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Rose Didn’t Use Stick or Even Kick

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Pete Rose’s mistake in his attack--or counterattack--on umpire Dave Pallone was in the choice of weapons.

In this call to arms, Cincinnati Manager Rose chose actual arms, his own. He pushed Pallone twice, delivering basic schoolyard chest nudgies. For this, Rose was given a 30-day suspension and was fined “a substantial amount.” Substantial to anyone but Rose, who buys German sports cars by the six-pack.

Rose should have used a hockey stick. His case then would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the National Hockey League, which takes a more lenient attitude toward good-natured violence.

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In a recent NHL playoff game, during a timeout after a goal, Marty McSorley of the Edmonton Oilers skated past Mike Bullard of the Calgary Flames and delivered a quick stick to Bullard’s groin. Bullard doubled over in pain and was carried off the ice. McSorehead was kicked out of the game, and subsequently was suspended for three games.

The NHL bases penalties on the severity of the injury. In this case, McSorley was sentenced to sit out one game for each octave Bullard’s voice rose as a result of the stick tap.

In Rose vs. Pallone, National League President Bart Giamatti has spoken. I’ll render my decision on that decision in a moment, after taking you down memory lane, back to a similar episode of baseball high jinks.

It was 1961 and Leo Durocher was a Dodger coach under Manager Walter Alston. In a game against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium, Durocher threw a towel in the dugout to show his disgust for a judgment call by plate umpire Jocko Conlan.

Conlan immediately tossed Durocher out of the game. Durocher shot out of the dugout to lodge a protest, assuming the traditional toe-to-toe stance with the ump. Two of the game’s feistiest customers in classic combat.

Getting nowhere with his verbal appeal, Leo tried to kick dirt on Conlan’s shoes, but Durocher’s spikes stubbed the ground and he accidentally kicked Conlan in the shin.

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“So I teed off and kicked both his shins,” Conlan said Monday over the phone from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “And I had on steel-toed shoes.”

Durocher kicked back, and pretty soon the exchange looked like a clinic for field goal kickers.

According to Times reporter Frank Finch’s account, “Conlan, a trigger-tempered banty, had just shucked his chest protector and was ready to engage in fisticuffs with Lippy Leo when Don Drysdale, of all people, played the role of peacemaker and pulled Durocher from the fray.”

For his crime, Durocher got three days and two scabs.

“A week later, I asked a certain Dodger if Leo had any marks on his shins,” Conlan said. “He told me, ‘Leo has a scab this big (size of a fist) on each shin.’ I said, ‘Couldn’t happen to a better guy.’ ”

I asked Conlan if he was given a fine or reprimand for his counter-kicks.

“They wanted to give me the croix de guerre ,” Conlan said, referring to the French medal for bravery.

The lesson we learn here, folks, is that baseball doesn’t have any guideline on the rap for ump bumping. One guy gets three days for a triple kick, another gets 30 days for a double nudgie.

My own feeling on the Rose-Pallone case goes something like this:

--Rose’s 30 days is about right. Pallone seemed to provoke the push by brushing Rose’s face. But you just can’t bump an ump, chump. What Rose did was incite the Cincinnati crowd, calling down the kitchen-sink artillery from the mental giants in the stands.

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--The chief umpire, instead of sending Pallone to the showers for his own safety, should have cleared the stands. Everyone go home. Do not pass Go, do not collect a beer for the road.

--Pallone should be suspended at least a week. An authority figure can’t go around jabbing his finger in someone’s face, no matter how bad the manager’s breath might be.

--Baseball Commissioner Pete Ueberroth should immediately establish a uniform code of punishment. More importantly, he should declare a permanent 3-foot DMZ between any two disputing parties. Anyone who comes within arm’s length of an ump will be shot with a tranquilizer dart and netted before real trouble starts.

This old baseball business of umpire and manager getting kissing close in order to discuss a call is dangerous, especially when one or both of the debaters is chewing tobacco.

Remember Earl Weaver turning his cap around so he could get closer to an umpire’s face? What other sport allows such intimacy between disputants? Since all major league managers and most umpires have the emotional maturity of 7-year-olds, we need a wider buffer zone. Someone is going to get a nose bitten off.

--Billy Martin and two or three other notorious blow-top mangers simply should be attached to the dugout bench with a 10-foot length of chain, like a dangerous dog.

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--Now that baseball has served notice to managers regarding chest bumps, maybe Ueberroth can deal with a more serious and pressing problem, one that threatens to really alienate baseball fans and participants.

The penalty for a balk should be a lifetime suspension from the game of baseball and banishment to an Arctic region, for the balking pitcher and for the umpire who calls the balk. This would greatly reduce the incidence of balk.

Why worry about corked bats and half-cocked managers when the new balk obsession is ruining the game?

Umps and managers could strip down to their jocks and mud-wrestle at home plate, and it wouldn’t be any sillier, or cause the game any deeper harm, than the current balk rampage.

Follow these suggestions and baseball’s problems will be solved overnight. Hockey will take somewhat longer.

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