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On Aug. 7, following a meeting with National League president Bill White, Piniella issued the following apology: "Major league umpires have a very difficult job, and sometimes managers and players disagree with their calls or decisions. I overreacted in anger and frustration."
A fine may have been called for, but that should have been the end of it. Yet Phillips filed suit in Philadelphia's Common Pleas Court that same day, claiming that "Darling's sterling reputation as well as that of the entire association has been severely damaged by Piniella's remarks."
According to Floyd Abrams, a New York lawyer specializing in First Amendment cases, the lawsuit is frivolous. "The plaintiff is going to have a tough time avoiding being laughed out of court," he said. In another way, however, the lawsuit is dangerous, because it pits the umpires' union against Piniella and could make every close call against the Reds seem like part of a vendetta. The suit also reinforces the prevailing notion that umpires are arrogant and thin-skinned.
Listen to Doug Harvey, the 30-year National League veteran who was the crew chief that night in Cincinnati: "The only integrity left in baseball is in blue. There's not a ball club in all of baseball that wouldn't cheat to win a ball game."
Given the standards set forth by Phillips, even major league team should sue Harvey for defamation of character.
Debbie Doom gives Pan Am opponents perfect fits
Squint a little, and Santiago de Cuba's Micro 4 Stadium, site of the women's Softball competition at the Pan Am Games (page 22), could be Dodger Stadium. There is the same backdrop of high green hills and the same hazy sunshine. But has Dodger Stadium ever seen pitching like this? It is Aug. 6. A sparse but noisy crowd of 1,000 horn-blowing, clapping fans has gathered in the newly built little ballpark, and U.S. pitcher Debbie Doom is on the way to her second straight perfect game.
Three days earlier, in the U.S. opener, the aptly named Doom had retired 21 batters in a row, 17 by strikeout, in a 4-0 victory over the Netherlands Antilles. Now, against Nicaragua, she is striking out batter after batter. Over the speakers, between salsa selections, comes a scratchy tape of M.C. Hammer singing U Can't Touch This. Indeed. The 28-year-old Doom finishes with 18 K's in an 8-0 victory.
"The perfect games were unreal," says U.S. coach Shirley Topley, who also coaches the Majesties, the team Doom plays for when she's home in El Monte, Calif. "Back-to-back and with the heat, the foreign umpires, the pressure."