The name Draco probably rings a bell with National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former president of Yale and a man steeped in the classics. Draco was an Athenian lawgiver in the seventh century B.C., and the memory of the severe code of laws he handed down survives to this day in the form of the adjective draconian, meaning harsh or cruel.
On Monday, Giamatti suspended Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose for 30 days, because Rose shoved umpire Dave Pallone late in a Saturday night loss to the New York Mets, thereby, according to Giamatti, inciting a near-riot in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. "The National League will not tolerate the degeneration of baseball games into dangerous displays of public disorder," said Giamatti. "Nor will it countenance any potentially injurious harassment of any kind of the umpires." The punishment, which also includes a substantial fine, is the strongest disciplinary action against a manager since commissioner Happy Chandler suspended Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher for the entire 1947 season because of "incidents...detrimental to baseball."
On Monday night Rose and the Reds announced that they would appeal the decision. Said Rose, "No player or manager has greater respect for umpires than I do, and while I expected to be suspended, I am shocked by the length of the suspension. I also feel I should have been given the right to tell the league president my side of the story."
The Cincinnati players were stunned. "Thirty days!" said lefthanded pitcher Tom Browning. "How did they come up with that? The umpire jabbed him in the face. He [Rose] pushed back. It's not like he robbed a store or something."
Reds third baseman Buddy Bell said, "It would be one thing if Pete was a constant problem. But this is his 28th year in baseball, and they're treating him like a convict."
Mets pitcher Ron Darling sided with his former college president, saying, "You can't have people shoving umpires. The next thing you know, managers will have fistfights with them."
Was Giamatti's decision draconian? Or was it justified? He strongly believed that the very nature of the game was at stake. "This is not going to become international soccer," Giamatti told SI's Peter Gammons. "There is a symbiosis between what goes on down on the field and in the stands. There is a circuit of energy and, by the nature of his job, a manager must be held responsible. I also hold managers to higher standards of behavior."
But Rose was not the only man responsible for the Saturday Night Near-Massacre. In fact, the scenario was one in which—as the old Buffalo Springfield song goes—nobody's right if everybody's wrong. For starters, there is no love lost between the Reds and the Mets. Browning, an old Mets antagonist, gave up a homer to Darryl Strawberry in the sixth to make the score 4-2 in favor of New York. After the next batter fried out, Browning, who had not hit a batter all season, nailed Gary Carter with a pitch. In the seventh, Browning was victimized by Mookie Wilson's two-out triple and one of those balk calls that are all the rage these days. In frustration, Browning hit the next batter, Tim Teufel, with a pitch. Strawberry charged Browning, and a bench-clearing dance ensued. When order was restored, Browning and Strawberry were thrown out of the game.
In the top of the ninth inning, the score was tied 5-5, with two out and New York's Howard Johnson on second base. Wilson, batting against lefty John Franco, grounded to shortstop Barry Larkin, whose throw to first baseman Nick Esasky apparently pulled Esasky off the bag. But Pallone, the first base ump, didn't make the call right away, and Mets first base coach Bill Robinson ran into fair territory,. pointing to the bag to focus Pallone's attention on the position of Esasky's feet. Pallone signaled Wilson safe, and Esasky turned to argue, while Johnson scored.
Rose bolted out of the dugout to protest. He argued that Pallone's call had been delayed and that Robinson had interfered. Pallone mimicked Rose's gestures in rebuttal—and, perhaps inadvertently, swiped Rose on the cheek near his left eye. Rose reacted first by shoving Pallone and then by giving him a forearm shiver. Pallone ejected Rose.