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Outside the Lines: Can Baseball Change Macho Culture of High and Tight Fastball?

Anchor: Bob Ley
Guests: Phil Garner, Detroit Tigers manager
            Jerry Manuel, Chicago White Sox manager
Correspondent: Jeremy Schaap
Coordinating producer: Jonathan Ebinger

Show 5: April 30, 2000

Bob Ley, Host: April 30, 2000. It is a code, a simple code understood by all who play the game.

Ley: Chin music, pitchers protecting the plate and their team, one of baseball's ancient unwritten rules. But for how long?

Frank Robinson, Major League Baseball, Vice President Of On-Field Operations: I'm not trying to stop a pitcher from pitching inside, and maybe even hitting hitters accidentally or even on purpose. I'm not saying that. But if they do that, and it escalates into something or whatever, then they have to be willing to pay the penalty.

Ley: Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, can baseball change the macho culture of a high and tight fastball?

Announcer: OUTSIDE THE LINES is presented by 1-800-CALLATT. Joining us from ESPN Studios, Bob Ley.

Ley: If the pictures were stunning enough, a jarring departure from the usual baseball fights, then the dropping of the other shoe was an even larger surprise.

Frank Robinson spent five full days carefully watching videotape, reading reports from umpires, then issuing his first major decision as baseball's new vice president of on-field operations. This Hall of Famer played with as much fire and passion as anyone. And he was no stranger to knock-down pitches and on-field confrontations.

So when a man who commands respect throughout his sport threw the book at the Tigers and the White Sox, the decision echoed far beyond the suspensions and fines. Robinson actually used the word "sportsmanship" in announcing his wide-ranging discipline. And he talked of the impact on young fans.

For baseball, it was the second visit this week from the real world after 11 players observed the Elian Gonzalez boycott. But Robinson's edict cuts across the entire game through every clubhouse, involving each player, confronting decades of macho tradition.

Jeremy Schaap examines the sweeping penalties and the problem it targets.

Jeremy Schaap, ESPN Correspondent: (voice-over): In the National Basketball Association, the rule is clear. If you come off the bench during a fight, you will be suspended. Three years ago in the second round of the playoffs, four New York Knicks, including Patrick Ewing, rushed onto the court when their teammate Charlie Ward was fighting the Miami Heat's P.J. Brown.

Unidentified Male: What I saw was P.J. Brown body slam Charlie Ward.

Unidentified Male: It's going to be very interesting to see what Rodthorn (ph) does, very.

Schaap: All four Knicks who came off the bench were suspended, and New York lost its next two games and the series. Of course, not everyone learned from the Knicks' loss. But for the most part, NBA players are now much more reluctant to leave the bench during a fight.

Unidentified Male: Lofton. Oh, baby, Lofton is on his way, and here we go.

Schaap: In baseball, on the other hand, it seems no one in uniform can resist piling on.

Phil Garner, Tigers Manager: You want your players to play this game with emotion and compassion. And sometimes it crosses the line.

Schaap: Just last week at Comiskey Park after Tigers pitcher Jeff Weaver hit two White Sox batters, a massive melee broke out.

Unidentified Male: To put it mildly, and there's the retaliation. There's Palmer. And here we go.

Schaap: Exercising his authority as baseball's new disciplinary czar, Frank Robinson kneaded out unprecedented punishment. Robinson levied more than $23,000 in fines.

Fourteen players and coaches were suspended a total of 66 games. Eight others were only fined. White Sox Manager Jerry Manuel and Tigers Manager Phil Garner were each suspended eight games.

Robinson: In the end, I did want to try to send a message to everybody in baseball that this will not be tolerated because it is not a part of baseball. Brawling is not a part of baseball.

Schaap: But brawling has been a part of baseball for decades. Like bullfighting, charging the mound is a strange and sacred tradition, a ritualized dance. The bullpens and dugouts empty as players, sometimes out of genuine anger, sometimes merely out of a sense of obligation, storm the field.

Clearly, Robinson, who in his Hall of Fame career was one of the game's toughest players, was attempting to mandate a change in the culture and custom of baseball.

