When a Hockey Game Breaks Out in Baseball

By Bill Hall
Lewiston Tribune, April 21, 1999

	The old joke is that "I was at a fight the other night and a hockey game
	broke out."  There's some truth to that.  But that's between hockey
	teams and their fans and the doctors in the emergency room.

	I never did get into the hockey thing.  I just never had any respect for
	people who waited until they were standing on ice to start a fist
	fight.  Why don't they wait until after the game when they are out in
	the alley and can get some footing?

	But my objection isn't about hockey.  My objection is when I go to a
	baseball game and a hockey game breaks out.  The whole point of baseball
	is to give us a laid-back finesse game and let us relax after a day of
	fighting the battles of the office and factory.
	We expect entertaining subtlety from baseball of all sports.  We expect
	to see a slow-paced game less frantic than our lives, a game of graceful
	double plays and strikeouts achieved by shaving a corner off home plate
	with a nifty sucker pitch masquerading as a fast ball.
	Nonetheless, every once in a while a hockey game breaks out at a
	baseball game, even a boxing match.  Their pitcher hits our batter with
	an inside fast ball.  That means our pitcher has to hit one of their
	batters with an inside fast ball.  And then if their pitcher retaliates,
	that crosses another line and our batter is obliged to run out to the
	mound and try to punch their pitcher.
	Never mind that the first errant pitch was an accident, the work of a
	pitcher who is a little shaky from too much beer the night before.  And
	never mind that our team is pretty darned sure it was an accident.
	Baseball honor demands that you can't take the chance of presuming
	anyone innocent.  It just isn't manly.
	Thus, just in case their pitcher really was trying to bean our batter,
	our team is required by the code of arrested adolescence to hurt one of
	their players.
	And this is the weird part:  Our team doesn't hurt the pitcher, the one
	who hurt our batter, the one who might, in some childish brand of
	justice, deserve being hurt.  No, our pitcher hurts one of their 
	batters -- a batter who never hurt anybody, a batter everyone acknowledges 
	is innocent.
	However, pitchers in the American League don't bat.  They are too dainty
	to bat.  Designated hitters fill in for the pitchers.  So perhaps there
	is a presumption that, having no way at the plate of hurting the pitcher
	who threw the bean ball, it is necessary to hurt one of the batters who
	didn't throw a bean ball.  Thus some poor unfortunate becomes the
	designated hittee.
	There is a better way.  If our team is pretty sure that the other team's
	pitcher deliberately beaned one of our batters, then our team should
	have one of our pitchers come out of the bullpen and bean their pitcher.
	Most of us would prefer it if nobody got deliberately beaned on either
	team.  But if some code of baseball requires beaning and counterbeaning,
	then at least recognize that the American way requires beaning the right
	If a member of your team slugs somebody in a bar after the game, the
	cops arrest the player who did the slugging.  The police don't arrest
	just anybody on the same team when somebody is slugged.  The courts
	won't permit it.
	But the umpires will.  The umpires won't necessarily punish anybody if
	there is a suspected beaning in a game.  The umpires aren't quick to
	throw players out of the game for mere violence against each other.
	However, modern umpires will throw players out of games for speaking
	rudely to umpires.  But there is a reason for that:
	Modern umpires are sissies.  Where once umpires went along with the show
	of a player yelling and hollering and kicking dirt on the umpire's 
	shoes -- so long as the umpire wasn't touched -- you can't do that any 
	more.  Modern umpires have feelings.  They are sensitive.  And if you hurt
	their feelings by saying something unkind about their eyesight or their
	parentage, they throw you out of the game.
	I would agree with that if umpires were as hard on violence directed at
	players as they are on words directed at umpires.  But they aren't.

	Umpires should either go back to realizing that being yelled at by
	overpaid young prima donnas is a colorful and entertaining part of the
	baseball tradition.  Or they should be required to wear ballet slippers
	so we know what we're dealing with.

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