Revisiting The Funniest Play In Sports History, When Jose Canseco Head-Butted A Home Run

The year is 1993. The Texas Rangers are in Cleveland to play a three-game series against the Indians. Light-hitting infielder Carlos Martinez has just lofted a fly ball toward right-center field. Jose Canseco, the right fielder the Rangers’ acquired the year before in a trade with the Oakland A’s, is drifting back toward the fence. He appears to have a bead on it. But as he gets to the warning track, either because he lost sight of the ball or because he was closing in on the wall, he puts his head down and takes his eye off the ball. The ball hits him square on the top of the head and proceeds to bounce over the fence for a home run.

It is my position that this is the single funniest play in the history of sports. My reasoning for this rests on three primary factors, which I will now present.

1. It happened to Jose Canseco

It cannot be overstated how much funnier this is because it happened to Jose Canseco. Don’t get me wrong, a routine fly ball — and let’s be clear here, this very much should have been a routine fly ball — bouncing off someone’s head and over the fence is funny, full stop. But the fact that it happened to Jose Canseco really takes it to another level. You know how I know this is true? Because a ball bounced off the head of Padres outfielder Wil Myers for a home run last year and no one cares. It exists as barely a blip on the internet. The official YouTube video of the play is sitting at under 15,000 views as of this writing. I had totally forgotten it happened until I Googled ‘ball bounce off head home run’ looking for the Canseco thing and stumbled across it as I scrolled down.

No, this had to be Canseco. Had to be. Just think about his career trajectory.

  • Won a World Series
  • Became the first 40-40 player in MLB history
  • Dated Madonna
  • Wrote a book about steroids in baseball that was discredited and laughed at until it — a book written by Jose Canseco! — became a New York Times bestseller and actually did kind of blow the lid off baseball’s steroid scandal
  • Was invited to testify before Congress about the book
  • Fought to a draw with Danny Bonaduce in a Celebrity Boxing match

Also, there’s this:

That’s why this play is No. 1 all-time. It’s just… it’s kind of perfect, right? And it really had to be to take the crown, because on a level playing field, stripped of context, the Buttfumble is way funnier than this play. Way funnier. Like, if you found someone who had not seen either play and asked them, “Okay, which is funnier: 1) A fly ball bouncing off an outfielder’s head and over the fence for a home run; or 2) A quarterback’s panicky attempted scramble ending with him smashing his face into his own lineman’s butt, fumbling, and then watching the defense return the fumble for a touchdown?,” they would choose option two 100 times out of 100. It has everything the first one has plus it is literally called “the Buttfumble.” An almost insurmountable advantage.

The thing is, you can’t strip either of context. Mark Sanchez is just not as funny as Jose Canseco. (The Jets are funnier than the Rangers, but that’s not enough to tip the scales.) I’m not sure any quarterback in the NFL is or has ever been. The only way the Buttfumble catches the Canseco play is if it happens to, well, Jose Canseco. Someone please put together a celebrity football game.

2. The ball hit him on the head


I really don’t have much to add to this one. The ball hit him right on top of the head. It probably would have been less funny if it hit him in the face, because there might have been blood if the ball hit him in the face, and then we get into slightly more dicey territory, comedically. Still funny, sure, but a little bit sad. This way is cleaner. There’s a harmlessness to it, almost like watching a character in a cartoon get thwapped on the head with a skillet. Every time I watch it, I half expect him to take off his hat and reveal a fast-rising red lump that pokes up three inches through his hair.