BASEBALL AND BEANBALL
Last week's beanball incident in St. Louis involving the Mets and the Cards is further evidence of the necessity for far sterner action to stem the tide of violence in sport.
This episode is particularly offensive because, ironically, Card Pitcher Lynn McGlothen did what pitchers rarely do: he admitted throwing at two Met batters, Outfielder Del Unser and Pitcher Jon Matlack, both of whom he hit.
While his honesty is perhaps appealing, his words are chilling because there is every reason to think other pitchers are doing the same thing—and have for years. McGlothen was suspended for five days and fined $300, stiff by baseball standards, a joke by any other.
The normally mild-mannered McGlothen was miffed because Unser had been hitting him—nine hits in 17 at bats last season and a first-inning homer in this game. Said McGlothen, "I just can't let a hitter like Unser keep banging on me. If a pitcher feels he has been intimidated by a hitter, he has the right to throw at him." No, he doesn't. It is clearly within baseball tradition for a pitcher to brush back a hitter who has been teeing off on him, but to intentionally hit a batter is a right not granted by God, Bowie Kuhn or Abner Doubleday. It's a dangerous and unpardonable tactic.
In two innings, McGlothen hit Unser on the elbow ( Umpire Bruce Froemming thought that was an accident) before throwing one behind Matlack's head (Froemming warned McGlothen), then hitting him. This generated the obligatory bench-emptying tussle. Froemming blamed the rules for not allowing him to discipline McGlothen sooner. They require the umpire to issue a warning before he can eject a pitcher, the effect being that one warning does not serve notice on all pitchers in the game, an absurd restriction that encourages retaliation. A new rule should be enacted that permits an umpire to give one warning that covers all pitchers for both teams for the remainder of the game. Then, any pitcher deemed guilty of throwing at a batter could be ejected forthwith.
Predictably, McGlothen sees little wrong with what he did. "I expected the fine, but I didn't expect to be suspended," he said. "I think I'm the fall guy." Matlack didn't cover himself with glory, either, admitting that in an attempt to retaliate for Unser's being hit he threw at McGlothen. "I wish I'd hit him," Matlack said. It was at this point that, under the rules, Froemming gave his first warning of the night to Matlack. Had that warning also applied to McGlothen, it is unlikely Matlack would have been hit or that the fight would have occurred.
There could even be more at stake here than player safety. It's not unthinkable that the day will come when 50,000 people in a baseball stadium will erupt in violence, triggered by this kind of idiocy. The thought of such a riot should be enough in itself to stir top-level baseball people into action.
"What we've got out here," says Tom Liegler, manager of Anaheim Stadium, home of the California Angels, is "grass in the grass." In the lush three-acre outfield, there used to be a mixture of four varieties of grass—Merion blue, Newport blue, Bermuda and Prato. Now there are five, what with the introduction of marijuana.