Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

'The Hell With You, You Know"

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.”

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

The Story Of Buddy Bell's Line Drive Up The Middle

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.

Indians pitcher Larry Anderson: “In spring training with Cleveland in 1975, Buddy Bell was our third baseman. Gaylord Perry is throwing our batting practice. Buddy always took his batting practice rounds in order: first time hit to right, second time pull, third time, up the middle.

“The third time, he hits the first a line drive right off the screen. Gaylord yells, ‘Don’t be hitting that back at me, even with the screen.’ Buddy says, ‘That’s what I’m doing this round, hitting it up the middle.’ Next one, one-hopper off the screen. Gaylord doesn’t say a word. They’re teammates.

“The next pitch Gaylord throws right at Buddy’s head, with a little something on it. Buddy goes down, gets his helmet, gets back up in the box. You think it’s the end of it. Gaylord now throws another pitch, and Buddy throws his bat at the screen. He doesn’t even try to hit the ball—he throws the bat at him.

“Gaylord comes from behind the screen, Buddy steps out from the plate, and all the players are there to grab one or the other of them to stop it. Nothing came of it, but those are the kinds of things where you just do what you have to do to say, ‘You’re going to respect me, and respect what I do.’ ”

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

The Immortal Story Of Stan Williams And The List

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.

What Stan Williams might be best known for, at least among those in the game, is The List. And it’s only in talking about The List that it becomes clear that Cliff Johnson was wrong—Williams wasn’t crazy, he was clever. In the pitcher’s own words, it was “tongue-in-cheek intimidation.”

The List was compiled in a small notebook that Williams carried with him everywhere. He kept it in a pocket when dressed in civilian clothes, and under his cap when in uniform. Inside the notebook was written the name of anyone who had ever offended Williams’ baseball sensibilities during the course of a game, either through action or ability. Guys who hit him hard were noted next to those who showed him up. And accompanying those names were stars, added if a player committed a second or third transgression. Once a player’s name was adorned with three stars, he effectively became a dental patient—due for a drilling.

To get the word out Williams utilized his good friend, Dodgers first baseman Ron Fairly, who would be enshrined in Cooperstown if the criteria for entry was based on one’s ability to start conversations with opposing baserunners.

“When the guy got to first base, (Fairly) would just say something to him like, ‘Watch out, you’re on The List,’ ” said Williams. “And then I’d have an edge.”

There are countless List-inspired stories, but the most interesting of them concerns the last man on it before Williams retired in 1973. His name was Barry Latman, whose name had been added to the notebook a dozen years earlier, 1961, when Williams was 24 years old and in his fourth year with the Dodgers.

During that season, Los Angeles played a spring exhibition game in Las Vegas against the Cleveland Indians. Williams was the Dodgers’ starting pitcher, but because it was an exhibition game, and because it was Las Vegas, and because he had stayed up until dawn, and because the first pitch was scheduled before noon, he wasn’t necessarily as sharp as he would have been had the contest counted. This is where his reputation proved counter-productive.

In the early innings of the game, Williams bounced a pitch off the helmet of Cleveland’s Bubba Phillips, which might have pleased the pitcher greatly had that been his objective. As it was, not only wasn’t the pitch intentional, but Williams was throwing so softly, he said, that “I wouldn’t have hurt him if I’d hit him in the neck.”

Nonetheless, teammates are expected to protect each other. As such, the next time Williams stepped to the plate he was drilled in the ribs. The pitcher’s name: Barry Latman.

“Stan never moved,” said Fairly. “He didn’t even try to get out of the way of it. Didn’t flinch. The ball hit him and he stood there for about three or four seconds.” The umpire finally ordered Williams to first base, but before he got there he stopped, turned to the mound and put to words the concept that kept opposing pitchers from plunking him more often: “Hey Barry, now it’s my turn.”

But this was spring training. Dodgers manager Walter Alston, wanting to avoid needless escalation, promptly pulled Williams from the game. “Stan was going to hit every batter that came up there,” said Fairly. “And knowing Stan, he’d have the entire ballclub charge the mound, but he’d say, ‘I’m still going to get one or two of you.’ You don’t fool around with a guy like that.”

Denied immediate revenge, Williams instead inscribed Latman’s name to The List. The only problem was that Latman played in the American League, Williams in the National, and the pair’s paths didn’t cross again for nearly a decade. In the interim, as Williams inched closer to retirement, he realized that his habit of continually adding opponents’ names to his notebook wasn’t really doing anybody any good. He decided to wrap it up, and the only way to do that was to stop adding opponents’ names. Thus, The List stayed static while Williams methodically cleared out everybody on it, one retaliatory strike at a time—until Latman’s was the only name left.

As Williams wound down his career with the minor-league Seattle Angels, he found himself sharing a locker room with another guy similarly playing out his own string—Barry Latman. When Williams realized who he’d be teaming with he laughed out loud. The two talked, sharing war stories as the old men in a clubhouse full of kids, and quickly developed a tight bond.

