Between the name-calling and the occasional hit batter and the Beast Mode, this Brewers-Cardinals NLCS has not been short on tempestuous fun.
Wednesday, however, things took a bit of a different turn. Whether it’s a bizarre form of institutional retaliation or simply shoddy planning, St. Louis’s decision to forgo the standard seating section for the families of Brewers players and staff—opting instead to spread them out around the ballpark—has been met with considerable anger.
“It’s bush,” said Nyjer Morgan in an ESPN.com report. “Our families, they’ve got to be secured. It’s kind of garbage. We put their [families] in a secure section and then they want to spread ours out. I don’t know why they play the mental games, but that right there, they shouldn’t play the games right there because that’s our family and our family has got to be secure. But that’s just them, that’s how they operate right there I guess.”
Leading to the theory that the decision was directly influenced by the team’s dislike for the Brewers is the fact that St. Louis reserved precisely such a section for its opponent in the NLDS, the Phillies. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak denied that gamesmanship was behind the decision, but at the very least, the club has some precedent on which to build.
During the 1987 NLCS against San Francisco, Giants players were dismayed to find out that their families had been relegated to the far reaches of the ballpark. The incident was referenced briefly in The Baseball Codes; here’s a more robust version of the story:
Giants slugger Jeffrey Leonard introduced the phrase “one flap down” into the American lexicon during the playoffs in 1987. That was the name of the peculiar home-run trot he had devised (but rarely used) the previous season, during which he let his left arm dangle limply at his side while dipping his inside shoulder into the turn at each base. The slugger decided to resurrect the practice after he and teammates noticed that the Cardinals organization placed Giants family members and friends in nosebleed seats for the first playoff game in St. Louis.
“We peeked out of the [Busch Stadium] dugout and saw where they were sitting, and we all got angry,” he said. “So I said to myself, if I hit a home run I’m just going to clown this fool out there.”
Leonard had plenty of opportunities to clown plenty of fools in the coming days, as he hit four homers over the seven-game series—a performance so dominating that he was named series MVP, even though his team lost. For each of those homers, his arm hung low to his side, which infuriated the Cardinals and their fans. (As did the fact that Leonard’s teammate Chili Davis called St. Louis a “cow town” to the press, a comment that got considerable run near the Gateway Arch.)
Leonard had come upon his trot by accident during a 1986 game, after he hit a home run against Chicago’s Scott Sanderson. First base coach Jose Morales, who usually met passing runners with an arm raised for a high-five, this time had his hands at his sides. It wasn’t until Leonard was atop the bag, ready to turn toward second, that Morales’ arm shot into the air in a belated attempt at congratulation. Leonard’s instinctive response was to duck under it, dropping his left shoulder in the process and letting his arm dangle as he rounded the base. Then, for reasons he can’t much explain, he held the pose as he continued the circuit.
The Brewers have plenty of ready-built responses of their own to call upon, starting with various permutations of Beast Mode and ending with Morgan’s T-Plush signs.
They should be wary, however: Leonard was drilled for his actions by Bob Forsch in Game 3 back in ’87; a similar response from Tony La Russa’s Cardinals would hardly be unusual.
Update (10-18): Apparently that wasn’t all of it. Now that the NLCS is complete, we hear that Zack Greinke‘s wife, Emily, was none too pleased with her seats, tweeting during a game in St. Louis that she’d been relegated to a spot down the left-field line. The tweet has since been deleted, but Larry Brown Sports saved the accompanying picture, allegedly shot on location.