O's Mazzilli Gets Thrown Out, Much to Everyone's Enjoyment

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 20, 2005

BALTIMORE, June 19 -- The loudest cheers on Sunday were not for Rafael Palmeiro's go-ahead two-run home run in the sixth, but for Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli's ejection later that inning. Perhaps never before had so many people wanted a manager out of a game. Only moments after Mazzilli was thrown out of the Orioles' 4-2 win against the Colorado Rockies, the manager's 14-year-old son, Lee Jr., ran into the clubhouse and yelled, "Yeah!" in excitement. For the first time in his major league managerial career, Mazzilli, who has been criticized for not showing enough emotion, watched the end of the game somewhere other than the dugout.

The crowd roared and gave the manager a standing ovation on his way to the dugout after he had argued that Chris Gomez's drive to left field, that landed near the foul pole, was actually a home run. Mazzilli ran toward third base umpire Chris Guccione after he immediately ruled the drive had gone foul.

"I thought it was fair and he didn't see it," Mazzilli said. "From my angle, it was."

Mazzilli successfully persuaded the umpires to convene. But after their conference, the call stood. Mazzilli went directly to crew chief Charlie Reliford and continued to argue. The umpire paced in one direction and Mazzilli followed only inches away and kept jawing. When asked what he told Reliford, Mazzilli said, "It wasn't 'Happy Father's Day.' "

Eventually, Reliford had enough. He raised his hand and threw the manager out of the game. It's only a minor footnote that Mazzilli was actually wrong. Replays showed the ball had clearly been inches foul. Does it even matter, though? The manager, in his 230th game, had shown signs of life and his team appeared to respond. The Orioles added another run in the seventh.

"You need some protection from the manager," third baseman Melvin Mora said. "Even if he wasn't right, at least he went over there to show the umpire he's there."

Mazzilli has passively watched his players get called for balks that did not appear to be balks and he has sat in the dugout without arguing several close plays on the bases. On Sunday he had finally made his point. It was only a coincidence that Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" played in the clubhouse after the game.

"In truth, I liked it," shortstop Miguel Tejada said. "He showed that he's behind us and that he's not asleep in the dugout. We felt good when he did that. We felt our boss was fighting for us."

The brunt of Mazzilli's anger was felt by a small tray of bubble gum that sat atop one of the Gatorade containers. Only moments after entering the dugout, Mazzilli picked up the tray and threw it toward the field. The foul area near first base was littered with tiny pieces of gum.

"It was just there," Mazzilli said. "I couldn't lift the five-gallon container of Gatorade. I didn't even try to do that."

After the inning, Mora, on his way to third base, picked up two pieces of gum and stuck them in his mouth.

"I had to pick it up from the floor," Mora said. "I need it. We were [upset at the call] at the beginning. But after that we were laughing because he threw my gum away. I had to play the rest of the game without my gum. But that was a good thing. We got excited. We let it slide. He needs to continue that."

With a 20-game stretch ahead against teams with winning records, perhaps the Orioles will need Mazzilli to show the same type of fire. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees continue to win and the Orioles must do the same. Baltimore did not add to its lead in the American League East despite a 5-1 homestand this week.

"You know what they're doing, but we have no control over that," Mazzilli said. "I think teams know we're a good team. What they're thinking, I couldn't tell you that."

Palmeiro's home run in the sixth against Rockies starter Jeff Francis sent Hayden Penn, who pitched a career-high seven innings, to his second win of the season. The 20-year-old rookie is 2-0 with a 4.23 ERA.

"This kid, every time he goes out there, I'm more and more impressed," Mazzilli said.

It was Mazzilli who had impressed the entire team, the fans and his teenage son simply by getting ejected.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company