One day, Williams was assigned to pitch batting practice, and didn’t offer a moment of hesitation when his old foe stepped in against him. The surprised Latman quickly found himself in the way of a fastball.

“That’s for Vegas!” Williams yelled toward the plate. “If you don’t like it, come on out—otherwise the list is done.”

Latman stayed put. Mission finally accomplished, Williams threw his notebook away.

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

Don't Ever Mess With Stan Williams

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.

The meanest man in baseball during the 1960s might have been Dodgers pitcher Stan Williams. What made him so mean? “That’s a cinch,” he said with a grin. “What really inspired me to throw at a batter was if he came up to home plate with a bat in his hand. I never threw at anybody that wasn’t in my zone. All I wanted was one yard on each side of the plate. You get in my zone, you’re fair game.”

Teammate Ron Fairly said that he once saw Williams tack up a photo of Hank Aaron in the back of his locker and set to throwing baseballs at it. When asked what he was doing, Williams’ answer was simple: “Practicing.”

Even after his playing career, the pitcher made no effort to change his reputation, plying his unique brand of intimidation as pitching coach for the Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and Reds over the course of a dozen seasons. He never felt much need to alter people’s preconceptions.

While coaching with New York in 1979, Williams was approached before one batting practice by Yankees catcher Cliff Johnson—himself 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs., and known for his willingness to mix it up with opponents and teammates—who decided to call what he felt was Williams’ bluff. Johnson told him that if their career paths had intersected, a knockdown would have resulted in a less-than-friendly visit to the pitcher’s mound.

Williams didn’t hesitate. “Let me tell you two things,” he told Johnson. “Number one, you wouldn’t have had to come to the mound because I’d have met you halfway. And number two, number one isn’t going to change number two.”

This stopped Johnson in his tracks, mainly because he had no idea what Williams was talking about. He asked what “number two” referred to.

“The next time you come up,” said Williams, “whether you kicked my ass or I kicked yours, I’m going to hit you right in the neck.”

Johnson took a step backward and spat a familiar refrain to the old pitcher. “Oh man,” he said. “You’re crazy.” During the ensuing BP session, Williams, manning the mound, took it upon himself to back Johnson up with a succession of inside fastballs. Eventually, the big catcher was so far from the plate that he was bucking up against the inside of the batting cage. Good-natured intimidation between members of the same team is intimidation nonetheless.

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

Rex Hudler Will See You Now

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.”

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

Pete Rose: Ready To Fight For Victory

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 a 39-year-old first baseman with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 World Series, Pete Rose knew that, despite the Phillies boasting Mike Schmidt in their lineup, the best way for under-manned Philadelphia to beat Kansas City was through superior willpower. His opportunity came in the third inning of Game 1.

With two outs and Royals catcher Darrel Porter on second base, Clint Hurdle singled to left field. Porter—who averaged just over two stolen bases a season over his 17-year career—rounded third and challenged the arm of outfielder Lonnie Smith, whose throw beat him to the plate by 15 feet. Rose was obviously pleased, but he was fascinated by Porter’s response. Instead of smashing into catcher Bob Boone, Porter pulled up 10 feet short of the plate and allowed himself to be tagged.

Perhaps Porter and the Royals were so confident that they felt their 2-0 lead would hold up. Maybe Porter was playing by a code that discouraged catchers from derailing each other when a play wasn’t close. Or maybe the Royals as a unit didn’t have the same passion as Rose. Rose decided it was the latter.

In the bottom of the inning, Philadelphia clawed back against Royals starter Dennis Leonard, scoring two quick runs. Rose came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs, and stepped into a diving pitch from Leonard, which bounced off his calf. It was a given that he wouldn’t rub it, but this time he took it a step farther. He charged.

This was the World Series; Rose’s intent wasn’t to start a fight, it was to find out what Leonard and the Royals were made of. And when the pitcher’s initial response wasn’t to descend the mound and show Rose exactly what he thought of his bravado—instead Leonard shuffled backward—Rose had the answer he needed. It wasn’t only Porter who was playing timid. The series, he felt certain, was Philadelphia’s for the taking.

Rose pulled up before reaching Leonard, and, jawing at the pitcher all the while, spun and ran to first base.

If anybody on the Phillies bench wasn’t feeling what Rose felt at that moment, it didn’t take them long to come around. A suddenly tentative Leonard walked Schmidt, then gave up a three-run home run—and the lead—to Bake McBride. The Phillies would not trail again in the game, and took the Series in six.

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

Lesson One: Always Yield To Nolan Ryan What Is Rightfully His

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.

Before he became the gritty player known as “Scrap Iron,” Phil Garner was a young infielder with the Oakland Athletics. He and his team generally enjoyed the fact that they faced the California Angels 18 times a season, a division rivalry that, for Oakland usually played like an annual homecoming game. The A’s won the American League West in three of Garner’s four seasons with the club, 1973-76, no small part of which involved manhandling their neighbors to the south, against whom they went 47-25 over that span.

If baseball has life lessons to offer, one is that not everything is as easy as it seems. Oakland might have grown fat against the Angels—they beat nobody more during Garner’s tenure with the club—but 18 games a year against the Angels meant sharing a ballpark with Nolan Ryan for the equivalent of nearly three straight weeks.

