Hal McRae, the Kansas City Royals' designated hitter, knows how to stop the Chicago White Sox. The McRae plan is so simple it's a wonder other people haven't thought of it. If the White Sox insist on winning games, McRae says the best thing to do is throw the baseball into their ears.
The idea came to McRae this weekend in Chicago. He sat on the bench and watched the White Sox beat the Royals three times in four games. That put the first-place White Sox 5 1/2 games ahead of MacRae and his playmates. Bad enough. right? What made it worse, McRae said, was how much the White Sox enjoyed it. For crying out loud. McRae said. even the White Sox fans enjoyed it.
"They beat the hell out of us and then keep showing us up," McRae told reporters. "They stand there when they hit the ball and watch it go out of the park before they start around the bases."
"Then they do it slowly while the scoreboard is blasting off and after they get into the dugout, they come out for standing ovations."
"It's bush what they do," McRae said. "It's a disgrace to baseball."
We should pause here to remind careless readers that McRae is talking about serious readers that McRae is talking about serious stuff. He's not worried about, say, a gambling scandal that some people might call a disgrace to baseball. And he isn't talking about, say, baseball's social progress, which might be called bush-league. McRae is talking about the White Sox and their fans having fun. This is serious.
"The players are letting the fans make monkeys out of them," he said. "The guys should never do it (leave the dugout to respond to an ovation."
And why not?
"It's embarrasing to the pitcher."
Obviously. McRae is a sensitive fellow.
Not everyone would feel sorry for the pitcher. The world's hard-hearts might suggest that the pitcher, if he's easily embarrassed, take up a job where 50,000 people aren't looking over his shoulder. Maybe he could sell shoes.
But McRae, a sensitive fellow, has his sensitive idea of how his blushing pitchers can make everything right. Calling on his experience as a Cincinnati Red, McRae says the bush-league, monkey-making, disgraceful White Sox and their fans would be put in their place quickly in the National League. Here's how.
"Something like that would be stopped in one day. The pitchers over there would see that, and the next batter up would get the ball in the ear."
McRaw, always thinking, even has a date picked out for the indelicate maneuvers necessary to place a baseball in a man's ear.
I'm a little put out pitchers didn't do it (last week)," McRae said."I'd like to see the White Sox try that when then come to Kansas City next weekend."
This has been a wonderful baseball season. A manager tried to punch his candy bar outfielder. An owner insulted the commissioner almost daily. A great pitcher said his team's owner is an idiot. As much fun as all that has been, nothing matches the happy goings-on in Chicago, where the blessed Cubbies are hanging on to first place and the White Sox are making every home game a festival.
On national television Saturday, baseball lovers saw the Chicago fans in action. Those passionate devotees leaped and cheered and applauded until their hands fell off. They've been doing that all season, and the White Sox are over the million mark in attendance, reaching that figure the earliest in the team's 77-year history.
"I don't know whether the crowd comes here to watch us, or we come to watch them," said Richie Zisk, the White Sox outfielder who once this season was given two standing ovations after striking out (he'd hit home runs the first two times up). "Whatever it is, it's beautiful."
Not to Hal McRae, it isn't. "You know this can turn into a nightmare. There are a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] runners here in Chicago and they'll turn on the players. ALl it will take is a losing streak."
McRae is a creative thinker. Only a man with an original turn of mind could play a baseball game in front of 50,000 going-crazy customers - customers who pay his salary - and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] so disgraceful the only way to handle them is by throwing a baseball into their heroes [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Of course McRae always has had [WORD ILLEGIBLE] else would think of. On Oct. 3 last season [WORD ILLEGIBLE] nesota outfielder seemed to misjudge a fly ball and the resulting base hit made George Brett [WORD ILLEGIBLE] league batting champion by a percentage point over McRae.
Brett is a Royal, a friend of McRae [WORD ILLEGIBLE] McRae thought he'd been jobbed out of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] championship. He tried to preach the [WORD ILLEGIBLE]$120manager. He even brought up the possibility [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Brett, the outfielder and the manager - all white - had conspired to deprive a black man, McRae of the title.
The American League investigated the incident and said it found no evidence of unethical conduct Surprise.