Ron Schueler, White Sox Senior Vice President And General Manager: They want to stop it. They want to make a point that the other 28 clubs that are out there, they're going to have to think about whether they want to jump into one of these.

Mike Stanley, Red Sox First Baseman: Well, he's obviously set a precedent now that it's not going to be tolerated. And you know, it is a part of our game. And I'm sure it's going to continue to happen. But guys are going to have to pay the price.

Don Baylor, Cubs Manager: This is a warning to all of us. And if it happens again, Frank is going to be on the hot seat to have the same type of suspension for other guys.

Schaap: Specifically, Robinson is trying to rid the game not of the one-on-one altercations between pitcher and hitter that are considered unavoidable, but of the large-scale 25-on-25 melees they so often precipitate.

Robinson: I think if we can stop players from coming out of the bullpen or coming out of the dugouts and spilling onto the field, I think we can start to control these type of things and start to eliminate them.

Now I'm not trying to keep a hitter from charging the mound. If he feels like he wants to charge the mound, he can go ahead and charge it. I'm trying to stop a pitcher from pitching inside, and maybe even hitting hitters accidentally or even on purpose. I'm not saying that.

Schaap: But Robinson is struggling against the tribal instinct that makes teams teams. Tigers third baseman Dean Palmer was suspended eight games, more than any other player, for his role in the brawl with the White Sox. Still, he says he would fight again.

Dean Palmer, Tigers Third Baseman: Yeah, I would have to because I think if your team is out there brawling and battling, I think you've got to be there no matter what. I think you've just got to take your lumps then.

Bobby Higginson, Tigers Left Fielder: When something like that happens, you know, I don't think most guys think about the consequences. They think they just go out and react. And maybe they'll have to deal with the consequences after they do what they do. But in the heat of the battle, they don't really think about that when they're going out to the mounds.

Schaap: The challenge for baseball is to make players fear the consequences of fighting more than they fear the consequences of not fighting. Suspensions and fines are often secondary when honor is at stake.

David Justice, Indians Left Fielder: Granted, I know that if you levy heavy fines, guys are going to think twice. No doubt about it. But I don't think it will ever stop because some guys, their manhood is more important than that dollar.

Unidentified Male: Tempers start to fly. And next thing you know, repercussions start to take place. And you know, guys aren't going to sit there and stand for it. So we're not sure if he's going to be able to change it.

Jim Thome, Indians First Baseman: When you're in that situation, it's tough because you react for your team. You don't react for yourself. You react to get respect from your teammates.

Frank Thomas, White Sox First Baseman: You've got to protect each other. And that's just the way it is. You know, fighting in pro sports has always happened. There's a lot of testosterone flying around. I mean, it's serious business.

Schaap: Serious business interests in fact are also a factor in baseball's crackdown. The game is still trying to bring back fans, particularly families, alienated by a labor strike and high ticket prices. And Robinson hopes to do that with a wholesome product.

Jerry Manuel, White Sox Manager: Baseball is on the up-swing in society as a whole. And I think he's trying to do everything he can to keep that going.

Robinson: If we're going to ask the families to come out here to enjoy our sport, and the young people, try to get them back in the ballpark in bunches, we have to set a good example. And brawling on the field is not a good example to set.

Schaap: In the end, Robinson's most effective deterrent may not be fines or suspensions. As salaries continue to soar, players are increasingly concerned with their health. And no one wants to see his career end in a brawl.

For OUTSIDE THE LINES, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

Ley: And when OUTSIDE THE LINES continues, I'll be joined live by the managers of the teams whose actions brought us to this point, Jerry Manuel of the Chicago White Sox and Phil Garner of the Detroit Tigers.

Ley: The impact of Frank Robinson's historic decision our topic this morning. We are joined from Comerica Park in Detroit by the manager of the Tigers, Phil Garner, and by the skipper of the Chicago White Sox, Jerry Manuel, each of them still under suspension. Today they will miss the third of eight games of their suspensions.

