When a Hockey Game Breaks Out in Baseball
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
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
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
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.