Ryan, described in a magazine article at the time as “able to throw a silver dollar through Fort Knox, or a marshmallow through a locomotive,” was at the peak of his powers, racking up his only 20-win campaigns and achieving three of his four highest single-season strikeout totals during Garner’s tenure with the A’s. Ryan was young, wild (his 679 walks over that span led baseball) and a mean son of a bitch.

The A’s opened the 1976 season in Anaheim, and in their second game faced Ryan, who wasted no time displaying his dominance as he set Oakland down without a hit through four innings. A’s batters could not keep up with his fastball.

In the fifth, though, the right-hander walked Sal Bando and Billy Williams. With one out, Garner came to the plate, Ryan’s no-hitter still on the books. The second baseman didn’t present much of a threat, occupying the ninth hole in the Oakland batting order, and was coming off a season in which he’d hit just .246. Garner appeared entirely overmatched as Ryan blew two fastballs by him for strikes.

But then the pitcher did something odd—he threw a curveball. Garner reached out and drove it off the center field wall for a two-run double and a lead the A’s wouldn’t relinquish. Garner was thrilled to have hit someone who, to that point, had literally been unhittable. He should have been content with that.

He wasn’t. “Actually,” he said, “I was feeling pretty cocky about facing him going into our next game.”

Ryan would shortly use the most ferocious stuff in baseball to explain to Garner the fallacy of that attitude. They next met exactly one month later, at which point the pitcher was blowing through the American League, rolling up a 1.39 ERA while striking out 39 men in 33 innings over his next four starts after facing the A’s. He would stare down 10 future Hall of Famers that season, and held them to a collective .266 average with a combined 24 strikeouts. With that double, Garner had unknowingly tugged on Superman’s cape.

The infielder flailed in his first two at-bats of the rematch, striking out twice on a total of six pitches, all fastballs, the deciding pitch for each at-bat riding low and away. Garner felt silly.

He may also have felt confused, which is the only explanation for what he did next: In his third trip to the plate, Garner tried to take the outside corner away from Nolan Ryan. He may as well have tried to take away Charlton Heston’s guns.

“I leaned out over the plate to just peck the ball,” he said, looking back. “In a flash, in that thousandth of a second, I saw his fastball, thrown as hard as he could throw it, coming right behind my ear. My whole life passed before me. I tried to dig a hole beneath the batter’s box, because I was scared to death.”

That was all the edge Ryan needed. The pitcher got two quick strikes, and, said Garner, “as he was winding up to throw his next pitch, I was already walking to the dugout. It was strike three for me, and I was just happy to be out of there.”

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

On Matters Of Intimidation

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.

“If I’m really trying to hit a guy, I’ll aim for the armpit right below the rib cage,” Curt Schilling said in the Los Angeles Times in 2002. “It’s an impossible spot to get out of the way. But I’ll throw above a guy’s shoulders and inside too. If you don’t knock a guy on his [rear] or break his bat when you throw inside, you’ve done nothing.”

Randy Johnson took a slightly different approach. “I have to be able to pitch inside,” he told the New York Times. “For me, though, the intimidation is not in hitting a guy. It’s the fear of it, the not knowing. Once you hit someone, it’s not about intimidation anymore. When you do what Clemens does, people get ticked off. They feel they have to retaliate. The point of what you were trying to do is lost.”

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

Don’t Mess With Jackie

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.

From Jules Tygiel’s book, “Baseball’s Great Experiment”:

According to a story told by [longtime minor league catcher Clay] Hopper, one southern opponent assisted Jackie Robinson in an unusual way. Paul Derringer, a thirty-nine-year-old former major league hurler who had won 223 games over his fifteen-year career, faced Robinson in an April exhibition game.

The Kentucky-born player told Hopper that he would test the black athlete. The first time Robinson came to the plate, Derringer hurled a fastball at his head. “He knocked him down all right,” said Hopper, “Forced him to put his chin right in the dirt.”

Robinson stepped back in and Derringer threw a second pitch that headed at him and then broke sharply over the inside corner. Robinson lashed the ball on a line over the third baseman’s head for a single.

Two innings later, Derringer again decked Robinson. This time the angry batter drove the next pitch into left-center for a triple. After the game Derringer confided to Hopper, one southerner to another, “Clay, your colored boy is going to do all right.”

Intimidation, Pandemic Baseball

‘How Far Did You Hit That One?’

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.

Don Sutton came up with the Dodgers in 1966. Shortstop Zoilo Versalles joined the team in ’68, as a nine-year veteran. Versalles decided to have some fun before a game one day as the 23-year-old Sutton warmed up in the bullpen. “Zoilo grabbed a bat and acted like he was timing the pitch,” recalled Dodgers pitcher Joe Moeller. “He swung and said, ‘I hit that ball 390 feet!’ Sutton throws another pitch: ‘I hit that ball 410 feet.’

“Next pitch, Sutton drilled him and said, ‘How far did you hit that one?’ ”