We just established during the commercial break, you guys haven't had a chance to talk while this went down. So engage in a little skipper by-play (ph) between the two of you. What's the one thing you've learned from this entire experience just quickly sitting out watching your team, Jerry?

Manuel: Well, you know, I think the thing that I learned about my team is that we are a cohesive club. And we're playing good baseball. And we actually didn't want anything to affect the way we were playing the game of baseball.

But we're also very apologetic to what happened last Saturday. That's not something we want to be identified with as professionals.

Ley: Jerry, you could have sat down with Frank Robinson and officially appealed. Why did you not?

Manuel: Well, the reason I did not is because Frank Robinson is a guy that's a Hall of Fame player that has been through the wars and the battles. And I understand the message that he's trying to send throughout baseball.

And I think it's an important message. Obviously, I'm not pleased to be a part of that. But I know it's for the betterment of the game. And that's just something that I have to accept. And that's just the respect that I have for Frank Robinson.

Ley: Phil, your reason for not appealing?

Garner: Well, I would echo my feelings that Jerry said. We all are disappointed that these things happened.

I understand that there are going to be altercations in baseball. We'd like to keep them at a minimum. And we would like not to see teams breaking off into different parts.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Frank. I'm disappointed that managers, both myself and Jerry, were suspended. I think it's wrong. I don't understand the concept when you're holding managers responsible for what goes on the field.

Yet at the same time, when you've got a situation that could be volatile this weekend - could be, I say - I don't know that anything is going to happen, but you're removing the very guys that you're trying to hold responsible, the two guys that should be out here to make sure that nothing else happens. So that seems strange to me.

I also think that no managers - everybody wants to see baseball be as clean as possible. I also know that you cannot stop every player from getting onto the field when situations occur sometimes.

And I'm not saying the players are right in doing that. And sometimes they're not wrong.

Ley: Let me pick up on your point about a manager keeping a reign on his team. Watching the game is going to be - because of a new rule this year, both suspended managers, you guys can't even be at the ballpark. Have you sensed since this went down, even watching Friday and Saturday, any moment where absent what happened, absent the suspensions, there might have been a little bit of a flare-up?

Garner: I have not sensed anything. I don't - we had Damon Easley that was nicked by a pitch. But I don't think it was anything intentional there. And I didn't see that anything was going to happen from that regard.

Incidentally, Konerko was nicked with a pitch too. I take exception to say that we hit two guys. Konerko was hit, the hair on his arm. So...

Ley: Yeah.

Garner: I did not see anything. And I don't know that Jerry did or not.

Ley: We've got a piece of sound with Bobby Higginson of the Detroit Tigers. He was in the middle of this. He drew a suspension. He was in Jeremy Schaap's report.

And Bobby Higginson describes for us how things go on a field and what goes through the mind of a ballplayer. Let's listen to Bobby Higginson for a second.

Higginson: It was just a different guy out there. I mean, some demon was inside me running around out there because that's not really me. But when he threw the ball at Deano (ph), I mean, it was up by his head. And if he wasn't expecting that, I think it would have hit him in the head and could have really hurt him, and then nothing would have been said. And then we took care of business the way we thought we should have taken care of it.

Ley: Jerry, let me pick up on a point that Jeremy Schaap wrote up in his report, the difference between anger and obligation for the guys on the bench. How many guys were angry, and how many guys felt an obligation?

Manuel: Well, I think what the point is here is that we as an industry sometimes forget that the things that permeate through society, like aggression and violence and those types of things, we're not immune to them. And I think we have to somehow address issues before they become issues in our industry.

I think that's the biggest key at this time. I think we kind of wait and react instead of being proactive about different things that are going on in society.

We're definitely not immune to the things that's happening in society. And it shows in the different sports, not only in baseball, and basketball, football, hockey, and all the other sports, that the aggression and the violence that's in our society is also a part of our industries. And we need to address those things.

Ley: Well, speaking about the sports industry, Phil, the NBA has a hard and fast rule. Off the bench, you're suspended. The NFL has cracked down. Hockey, you rarely see bench-clearing brawls. You think baseball is edging towards a more stringent written rule about coming out of the dugouts?

