CINCINNATI — At first sight, the Cincinnati Reds' clubhouse appears to be a quiet, peaceful place. There's a large waiting room outside, spacious quarters inside, allowing everyone to move about freely.
Then, on closer inspection, a visitor sees three bizarre lockers. Their occupants arrive, and suddenly, it becomes obvious that this is not a typical baseball clubhouse at all.
In one locker, there are State Patrol hats, complete with authentic badges, one for every city in the National League except Montreal. This locker belongs to the man they call "the Officer," Rob Dibble.
Next door, football shoulder pads sit atop the locker. Inside, there's a laser gun, a camouflage hunting bow and a picture of a sports car with the caption, "Life Begins at 150." There are also alumni letters from Rice. The resident is "the Genius," Norm Charlton.
And across the way is a locker that seems better suited for a war zone. There are hand grenades, knives, daggers, ammunition boxes and Soldier of Fortune magazines. This gentleman's nickname is "Mr. Mellow," Randy Myers.
Their common bond: Each has a black cross in his locker, bearing the inscription, "Bad to the Bone."
The Reds' officials maintain that this trio certainly does not reflect the temperament of the rest of the team. Their teammates will tell you that they are certifiably crazy, with Dibble even having the paperwork from the National League office to prove it. But they indeed are the soul of the Reds' bid for the National League West title.
"Don't get me wrong, they're good guys, and everything," right fielder Paul O'Neill said. "But whenever they have a bad game, they're capable of blowing up half of Cincinnati."
Grab your weapons and say hello to the three-man battalion, the self-described "Nasty Boys."
The Nasty Boys have become the biggest craze in Cincinnati since a local inmate named Pete Rose set the all-time hit record. Walk into the official Cincinnati Red gift shop and you'll find on sale everything from used bats, baseballs, authentic stadium seats, Schottzie dolls and baby bibs to whatever you might possibly want with the Reds' logo imprinted.
But, as store manager Roberta Moore can tell you, there's nothing more valuable in this shop than the genuine Nasty Boys T-shirt, which is impossible to keep in stock. It features caricatures of Dibble, Myers and Charlton with smirks on their faces.
Those are the same expressions hitters see when they step to the plate and face any of the three relief pitchers, each of whom throws at about 95 m.p.h., with Dibble having been clocked at 100. And they laugh when recalling some of the looks on hitters' faces, who appear to be wondering if it might be safer dodging bullets than their pitches.
"You know the thing I enjoy the most is that hitters usually know what we're going to throw, and they still can't touch it," Dibble said. "Nothing's better than gripping the ball in my glove, actually showing them what I'm going to throw, and just letting loose, like, 'Hey, it's me and you, let's see who's better.'
"You should see Norm out there. I've seen him actually yell at guys, 'The fastball's coming. The fastball's coming. Try to hit it. Here it is, here it is.'
"Then they swing and miss so hard, me and Randy are falling off the bench laughing."
It would be nice to say the Nasty Boys' reputation is built solely on their pitching. Shoot, nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned fastball, just like the one Nolan Ryan has used the last 23 years to rack up 300 victories. The folks in New York like making major league baseball promotions out of that kind of stuff.
But the legendary tales of the Nasty Boys really do not have as much to do with pitching as with their wild personalities and emotional outbursts. Throwing at hitters, firing bats at backstops, driving motorcycles in clubhouses, breaking up clubhouses . . . well, that's not quite the image baseball wants to portray.
"When you watch the three of us, it looks like we're the last three guys you'd want to have for a Little League demonstration," Charlton said. "Let's face it, the perception we've got is that we're arrogant asses.
"I think people think we're making $5 million a year, live in mansions, and tell the guards to shoot kids who come to our door asking for autographs."
Said Dibble: "Yeah, I know with me, people see what I do on the field, and they think I go home after losses and trash my car, or at least break the windshield. Well, I've done that once, but nobody knows about it."
Said Myers: "I don't know what people think of me. All I know is that the guys in here think I'm crazy. Come on, after watching Rob and Norm, how can you say I'm the crazy one?"
The Reds knew all about Myers, a.k.a. "Psycho," long before he joined them in December in a trade for another bullpen stopper, John Franco. Myers is the guy who shot up the New York Mets' clubhouse with a BB gun one night. He was so hated while with the Mets, Charlton said, that they tried to ignore him at spring training.