This is a guest post by Robert Germaux. Robert and his wife live outside of Pittsburgh. After three decades as a high school English teacher, and now a good many years into retirement, he is beginning to have serious doubts about his lifelong dream of pitching for the Pirates. “Behave!” is one of the essays from his forthcoming book Grammar Sex and Other Stuff. In addition, Bob has three books already available in the e-book format. You can find information on those books at his Amazon Author Page.
On June 26, 2001, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon took issue with some questionable calls made by first base umpire Rick Reed. After one of the calls, McClendon stormed onto the field, argued vehemently and was ejected. Instead of simply leaving, McClendon went over and pulled first base out of the ground and carried it off the field, eventually throwing it into the dugout. I had an excellent view of Lloyd’s epic rant, because my wife and I were sitting just a few rows up from the field behind first base. Most of the crowd cheered loudly for McClendon, but I found the whole episode embarrassing. Since when is a grown man throwing a tantrum like a two-year-old something to be applauded? Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball, having played the game from childhood on through high school, but as far as I was concerned, Lloyd’s antics that night had nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with self-control. Name one other profession where that type of behavior would be tolerated. And, of course, it’s not just the managers who are acting out. The players are also guilty of childish behavior. It seems as though every few days, we have a “bench clearing brawl” in baseball, usually because someone has violated one of baseball’s unwritten rules, which apparently outnumber the actual written ones. You can’t circle the bases too slowly after hitting a home run, you can’t stare at the pitcher after an inside fast ball, you can’t steal a base when your team has a big lead, you can’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. And the so-called brawls? Almost always, it’s a bunch of grown men running around in their custom-tailored uniforms, puffing out their chests and shouting idle threats at each other. And when anyone dares to criticize this behavior, we usually hear the old excuse about “the pressure of the game.” Pressure? Give me a break. Pressure is a single mom working two jobs to put food on the table for her kids. Pressure is the cop making a routine traffic stop that could explode in his or her face in an instant.
Okay, you ask, why does this stuff bother me so much? Who cares? Maybe it’s because I spent a good many years teaching in an inner-city school that the local cops called Gang Central, a place where, unfortunately, the fights that broke out were very real, with real-life consequences. I’d like to take the MLB boys back to the hallway outside Room 209 at Peabody High School in the early ‘90s and show them what a real fight looks like. Instead of going back to the dugouts, the kids in those fights often ended up in the emergency room. But I guess the main reason I’m so bothered by all this is that it’s just a highly-visible example of a far greater problem in our society, the tendency on the part of so many people to seek physical solutions to any problem, to use confrontation instead of discussion to resolve disagreements. It’s one thing when two adults get into a shouting match over a fender-bender on a deserted street corner. It’s quite another when forty or fifty high-profile professional athletes spend ten or fifteen minutes milling around trying to look tough in front of a national television audience. Kids see that behavior, and it sends exactly the wrong message. Personally, I’d like to see major league baseball follow the example of the NBA, where players who rush onto the court during a fight face a fine and, more important, an automatic suspension. Baseball could do the same thing with players who leave the dugout. Until that happens, though, here’s another suggestion, something my mother used to say to me on occasion: Act your age.