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McClelland no stranger to corked bats

Posted: Wednesday June 04, 2003 12:49 AM

  Home plate umpire Tim McClelland McClelland collects the evidence. AP

CHICAGO (AP) -- When crew chief Tim McClelland saw the piece of cork inside Sammy Sosa's bat, one thought ran through his mind.

He's seen this before.

Not only was McClelland on the crew when Albert Belle was found to have a corked bat, he was the umpire who took away a home run from Kansas City's George Brett in 1983 because of excessive pine tar. That decision later reversed by AL president Lee MacPhail.

"I thought about that when I picked the bat up," McClelland said. "Strange bats follow me around, I guess."

Sosa's bat shattered when he hit a grounder to second in the first inning of the Chicago Cubs game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Devil Rays catcher Toby Hall picked up the bat and tossed it at McClelland's feet, telling him to look at it.

McClelland turned the bat handle over, and saw a half-dollar size piece of cork about halfway down the barrel. There was no doubt in his mind it was cork.

"I called the crew together, and it was reminiscent of what happened about 20 years ago with me," he said, referring to the Brett game. "I wanted to make sure the crew knew it was cork, we all knew it was cork and what the ruling would be. We all agreed that it was cork."

And that Sosa had to be ejected.

"Absolutely, all great things Sammy has done for game of baseball ran through my mind," he said. "I said it to crew the ramifications of what is going to happen with this. I didn't want to do it. The evidence was right there and you go to go by rules. We had to do what we had to do."

McClelland gave the part of the bat he saw to security, who took it to the umpires locker room so it could be handed over to major league baseball officials. But a Cubs batboy took the other part, and McClelland said he doesn't know what happened to it.

He also said that, based on where the cork was, he thinks it was injected, not stuffed in a cavity that had been drilled out.

"It had to be injected," he said. "I'm not a scientist, so I'd guess it was injected and solidified."

McClelland planned to call in a report of the incident to his supervisor Tuesday night and then send a written report Wednesday morning. After that, all decisions will be up to the commissioner's office.

 
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