Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball for his goofy antics in an oversized uniform at minor league games, died Saturday. He was 79.
The West Philadelphia native had been hospitalized with a ruptured aorta for a week and died unexpectedly of an aneurysm at Paoli Memorial Hospital, his daughter Joy Tietsworth said. Patkin had been living with her for several years in Exton.
Patkin, who starred as himself in the minor league movie classic, "Bull Durham," was a minor league pitcher before World War II. He began clowning around in lopsided games while in the service, catching the attention of Bill Veeck, who hired him as a comic coach to boost the attendance of the Cleveland Indians.
When the Indians began to win and did not need Patkin to draw crowds, Veeck got him started with minor league ballclubs. Though Patkin always wanted to return to pitching, he was convinced by Joe DiMaggio among others to continue with his rubber-faced slapstick, which became a baseball tradition.
One of his most famous routines was to mimic the first baseman as he went through infield warmups.
In 1993, Patkin fell on the dugout steps at Fenway Park and injured an ankle, snapping what he estimated to be a streak of more than 4,000 consecutive games over 50 years without missing an appearance.
In March, Patkin made headlines when he was robbed on camera while filming a television special in downtown Philadelphia. Patkin helped ensure a lenient sentence by asking the judge to go easy on the man, who took $35 from Patkin's hand and ran off.
Many fans remember Patkin handing out baseball cards of himself. Doctors said Patkin was handing out his cards from his hospital bed the night before he died.
"He was a great father. I love him dearly. And I'm really going to miss him," Tietsworth said.
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