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.
In 1996, Rex Hudler was in spring training with the Angels, playing left field against the Giants. His friend, San Francisco outfielder Steve Scarsone, got hit twice in the game, neither time intentionally, but it was enough to get Hudler, hardly the wallflower, to egg on his pal on from his position in the outfield. “Go get him!” he yelled toward the plate after the second plunking, good-naturedly trying to brew up trouble.
“I’m just out there having fun, instigating,” said Hudler. “All of a sudden I hear from the bullpen, ‘Shut the fuck up!’ ” It was Jeff Juden, a 6-foot-7, 250 lb. Giants reliver.
Despite Hudler’s part-time status and the fact he weighed nearly 100 pounds less than Juden, he was not one to be intimidated. “I yelled, ‘Who the hell are you? Mind your own business, you big pussy!’ ” said Hudler. “I called him a pussy. I said, ‘Who do you think you are?’ ” Hudler thought about going to the San Francisco bullpen for a more personal conversation, but reconsidered upon realizing that he would be the lone Angel among a passel of Giants. Hudler was an instigator, but he wasn’t stupid.
The inning ended and the next began. When Hudler returned to his position, he saw Juden warming up, preparing ready to enter the game. “I yelled at him, ‘Hey, you big pussy, you’re gonna get your chance now!’ ” said Hudler. “I’m leading off the next inning!”
When Hudler returned to the Angels dugout after the Giants were retired, he rallied his troops. “Boys, get ready to go,” Hudler told the Angels bench. “I’m gonna kick that big pussy’s ass right now!”
In the outfielder’s eagerness for confrontation, he practically ran from the dugout to the plate, getting there so quickly that he was almost hit by Giants catcher Kurt Manwaring’s throw down to second base. Hudler informed Manwaring that he would be going after Juden, and warned him against any attempts to restrain him.
Then something unexpected happened. Juden’s first pitch was a ball, away, as was his second offering. The pitcher, in fact, never threw at Hudler at all, and eventually struck him out on a full count. As Hudler walked back to the dugout, Juden let loose with a lively stream of chatter, but that didn’t bother Hudler. What confused him was that in his mind, Juden had been obligated to hit him. It’s what the pitcher needed to do to protect his credibility. The way Hudler saw it, after their exchange in the outfield, Juden had the perfect opportunity to respond, and striking him out wasn’t it.
“I totally lost respect for that guy,” said Hudler. “I called him out and I wanted him to drill me. You lose respect when a job is not done.”
Later that year, Hudler was a guest on Jim Rome’s nationally syndicated radio show. Rome already knew about the confrontation with Juden—the entire Giants’ bullpen had witnessed Hudler call Juden out, and the story made its way through baseball circles and eventually to Rome—and asked Hudler about it on the air. Just as Hudler had a hard time keeping his mouth shut in the Angels’ outfield that day in Arizona, he had a hard time keeping it shut on the radio, and let the details fly. One of the people who heard it was Jeff Juden.
The following March, Hudler was winding down his career with Philadelphia, and Juden was in his first spring training camp with Montreal. Their teams met in West Palm Beach, and before the game Hudler was lounging in the bleachers with teammate Ricky Bottalico. Juden approached from the opposite dugout.
“He said, ‘Hey, I heard what you said about me on the Rome show. That was bullshit. I’m gonna drill you,’ ” Hudler recalled. “I said, ‘Dude, he asked me about the story and I told him. I got no respect for you—you didn’t drill me when I called you out. … Forget that, we’ll go right now. You want to go now? Come on!’ And Ricky’s looking at me like, ‘Hud?’ He had no idea what was going on.”
Once again Juden demurred, saying that he would be the one to pick the spot for his revenge. Still, the showdown never happened—Juden went on the disabled list and Hudler barely saw the field with Philadelphia. So later that season, when Hudler ran into Juden (who was by then with the Brewers) in the Veterans Stadiuim weight room before a game, he approached him full of bluster (and only partly serious), saying, “Hey, dude, let’s throw down now! It’s a perfect time for it!”
Juden, according to Hudler, again declined the confrontation.
Said Hudler: “I couldn’t figure him out.”
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, then 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.”