With the Padres in 1993, Gary Sheffield swung at a 3-0 pitch—and missed—when his team led by eight runs, and when Dodgers reliever Ricky Trlicek hit him with his next pitch it was almost as if Sheffield had been anticipating that very scenario. As soon as the pitch connected, Sheffield, without hesitation, charged Trlicek and tackled him near the mound as benches emptied onto the field.
What Sheffield overlooked in his victimization scenario was that control wasn’t exactly the right-hander’s bag. After the game, Trlicek took great pains—far beyond the scope of a standard pitcher’s denial—to declare the pitch unintentional, and his story was believable. Trlicek had retired only four of the 11 batters he’d faced prior to drilling Sheffield, giving up six earned runs. The five at-bats preceding Sheffield went: hit by pitch, walk, walk, triple, single. Trlicek was missing his spots so badly that it seemed the only way he could have hit Sheffield was unintentionally; had he wanted to, he probably would have missed.
After the scrape, both pitcher and batter were ejected (it was more or less a mercy killing in Trlicek’s case), and afterward Sheffield confessed to being spurred by guilty feelings over his ill-timed swing. “I just reacted,” he said.