In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: showboating and celebrations These old stories help show just how far baseball has come.
One of the supreme red-asses of the 2000s was Marlins/Red Sox/Dodgers pitcher Josh Beckett, who harbored no tolerance for celebration on his watch. During a spring training game in 2006, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was slow to leave the batter’s box on a fly ball that ended up being caught on the warning track. Beckett shouted at Howard to, in order: run, quit acting like a pussy, and sit his ass back down.
“I wanted to make a point,” Beckett explained later that day. “You look like a jackass whenever you hit the ball like that and you’re pimping it, and you’re out. I’m kind of about respecting the game, and I’m not the type of guy to not say anything.”
Howard said later that he’d simply lost sight of the ball and was trying to figure out where it was. He also said that he opted to ignore his profane antagonist. Which only made Beckett angrier.
The next inning, as Howard played the field, Beckett kept up the verbal assault from the nearby first-base dugout, then moved toward the stairs as if to engage on the field. That was all it took. Howard dropped his glove and approached the rail, arms spread wide in invitation. Beckett tried to oblige but was pulled back by teammates. (For what it’s worth, Beckett—at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, one of the larger men in the big leagues—found one guy he couldn’t be accused of picking on: Howard was 6-foot-4, 250.)
That was only one of the things Beckett didn’t tolerate. He once screamed at Toronto’s Shea Hillenbrand for jogging to first base on what he thought was ball four, before having to return to the box after the umpire called the pitch a strike. He also shouted at Kenny Lofton for flipping his bat following a walk, leading benches to empty.