LAST WEEK the manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Frank Robinson, got overheated in an argument with an umpire and, in the course of being intemperate, bumped into the official. That sort of thing is taken seriously in baseball, and it netted Mr. Robinson more than an ejection from the game: he also received a three-game suspension, which he has since served.

Later last week a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians threw a pitch near the head of a Boston Red Sox batter who had won a game the previous night with a big hit. The next day Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens opened the afternoon's activities by hitting the first batter to come to the plate for Cleveland. The inevitable brawl followed, after which they played a baseball game.

Pitching at or too close to batters has always been a hard thing to control. Quite often, such pitches really are unintentional; at best, it's hard to tell. But Joe Morgan, the Red Sox manager, quickly lifted any shadow of ambiguity lingering over this incident. "I loved it," he exclaimed. "We got even, didn't we? We voted as a team 34-0 that it would be such."

The American League president, Bobby Brown, reacted immediately. "The fact that pitchers throw close to hitters and sometimes deliberately hit them is a known fact," said Dr. Brown. "Nevertheless, it behooves the American League office to eliminate premeditated and announced violence."

So what is the penalty for encouraging one of the most dangerous forms of violence to be found in any sport this side of auto racing? The same as for bumping an umpire, it turned out -- and Joe Morgan thought even that was too much. "I talked to Mr. Brown," said the manager. "I told him I didn't like his decision" -- that decision being to impose a suspension of three games. We didn't like it either. It should have been 30.