Max Patkin, 79, the "Clown Prince of Baseball" whose funny faces, pratfalls and one-liners entertained fans for more than 50 years, died of a heart aneurysm Oct. 30 at a hospital in Paoli, Pa.
For five decades, he was an integral part of the minor leagues as a slapstick-style entertainer who would do nearly anything for a laugh from fans and players. He mugged his way through more than 4,000 minor league games, becoming so well known that he played himself in "Bull Durham," a 1988 movie staring Kevin Costner as an aging minor league player.
Mr. Patkin started as a minor league pitcher, with the Wisconsin Rapids, before World War II. He started clowning around in lopsided games while in the service and later was hired as a comic coach to boost attendance for the Cleveland Indians.
When the Indians began to win and did not need Mr. Patkin to draw crowds, he got started with other minor league ballclubs. Though Mr. Patkin always wanted to return to pitching, he was persuaded to continue with his rubber-faced slapstick, which has been a baseball tradition since.
"My whole life was built around baseball," he said. "I'd sit at dinner with my baseball hat on. I never took it off until I went to bed. Then I'd put it under my pillow with my glove."
Dressed in a baggy uniform with a question mark on the back, Mr. Patkin would contort his face into rubbery shapes, flash signs, mimic the first baseman and even "coach" for the home team. Then he would rush off to the next town, making every appearance a ritual.
"I gave my whole heart, my whole body and soul to baseball," he said. "I loved being Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball."
Mr. Patkin retired in 1996.
In March, he made headlines when he was robbed on camera while filming a television special in downtown Philadelphia. Mr. Patkin helped ensure a lenient sentence by asking the judge to go easy on the robber, who took $35 from his hand and ran off.
Many fans remember Mr. Patkin handing out baseball cards of himself. Physicians said he was handing out his cards from his hospital bed the night before he died.