Chan Ho Park, Rookie Hazing, Unwritten-Rules

Park Sues Former Teammate; if Only He’d Considered the Tactic Sooner

Normally, big leaguers handle their grievances with each other on the field of play, not the courtroom. That didn’t stop Chan Ho Park, who filed suit against former teammate Chad Kreuter for allegedly failing to repay the full balance of a $460,000 loan.

This is what the unwritten rules are for. Were Kreuter still active (he’s been out of the majors since 2003, and now coaches at USC), Park — who played last year with the Phillies — could have drilled him in the ribs and then sued him.

It’s not the first time Park has had problems with teammates. In 1996, his rookie year with Los Angeles, assorted Dodgers stole his clothes from his locker in advance of a road trip — a typical tradition when it comes to rookies. The idea is to get the youngsters to traverse airports and buses in garish getups or women’s clothing to demonstrate exactly where on the clubhouse pecking order they reside.

It wasn’t the clothes to which Park necessarily objected, but the treatment of his purloined outfit. Park’s suit was summarily shredded, its sleeves and pants legs removed. (And this after he served as the winning pitcher in a 13-inning victory over the Cubs, and drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded walk, to boot.)

Thing was, the suit had been given to him by his mother in Korea as a token of good luck. When he saw how it had been treated, Park pretty much lost his mind.

He threw a plate of food. He threw his chair. He screamed. He cursed. Then he collapsed in a heap of tears. None of this endeared him to his teammates.

The pitcher only made things worse when he got to the airport (still wearing his baseball pants), when he insisted that the airline fetch his luggage so he could put on another suit. Dodgers players went so far as to jump on the plane’s PA to announce that changing clothes onboard was against airline regulations. Park hardly cared.

If there’s a mitigating factor, it’s that the pitcher was new to the country and had little grasp of American baseball customs. (He also clearly had little grasp of American legal customs. Were he better versed, he might have filed a lawsuit for that incident, as well.) After speaking to his agent and others, he returned to the clubhouse contrite, and did his best to put the incident behind him.

“The guys who make a big fuss about it, who get mad at it, they’re usually the ones who don’t last too long,” said Doug Mientkiewicz (who himself was forced into female clothing by his Twins teammates as a rookie in 1998), about the tradition in general and not about Park in particular.

Park didn’t live down to that observation, however, spending six seasons with the Dodgers (plus another in ’08).

His ability as a banker, of course, appear to be less finely honed.

– Jason