led the Royals to a winning record in 1993 and again in 1994 before being let go.

Lloyd McClendon, 2001

The buildup: The Pittsburgh Pirates manager did not appreciate seeing two of his players getting called out at first base on close plays in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The incident: McClendon went onto the field to argue the call with the first base umpire and was ejected. McClendon threw off his cap and continued to yell at the umpire before picking up first base and carrying it off the field and into the dugout with him.

The fallout: The Pirates went on to beat the Brewers in 12 innings, but McClendon had to watch the last five innings from the clubhouse.

Lou Piniella, 2007

The buildup: While managing the Cubs, Piniella became furious over a call at third base during a game against the Atlanta Braves.

The incident: Piniella ran onto the field and began yelling into the face of the umpire who made the call. Piniella threw off his hat and kicked dirt at the ump's feet while he also kicked his hat into the air and around the field.

The fallout: Piniella was ejected from the game and later said the umpire made the correct call. The manager was suspended four games by Major League Baseball for his outburst.

Phillip Wellman, 2007

The buildup: Wellman, manager of the Double-A Mississippi Braves, was enraged with the umpires for throwing his pitcher out of the game for using a foreign substance.

The incident: Wellman went out to protest the call and covered home plate with dirt. He took third base out of the ground and threw it across the field before crawling toward the pitcher's mound. He threw a rosin bag at an umpire like it was a hand grenade and pretended to eject the umpires. He eventually walked off toward the outfield with two bases in tow.

The fallout: Wellman was ejected and suspended three games for his tantrum.

Carlos Gomez, 2018

The buildup: The Tampa Bay Rays had runners on first and second base with no outs when Gomez came to the plate and struck out. He argued that the second strike had actually hit him, but the umpire called it a foul ball.

The incident: When Gomez returned to the dugout, he smashed a rectangular cooler repeatedly with a bat, splashing water everywhere, and then also punched a larger cooler.

The fallout: Gomez, who is having a frustrating season, later apologized to water coolers everywhere in a video on his Instagram account.


Scottie Pippen, 1995

The buildup: During a Chicago Bulls game against the San Antonio Spurs, Pippen tried twice to get a three-second violation called against the Spurs. Referee Joey Crawford didn't like it and gave Pippen a technical foul.

The incident: Pippen went crazy, so Crawford threw him out of the game. Pippen, now even more furious, grabbed a chair from the Bulls bench and threw it across the court in frustration. He kicked things in his way as he walked off toward the locker room.

The fallout: Pippen was suspended one game and fined $6,000 by the NBA.

Dennis Rodman, 1997

The buildup: During a Bulls game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rodman tripped over cameraman Eugene Amos while trying to get a loose ball out of bounds.

The incident: Rodman proceeded to kick Amos in the groin with all the force he had.

The fallout: Rodman was suspended for 11 games and fined $25,000 by the NBA. Rodman also paid Amos, who had to be taken away on a stretcher, a $200,000 settlement.


Jim Everett, 1994

The buildup: The New Orleans Saints quarterback appeared on Jim Rome's show and Rome repeatedly called Everett "Chris" -- as in women's tennis player Chris Evert -- instead of Jim. Everett warned Rome not to call him Chris, but Rome continued.

The incident: Everett had heard it one too many times, flipped over the table and pushed Rome to the floor -- with the cameras rolling.

The fallout: There was no legal action taken as a result of the confrontation.

Jim Mora, 2001

The buildup: The Indianapolis Colts lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 40-21, and were 4-6 on the season.

The incident: During the postgame news conference, a reporter asked the Colts coach about the team's chances of making the playoffs. To which Mora famously replied in a high-pitched, disbelieving voice, "Playoffs? Don't talk about -- playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game. Another game."

The fallout: The sound bite has often been played back as a joke over the years. The Colts only won two more games that season -- missing the playoffs -- and Mora was fired.

Dennis Green, 2006

The buildup: The Chicago Bears came back from a 20-point deficit to defeat the Arizona Cardinals, with the Bears defense and special teams leading the way.

The incident: At the postgame news conference, the Cardinals coach got upset with reporters, yelling, "They (the Bears) are who we thought they were! And we let them off the hook!" Watch here. (Warning: contains profanity.)

The fallout: The Cardinals finished the season 5-11 and Green was fired with a year left on his contract. The Bears went 13-3 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl before falling to the Colts.

Antonio Brown, 2017

The buildup: On third-and-4 early in the second quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 4 game against the Baltimore Ravens, Brown was alone in the middle of the field, but Ben Roethlisberger didn't throw the ball his way.

The incident: Brown went to the sideline and flipped over a water cooler and yelled at the coaches as the Steelers punted the ball away.

The fallout: The Steelers targeted Brown on their next offensive play. He finished the game with four catches for 34 yards on nine targets in the Steelers win.


Robbie Ftorek, 2000

The buildup: The New Jersey Devils coach's tantrum was brought on by officials ignoring a hit by the Detroit Red Wings that bloodied one of his players. Play continued and the Red Wings took the puck up the ice and scored.

The incident: Ftorek had seen enough and threw a wooden bench onto the ice.

The fallout: Ftorek was ejected and received a one-game suspension for his outburst.

College football

Mike Gundy, 2007

The buildup: A newspaper article was published discussing why Bobby Reid, Oklahoma State's former starting quarterback, might have been moved to second string.

The incident: After Oklahoma State's win over Texas Tech, coach Gundy went off on a tirade about the article, claiming it was not factual and that it was critical of a good kid who had done everything right. Gundy famously said that instead of going after student-athletes, reporters should criticize adults, "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!"

The fallout: Gundy later claimed his defense of a player had a positive effect on recruiting. Reid ended up transferring to Texas Southern after the 2007 season.

College basketball

Bob Knight, 1985

The buildup: While coaching Indiana during a game against Purdue, Knight became irate over a foul call and received a technical foul.

The incident: With Purdue at the line to shoot the ensuing free throws, Knight threw a red plastic chair from Indiana's bench across the floor toward the basket.

The fallout: Knight received his second and third technical fouls and was ejected from the game. He later apologized and was handed a one-game suspension and two years' probation from the Big Ten.

Kevin Borseth, 2008

The buildup: The Michigan women's basketball team was outrebounded on the offensive glass 23-9 in a two-point loss to Wisconsin.

The incident: Borseth, Michigan's coach at the time, slammed his papers down on the podium at the postgame news conference and went off about how frustrated he was with his team's lack of offensive rebounding and how none of the calls went in the Wolverines' favor.

The fallout: The following game didn't go any better as Michigan was again outrebounded on the offensive glass 14-8 in a loss to Minnesota.


John McEnroe, 1981

The buildup: In a first-round Wimbledon match against fellow American Tom Gullikson, McEnroe did not agree with a line call.

The incident: McEnroe screamed at the umpire, "You cannot be serious! That ball was on the line! Chalk flew up!"

The fallout: "You cannot be serious" became a catchphrase and later the title of McEnroe's autobiography. This was just one of his numerous meltdowns on the court.

Serena Williams, 2009

The buildup: In the US Open semifinals, Williams was called for a foot fault after a second serve against Kim Clijsters, giving a point to Clijsters and bringing up match point.

The incident: Williams used profanity toward the lineswoman who made the call and said that she was going to stuff a tennis ball down her throat. She threatened the lineswoman again and received a point penalty that gave Clijsters the win.

The fallout: Williams was fined a record $82,500 and faced a probationary period at tennis' four major championships in 2010 and 2011.