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: intimidation.
As he was leaving the ballpark after a game in which he hit a home run against St. Louis’ Sam Jones in 1957, Chuck Tanner found himself flagged down by the pitcher. “Hey Chuck,” Jones said. “The next time I see you, you’re going to have to take one out of your ear.” It was either misguided banter or a clear attempt at intimidation against a guy who’d just helped beat him. Either way, it didn’t sit well with Tanner.
“I was having a conversation with somebody, and I said, ‘Just a second, I need to say something to this guy,’ ” said Tanner, who as a manager led the Pittsburgh Pirates to a championship in 1979. “I took about five steps toward him and said, ‘Hey Sam, I just want to tell you something ahead of time. If I go down, fine. But if I can get up, you’re going in the hospital for three months. Remember that.’ ”
Tanner didn’t make a habit of digging in against pitchers, but the next time the two squared off, about two weeks later, he did just that, and hit a shot that was caught by left fielder Del Ennis. “He just looked at me,” said Tanner. “He never threw at me. If I hadn’t said anything when he said it to me, who knows what would have happened. . . . I have to say something back. The hell with you, you know.”