Sports had helped America to heal and move forward with heavy, trudging steps thirteen years ago. Our collective innocence lost in the events of unfathomable terror, many of us needed to lose ourselves in baseball and football, in the enjoyment of competition and healthy rivalry.
Professional sports may not be the as powerful an emotional balm and bandage these days, but there’s nothing wrong with getting lost in watching men play a kid’s game. It was anything but child’s play Thursday though, as a day known for them brought us the sobering image of Giancarlo Stanton lying prone at the plate after taking a pitch to the face.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers lit a few when he came up an in on an 0-1 count. Stanton appeared to offer before realization struck him a fraction of an instant before the pitch did. Stanton was removed on a stretcher and many players were noticeably shaken by the mishap. Making matters worse was the fact that the umpire ruled that Stanton had indeed swung, thus negating the HBP.
When the game resumed, former Cub Reed Johnson took Stanton’s place at the plate with an 0-2 count and was promptly hit by another high and tight Fiers offering. But, wonder of wonders, Johnson was struck on the hand…while swinging the bat to protect himself.
As you can imagine, this was like plucking the exposed nerve that was the Marlins bench. Former Cub and Brewer Casey McGehee let the charge and the benches cleared as Fiers appeared to be going off apart from the kerfuffle. Or was it a donnybrook? I think the latter would imply more of a fight, so I’ll stick with the former.
McGehee and Marlins manager Mike Redmond were both tossed for their histrionics and then once things had calmed down, the umpire officially ruled that Johnson had indeed swung at the pitch and had struck out. That’s a pretty easy explanation; while certainly not convenient for the Marlins, the ump was following the rules.
You have to wonder though why Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke had even left Fiers in the game after the Stanton incident. Perhaps it was the pitcher’s anger at being left out there that led to his having to be restrained. Or perhaps he just really doesn’t like Casey McGehee and wanted a chance for a trifecta. The world may never know.
I’d be lying if I said that my thoughts immediately turned to Tommy Cook’s recent post about what a potential trade for Stanton might look like. The most recent updates report that the slugger suffered multiple facial fractures, along with dental damage and a cut that required stitches. And while the physical injuries will eventually heal, there’s no telling whether psychological bruising will persist, both for Stanton and potential suitors.
But my next thoughts amid all these beanings and angry outbursts were of the days when Andre Dawson was playing for the Cubs. Normally a soft-spoken, easy-going guy, Hawk had a volcanic temper that could erupt when he felt he had been done wrong.
Such was the case on July 8, 1987 with the Cubs facing the San Diego Padres. Eric Show, perhaps best know for surrendering Pete Rose’s record-setting hit, was on the bump that afternoon Wrigley. Dawson had homered in his first at-bat, his third longball in five AB’s in the series.
In a scene very similar to that of Wednesday night in Milwaukee, Show came up and in and Dawson took 108 stitches to the face, leaving him with 24 stitches inside and outside his mouth. As he lay in the dirt, Rick Sutcliffe charged the field and hit Show, bringing more players into the fracas.
Then, enlivened by the struggle taking place around him, the dazed Hawk flew from the ground with murder in his eyes and, hunting for Show. The blood dripping from his mouth made it appear that he had succeeded, but, blinded by rage, he swung wildly at nearly everything moving and never reached the object of his anger. Dawson and Sutcliffed were tossed and Show left the game over concerns for his safety.
A young Greg Maddux went on to plunk Padre catcher Benito Santiago, earning an ejection for himself and Cubs Manager Gene Michael. Upon learning of the ejections, Manny Trillo took to the field to chuck sunglasses at the third base umpire, earning himself an early trip to the showers.
Cubs pitcher Scott Sanderson would later throw behind Tony Gwynn four times and Chris Brown twice; both Sanderson and interim manager Johnny Oates were tossed for those incidents. As you might imagine, the Padres players in the bullpen received the Wrigley version of tar and feathers, as they were unceremoniously covered in beer and peanuts.
I guess San Diego isn’t the only city that keeps it classy, huh.
Now I wrote earlier that I had concerns for Stanton in the long run, and I meant it; if a hitter can’t step into the box with absolute confidence, his edge is gone. It’d be a shame to witness the diminution of one of this generation’s great power hitters over something like this. But if we again look to Andre Dawson’s situation as an example, things should turn out okay. After all, 1987 was the Hawk’s first in Chicago and was his 49-homer, 137-RBI MVP campaign.
Giancarlo Stanton had been on pace for an MVP season of his own, though it’s almost certain he won’t have the opportunity to close it out. And though the odds of him playing in a Cubs uniform anytime soon are long, I’m rooting for the young man to bounce back from this incident just as Dawson did–well, except for the part about attacking the pitcher–because a player like Stanton only comes around once in a great while, and we need to appreciate him while we can.
If video of all the Cubs/Padres shenanigans exists, I can’t find it. But you can see the beaning below by skipping to the 1:45 mark…
And just because I’m feeling generous, here’s another example of Dawson’s awesomely explosive anger (not to mention Dan Roan’s awesome fashion sense) on display…