Garner: I would like to see baseball have a hard and fast rule. If you're going to suspend guys for certain things, have the hard and fast rule so that people know what they're dealing with before they go out there.

Otherwise, I think you're going to clearly have somebody who's going to get an attorney involved in one of these things. And we're going to have a lawsuit one of these days against maybe Major League Baseball and some of the fines because let's just put it this way.

Let's say that you have one of your big home run hitters. He's running for the all-time home run leadership. He gets hit, or thrown at in the head. He decides that he's not going to take this anymore, and he charges the mound.

Somebody issues an eight-day suspension for him, that could cost him that. If I'm that player, or if you think that scenario through, I think there's some potential for legal action.

So I think we ought to have something from the players' association that's cut and dry so that players would know something and we're not left out there to say that this team got this kind of suspension, this time got one that's a little bit different, or this guy got a suspension because he was a little more of this or that.

I think we can make rules like that. And I think it can come through the players' association so that players are all in agreement, and we're all going to live by it.

Ley: But by all accounts, the union is very comfortable with Frank Robinson. I believe he's even made the gesture of going over and speaking with him. And they seem to be very much in tune with what just happened to your two ball clubs on Thursday.

Garner: I'm not talking - if it's up to me, I've not talked to the players' association. I did speak to - as I alluded to earlier - I spoke with Frank. I have a great deal of respect for Frank also. And I'm glad that we have a former player, and certainly one of his stature that's in this role.

But by the same token, there's always going to be differences. And I have differences of opinion on these suspensions. I think clearly we got suspensions for fighting. They had a couple of players suspended for fighting.

But the message for me that's sent here is that pitchers can do what they want to do because three-game suspensions for pitchers are essentially non-suspensions.

Ley: All right, we're going to pick up on that point. The code in baseball, it involves protecting the plate, protecting your teammates, as we continue ahead on OUTSIDE THE LINES with the suspended skippers of the White Sox and the Tigers.

Ley: We continue with Tigers Manager Phil Garner and White Sox skipper Jerry Manuel.

Gentlemen, Curt Schilling is as fierce a competitor as there is in this game. Listen for a second as he I think rather concisely talks about the code of the pitcher protecting the plate and his teammates.

Curt Schilling, Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher: My goal as a pitcher is to make sure that my players are protected as hitters. And if a pitcher on another team feels like he can throw at my players, then it's my job to make sure he understands he can't do that.

In the National League, it's a little different because we hit. And I know when I'm facing a pitcher that will plunk one of my guys if I hit one of their guys, you're aware of that. And I make sure, I've always made sure that my teammates understood that I would protect them and that opposing pitchers know that I will hit them if there is a problem with one of my players.

Ley: Jerry, everybody knows the code is a little bit different with the DH now in the American League.

Manuel: Yeah, that's true. I mean, in the American League, you don't have the opportunity to obviously for the pitcher to hit. But at the same time, he has to protect his players.

And that's one of the difficult things about being in the American League at this time. But it's still a part of baseball.

Ley: Phil, Kurt Gibson on the telecast as this was unfolding the other day said, "Maybe the Tigers need this." In the heart of hearts of people around the team, do you think when you're struggling like this, yes, it was a bad, ugly scene. But is there a part of the soul of a major league skipper and coach that says, you know, maybe this will help us? It hasn't so far, I understand...

Garner: No.

Ley: But is there a part of you that might believe that?

Garner: Yes there is. I think that while we all have a disdain for violence and we don't want to see guys hurt, we also believe fiercely, all of us do in competition, in competition played with great compassion on the great field and great emotions on the field. You cannot - and I stress that - you cannot as an athlete play this game and not have emotion and sometimes not push those emotions to the brink.

And if you're going to compete, if you're going to be a winner, you're going to get to the point sometimes when you're willing to fight. And I say that to a lot of players when I get some that are sort of pacifists, I say, "Listen, there is a point in your life when you will fight. If I start smacking you around on the face, pretty soon you're going to get up to me and you're going to stand up to me. And you're going to say, "Look, I'm going to protect myself.""

