Nats have 'Animal' visit clubhouse

Nats have 'Animal' visit clubhouse

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals acted as if they were at Wrestlemania late Monday morning. They couldn't believe their eyes when they saw wrestling great George "The Animal" Steele in their locker room.

It didn't matter that Steele wasn't wearing his black singlet, eating a turnbuckle, didn't have a green tongue or his hair sticking out of his back. To the players, he is a wrestling giant, who was wearing street clothes and speaking perfect English. The Animal could barely speak two words during his heyday.

First baseman Dmitri Young wanted to know Steele's life story. Young found out that Steele used Chloraseptic for his green tongue.

"To meet George 'The Animal' Steele, it's like, 'Wow,' he is in great shape," said Young, who admitted to being a die-hard wrestling fan.

Paul Lo Duca walked in the locker room and talked to Steele about eating the turnbuckles. Like a shy kid, first baseman Nick Johnson walked near Steele, who already knows what kind of player Johnson is.

"You're a first baseman," Steele said. "You're a pretty good hitter."

Steele was at Space Coast Stadium as a guest of Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro. It was Loverro who introduced Steele to all the players and manager Manny Acta. Steele grew up a Tigers fan and wanted to see his team play against the Nationals.

Steele, 70, was born Jim Myers in Detroit. According to his Web site, Steele graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree. He also has a Masters degree from Central Michigan University. He became a wrestler in the 1960s because he couldn't make ends meet as a physical education teacher in Madison High School in Madison Heights, Mich.

A legend was born. Steele became a fan favorite with the World Wide Wrestling Federation. His rivals included Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.

"Bruno was tough," Steele said. "Those were the old days. Matches lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. It was a totally different business than what it was with Backlund. [He] was a great wrestler. I had a great run with him."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.