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October 13, 2003, 6:45 P.M.

I was not watching the Yankees-Red Sox game during that infamous fourth inning brawl, but I have seen the replays a few thousand times. So, I am certain, has every Little Leaguer in America.

What in the world were those players thinking? I stand corrected – the better question is why were they not thinking? First, you have Pedro Martinez hitting a batter. It wasn’t like an “oops, that one got away from me” kind of hit a batter; Pedro is arguably the best pitcher in the game. He doesn’t get paid to oops. He was trying the brush back a batter and got too close. (Actually, the ball went behind Karim Garcia’s head). Incidentally, Pedro used to pitch in the National League, where pitchers bat and thus become targets themselves.

So how does Garcia respond? First, he half-heartedly charges the mound, then he later slides hard into Boston second baseman, Todd Walker, and a bench-clearing donnybrook ensues. Then it gets really silly. A 72 year old coach charges a 31 year old pitcher and gets tossed like cordwood (surprise). Of course, later in the game further dumbness occurs in the Yankee bullpen when Garcia injures his knuckle when he takes a poke at an errant Red Sox employee. What a ridiculous display of abject stupidity from a slew of overpaid walking egos without a lick of sense. Let’s review: if they get hurt, they can’t play. Fighting (especially when there are bats involved) is a good way to get hurt. I don’t care if you are a Yankee fan or a Red Sox fan, you can’t spin anything good for baseball out of that sort of nonsense.

Brushbacks happen. They are and always have been a part of the game. Sometimes they get dangerously close, so the situation has to be watched, but that is not the job of the batter. It is the job of the coaches, umpires and league officials. Perhaps all pitchers ought to bat. They might be a little more careful about where they put the ball, if for no other reason than for fear of retaliation.

This all brings me to my real point: the impact that all of this has on the fans, and especially young fans. I was at a high school football game on Friday and was regaled with chants of “Yankees suck!” in the stands. This reminded me of attending a Red Sox game a while back and hearing the same chants. The funny thing is that the Yankees weren’t even in the park that night. The Yankees don’t suck at all. They’re actually very good. And when did suck, in this context, become acceptable language anyway? How did I miss that?

I happen to be a Yankees fan. I wasn’t always. In fact, I used to be a rare Red Sox fan in southern New Jersey. I shared the ride in my youth, and suffered through the agonizing years of Yankee success. My friends would say, “well, at least you don’t like the Mets.” But then there was hope, there was a one game playoff, and there was Bucky Dent. Oh, and let’s not forget Bill Buckner. That was it for me. When Bucky Certainly-Not-Bound-For-the-Hall-of-Fame Dent hit a game winning home run, I snapped. I swore I’d put aside my old feelings and trade my red sox in for pinstripes. With all of that being said, neither team can hold its head high after this recent fiasco.

Home run hitters who strut their way to first base, so as to better admire their work, and players and coaches behaving like children are examples of behavior that is harmful to the game and the young people who aspire to play it.

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