- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
STOP THE MUSIC
The brushback pitch is a time-honored and legitimate weapon in baseball, but trying to hit a batter or pitching close to his head has no place in the game. This truth apparently hasn't been imparted to Chicago Cub Pitcher Dickie Noles. You may remember Noles as the fellow who, as a Phillies reliever, knocked down George Brett on an 0 and 2 count in the fourth game of the 1980 World Series with what is blithely called "chin music." Last week Noles was playing that old song again. In the fourth inning of a 6-2 Cub loss to the Reds, he gave up a solo homer to Paul Householder for the game's first run. The next batter was Clint Hurdle, and Noles got two strikes on him. The next pitch hit Hurdle on the helmet, just above the right eye. For a moment Hurdle lay motionless on the ground. Fortunately, he was only stunned and was able to walk off the field, although not before both dugouts emptied and angry words were exchanged.
Noles denies he deliberately threw at Hurdle's head, just as he denied doing so when he knocked down Brett and when he beaned the Mets' Bob Bailor last season, giving Bailor a mild concussion. "It doesn't make sense that I'd be throwing at Hurdle on an oh-two count," he said. "That pitch just took off and sailed. You're not going to be throwing at a guy's head."
In support of Noles's disavowal of malevolent intent, it might be pointed out that he has only so-so control; he walked four batters in the 5? innings he worked against the Reds, giving him 107 walks in 235 innings during his three-year career. But it should also be noted that in the same short span Noles has earned a nasty reputation. In 1980 he tossed a bat and helmet at Umpire Joe West and was fined $500 and suspended for three days by National League President Chub Feeney. Last spring he spit tobacco juice—accidentally, he said—on a reporter. In September 1981 he and Phillies General Manager Paul Owens got into a spat in a Chicago hotel that resulted in Owens' arrest for disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped, and Noles, who wasn't arrested, describes the altercation as "a mild argument." Noles also got into a fight last season with a Des Moines, Iowa restaurateur. Noles was found guilty of assault and was fined $25 plus court costs; he's now being sued by the other man.
Noles also has a feud going with his nemesis of last week, Householder. In April 1981, when both were playing in the American Association, Householder and Noles exchanged angry words during a game, then scuffled during pregame warmups the next day. When they faced each other later in the season, Noles hit Householder in the ribs with a pitch and subsequently was ejected by the plate umpire for throwing a curve behind one of Householder's teammates. Householder says that during the fight between the two, Noles jumped him from behind. Although Noles denies that, he told reporters who brought up Householder's name last week, "Bleep him. I decked him before and I'll deck him again if he comes after me."
In determining whether a pitcher might be throwing at batters, one has to judge intent, which isn't always easy to do. But given Noles's history and the circumstances under which he beaned Hurdle, Umpire Dick Stello should have unhesitatingly thumbed him from the game. Further, before someone is seriously hurt, Feeney should take strong measures to put an end to Noles's chin music once and for all.
DON'T RAIN ON THIS PARADE
When boating enthusiasts in Tucson get a hankering for action, they usually hitch their boats to trailers and undertake an eight-hour drive northwest through the Arizona desert to Lake Mead or a four-hour trip down to the Gulf of California. Making waves on the Rillito River, which passes through their city, is ordinarily out of the question. Note that we said that the Rillito "passes" not "flows." The Rillito can turn into a trickle after a heavy rain or into something resembling a navigable body of water following flash floods, but its wide, sandy-bottomed bed is dry the rest of the time.
This lack of water hasn't prevented a Tucson radio station, KCEE, from sponsoring the first annual Rillito River Regatta, on May 30. As KCEE envisions it, dune buggies and other desert vehicles will be decorated to look like boats and will be driven in a motorcade down the dry riverbed. Food will be sold, and there will be exhibits on flood control and water conservation. Proceeds from entry fees and program advertising will be earmarked for the Pima County Search and Rescue Council, which answers emergency calls in local mountains. Though the county board of supervisors has given its approval to the event, County Transportation Director Charles Huckelberry, whose surname evokes a certain riparian association, warns of one possible hitch. Owing to the potential danger to participants, the regatta will be canceled if there's any chance of water being in the river that day.