And the same thing happens on the field when you're trying to win. And you want players to play like that. We have not taken the energy that was probably created from that and put it in the winds on our ball club so far.

Ley: Can we talk about the energy? Very quickly, what has been the energy around the Tigers since all these suspensions came down? I mean, you're having trouble getting W's up on the board. Have there been a dampening of the spirit because of the suspensions? Or has there been an anger?

Garner: None whatsoever. I would say that a little bit of anger, but not much. But no dampening of spirits.

Ley: Jerry, what about the attitude on your ball club? I know you can't be in the dugout during the games. But what has this discipline done to them? You're still winning.

Manuel: Well, I think what it has done to us is like Phil said, hopefully it takes you to a level of compassion and intensity that you can carry on throughout the season. I think that's the key for us.

If we play the way we're playing and play at the level of intensity that we're playing, we can be a good ball club. But the thing is to sustain that level of intensity.

And that's kind of where we are at this time. We just happen to be getting the breaks, playing good baseball. And things happen to be going our way. But at the same time, in order to be a good club, we're eventually going to have to go through some adversity.

Ley: In one sentence, do you think it's possible, Jerry, to separate the large brawls from the age-old issue of pitching inside? Can you separate that? Can baseball handle that?

Manuel: Oh, I think baseball can handle that. I think you've got to pitch inside. That's a big part of pitching is to establish the inside part of the plate. And I think the two can be separated.

Ley: Phil, in 10 seconds, can baseball do that?

Garner: Yes we can. I would say this quickly, that when Jerry and I played, players did not charge the mound. It's changed in the last 15 years. And we can change it back.

Ley: Well, I'd like to thank both of you gentlemen for being with us. I know your time at the ballpark is precious. You have to leave the premises during the game.

Thanks to Phil Garner and Jerry Manuel. They return to their respective dugouts next weekend.

And we will continue here on ESPN. As we continue, stay with us.

Ley: Last week's Easter Sunday program on faith in the national pastime brought a large array of reaction into our e-mail inbox. Dodger veteran Orel Hershiser speaking on the increasingly visible presence of religious faith in major league clubhouses.

Orel Hershiser, L.A. Dodgers Pitcher: Everybody has got their own priority list. And some people come to the ball park, and baseball is the number one priority, and then their faith kind of filters into that. And other people come to the ball park, and their faith in the number one thing and baseball is secondary.

And the ball club chooses you as a baseball player. And then you bring your own personal beliefs and your relationship with God into the clubhouse. And so that can mix sometimes in a really great way, and other times it can cause some controversy.

Ley: A viewer from Ft. Lauderdale wrote to thank us for the show about Christian athletes in baseball, calling it "reasonably balanced and fairly presented, something not generally seen from the media on Christian topics."

From nearby West Palm, "I dare say poor Chad Curtis and his holier-than-thou delusions still needs God's grace to learn compassion and that God's message is inclusion even of rappers."

Another viewer wrote, asking, "It has always been prudent not to impinge one's belief on another. I wonder what athletes of other religions feel about the prevalence of organized religion interfering with the sport. If athletes want to pray, fine. But it needs to stay away from the field. Evangelism does not belong."

From New Albany, Ohio, the observation that the Easter Show "was the worst programming ESPN has ever aired. If we as viewers want to be preached to, we would go to church. I feel that ESPN ostracized all the non-Christian viewers. And you should look closer at your topics before you push them on the viewer."

And from New Jersey, the suggestion that the reporting also include "the opinions of non-Christians to see if they feel pressure to get the message. Perhaps an interview with one of the three Yankee players who did not attend chapel services would have added to the report to see whether they felt pressure from the Christians."

We remind you that OUTSIDE THE LINES is on-line at Type in the keyword "otlweekly," and there you will find video excerpts and a library of program transcripts, as well as a place to register your thoughts and suggestions. Our e-mail address,

This reminder, if you missed any portion of this program on baseball's record suspensions from the past week, our program will be repeating today on ESPN2 at 5:30 Eastern time.

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 Bob Ley talks with Phil Garner and Jerry Manuel about the recent brawl.
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