Inside pitches were thrown. Warnings from the umpire were given. Words were exchanged, benches cleared and the managers went nose-to-nose.
Then, when it was all over, along with the Angels’ 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night, the incident had been conveniently purged from Angel memory.
Suddenly, no one knew if the fastball the Angels’ Jim Abbott bounced off Gus Polidor’s arm was intended as retaliation for the pitch that sailed alongside Claudell Washington’s ear flap earlier in the inning.
Suddenly, no one knew what Polidor said to Abbott or to Angel Manager Doug Rader, words that resulted in the emptying of both dugouts and had relief pitchers climbing over outfield fences to get in on the action.
Suddenly, no one knew what Rader and Milwaukee Manager Tom Trebelhorn had to say as bodies swirled around their heated discussion along the third-base line.
The gag rule ruled in the Angel clubhouse in the aftermath of the club’s fourth consecutive victory.
“It’s no big deal,” Rader insisted. “It’s not worth commenting on. I really don’t have too much to say about it.”
Around the rest of the locker room, that sentiment stuck.
Controversy? What controversy?
“Abbie sure pitched a good game, didn’t he?” infielder Glenn Hoffman said, deadpan.
Well, yes, he did. For seven innings, Abbott shut out the Brewers. He worked seven-plus, leaving the game with a tight left shoulder, on his way to his fifth victory in eight major league decisions.
Abbott allowed only two hits, yielding singles to Rob Deer and Charlie O’Brien.
But it was the man he hit, Polidor, that enlivened the game more than any pitch he delivered at County Stadium.
For the Angels’ benefit, a little background is necessary:
Washington had homered and singled in his first two at-bats against Milwaukee starter Bryan Clutterbuck before Clutterbuck sent Washington sprawling with an inside fastball in the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Abbott stared at the first Brewer batter to step to the plate--ex-Angel Polidor--and plunked him with his first pitch.
Polidor began jawing at Abbott as he walked down the first-base line and stopped before he got there, which brought players from both sides out of their dugouts. Home plate umpire Ken Kaiser issued Abbott a warning and order was restored--until Polidor reached third base.
From there, Polidor began jawing at Rader, who as he is known to do, jawed back.
Soon, Rader was walking up the dugout steps and Trebelhorn was walking across the diamond. Moments later, the managers were face-to-face, arguing, while players surrounded them.
Then, the tempest subsided and the inning progressed to a rather quiet conclusion, with Paul Molitor striking out to strand Polidor.
What did Polidor say to Abbott?
“I didn’t hear,” Abbott said. “I guess he was a little unhappy with the pitch.”
What did Polidor say to Rader?
“I didn’t understand,” Rader said. “It was a discussion of some sorts. I didn’t quite make it out.”
Was Abbott’s pitch a payback for Clutterbuck’s brushback of Washington?
“I have no idea,” Rader said.
Abbott claimed that “the pitch just got away from me. You’ve seen me pitch all year. I pitch inside. I don’t have the best control in the league.”
Angel catcher Lance Parrish, who also didn’t hear anything, said Polidor was attempting to bunt--this is true--when he was hit.
“He ran into it,” Parrish said. “He was trying to bunt, we were trying to cut a fastball in on him, he had his bat out and the ball hit his arm. I don’t think there’s any way he can get out of the way on that pitch.”
Said Abbott: “It was a 2-0 game. (Polidor) is an awful big run, and they’ve got (Mike) Felder up next and then you get Molitor. Hitting him there didn’t make much sense.”
In the Brewer clubhouse, however, it did, although Polidor, slow to emerge from the shower, was not available for comment.
“I respect Abbott for doing that,” Clutterbuck said. “I had a feeling that was going to happen. I knock somebody down and the next pitch he throws, he hits a guy. That’s part of the game.”
Finally, that was something the Angels were willing to comment on.
“This is a man’s game,” Angel left fielder Chili Davis said. “The game has always been played that way and it’ll always be played that way. It shouldn’t surprise anyone.
“It’s like that Pearl Harbor thing. They started it and we finished it.”
Rader tended to agree, but had to wonder why so much commotion was being made about two inside pitches.
“I still have the mentality of playing 20 years ago,” Rader said. “To me, it’s no big deal. Going to the mound (as Polidor did), I just don’t understand that.
“I come from a different era. When we played, there weren’t any rules. It’s a much different game now.”
In Rader’s mind, Polidor should have taken his lump without a word and let the teams continue playing.
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand why these things happen, for no apparent reason,” Rader said.
But when they do, the new Angel credo is to forget about it.
The tightness Jim Abbott experienced in his left shoulder was new, he said, but he wasn’t worried about it. “It got a little tight, a little sore, but it may be because of the (cold) weather,” Abbott said. Abbott pitched through it, however, retiring the side in order four times before walking the first two batters in the eighth inning. At that point, Manager Doug Rader replaced Abbott with Greg Minton, who allowed both runs to score on a two-run single by Robin Yount. Abbott admitted losing the chance at a shutout “bothered me a little bit, but at the time, I really wasn’t thinking that way. I was tired at that point. When you’re doing everything right and you’re still throwing balls (outside the strike zone), that’s probably a good indication. I can’t question the decision to take me out.” . . . For Abbott, the victory was his fourth this month. In his last three starts, Abbott is 3-0 with a 1.69 earned-run average.
Bob McClure, who pitched a perfect ninth inning, was credited with his first American League save since Oct. 4, 1985. On that day, McClure was pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers, preserving a victory against the Boston Red Sox.
ABBOTT’S AMAZING MAY Here is how Angel pitcher Jim Abbott has fared in the month of May. His overall record is 5-3:
Date Opp. IP H R ER BB SO Score May 5 at Toronto 6 1/3 4 2 2 4 4 Angels, 5-3 May 12 New York 3 6 5 5 3 5 Yankees, 5-2 May 17 Boston 9 4 0 0 2 4 Angels, 5-0 May 24 at New York 5 1/3 10 3 3 3 2 Angels, 11-4 May 30 at Milwaukee 7 2 2 1 3 6 Angels, 3-2