Sports

My Side of the Plate:

Like him or hate him, 756 home runs is a bunch of baseballs hit out of the park — steroids or not.

What I’m thankful for is that Barry Bonds finally got the record broken so fans won’t have the games they are watching on television interrupted by a jump to San Francisco, San Diego or wherever he was batting. That’s a big plus.

The new home run “king” has his faults and I think he will go down in baseball history as another one of the many strange characters who played the game.

If fans stop and think for a moment, there have been some unusual people who donned a major league uniform over the years.

Here are a few:

Who remembers Bill Lee, the guy they called “The Spaceman?”

Then there was relief pitcher Sparky Lyle who always took the mound with a half-bag of Levi Garrett chewing tobacco crammed in his mouth. Strange, yes, but he won the Cy Young Award.

Once there was a pitcher who used to sit in the bull pen and color his glove with crayons. Who knows why, but I’ll bet you could get a baseball to do some “tricks” with a little wax on it.

Yogi Berra reportedly sharpened one of the clips on his shin guards and scuffed balls when Whitey Ford was pitching.

What about pitchers with names like Oil Can, Catfish and Blue Moon? And of course you have Jim Bouton’s tell-all book, “Ball Four.”

I’m sure others will come to mind, like those who used slippery elm, Groom and Clean, diamond earrings, sandpaper and other accoutrements to confuse and annoy hitters.

Pitchers aren’t the only baseball players a half-inch off bubble.

Jimmy Pearsall once hit a home run and ran the bases backward. He was also known to play hide and seek behind the monuments in centerfield at the old Yankee Stadium.

Remember George Brett and the famous bat tar home run incident? Now players have the goo smeared far beyond the trademark. Again who knows why, the bats these days still break with amazing regularity.

In another incident I had little sympathy for Vince Coleman, who was supposed to be one of the best base stealers on the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster, but wasn’t quick enough to get out of the way of the tarp when the field crew rolled it out during a pre-game rain shower. It ran over his leg and he missed the World Series.

Who could forget when John Kruk turned his helmet around and hit from the right side of the plate after Randy Johnson whistled a blazing fastball over his head during an All-Star game.

Managers also get wound up every once in awhile and any Mariners’ fan who says they don’t miss Lou storming out of the dugout to drop-kick his hat, pull up and throw bases or kick dirt when an umpire made a call he disagreed with is a liar.

One of the better “dirt kickers” was Earl Weaver when he was Baltimore’s manager. He used to turn his cap around so he could go nose-to-nose with umpires and once got ejected from a game while he was turning in the lineup card before the first pitch was thrown.

One of the positive things about Bonds is that he has shown the kids they can use a short bat, choke up and still hit the ball a long way.

Another plus is in about six years or so, A-Rod will break the record.

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