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The Cactus League season has just gotten under way, and controversy has already come out of the San Francisco Giants’ camp. In a game yesterday, Barry Zito plunked Prince (not Cecil, as I first had) Fielder with a fastball to the back. Although no one has definitively said so, it appears to have been a calculated act of retaliation for the Milwaukee Brewers’ showy celebration last fall when Fielder cracked a homer to defeat the Giants in extra innings. As Fielder jumped on the plate, his teammates fell to the ground as if they were bowling pins. The MLB Web site has a good video summary here.
The Brewers’ celebration had clearly been orchestrated in advance, and I have to say it was bush league showboating. But I also think the Giants’ retaliation was just as stupid and silly.
The whole concept of retaliation in baseball strikes me as a bit juvenile. Maybe that’s because I vividly recall my one rather comical attempt at retaliation when I was playing in a summer league when I was in high school.
I played shortstop, and in the middle of the game our second baseman, Eddie, got spiked when trying to turn a double-play. I figured the big-league thing to do would be to get back at the opposing team if I got the chance, all for the chivalrous defense of my center-of-the-diamond partner.
Somehow I ended up on base an inning or two later and found myself running toward home plate. The catcher was doing his job blocking the plate as he waited for the throw from the field. I plowed into the catcher and fell to the ground. I can’t remember if I was safe or out, but I do remember jumping up and pushing the catcher with both hands as hard as I could.
Trouble was, the catcher, who happened to play football on my high school’s team, was a lot bigger than I was. He was even more intimidating with his chest protector and shin guards on. He probably had about 50 pounds and a good two or three inches in height on me at a time when I had the physique (and batting average) of Mark Belanger of the Baltimore Orioles.
The catcher didn’t even flinch, and I had an “uh-oh” moment before several of my teammates grabbed me and pulled me back to our bench, which luckily was along the third-base line.
Call me if a wussy if you will, but that was the first and last time I ever tried to get back at someone violently on the field. I’d have done better by ripping a double down the line or spearing a liner to rob someone of a hit.
That’s the way the game should be played, by kids and by pros who should know better.