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Umpire McClelland growing accustomed to 'strange bats'
When Tim McClelland called his umpiring crew into a conference Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, his mind flashed back 20 years to Yankee Stadium.
The Kansas City Royals' George Brett had hit a home run against the Yankees, and New York manager Billy Martin challenged it, saying Brett had placed too much pine tar on the bat handle.
McClelland, the plate umpire, agreed and, after consulting with his crew, called Brett out, a decision later reversed by American League President Lee McPhail.
Eleven years later, McClelland was on the field when the Cleveland Indians' Albert Belle was accused of using a corked bat against the White Sox at Comiskey Park. When the umpires confiscated the bat, an Indians pitcher wriggled through the ceiling into the umpire's room to replace it with another, non-altered bat.
"Strange bats follow me around, I guess," he said.
The latest bat-astrophe in McClelland's career came when the Cubs' Sammy Sosa broke his bat on a ground ball in the first inning Tuesday night.
"The catcher picked up the bat and said 'Look at this' and kind of threw it at my feet," McClelland said. "I turned it over and there was a small, probably half-dollar size piece of cork in the bat, probably right about halfway down the barrel. And I guess it was notched in there. I felt it and it obviously was cork."
McClelland called the crew together before calling Sosa out and ejecting him from the game.
"I wanted to make sure the crew knew it was cork," he said.
He also was cognizant of Sosa's role as a goodwill ambassador for the game, and "all the great things [Sosa] has done for the game of baseball."
"I said to the crew the ramifications of what is going to happen with this," he said. "I didn't want to do it, [but] the evidence was right there. And you have to go by the rules."