April 28, 2006


Bean ball: Jose Mesa is three-for-three in hitting former teammate Omar Vizquel (John Dawson, 5/06/06, World)

San Francisco Giants infielder Omar Vizquel must wish Colorado pitcher Jose Mesa would try to kill him more softly. Baseball's most heated feud got a bit hotter in April when the Giants traveled to Colorado to play the Rockies. There, for the third time since 2002 when the infielder penned a book slamming Mr. Mesa's performance in the 1997 World Series, Mr. Vizquel stepped into the batter's box against the hard-throwing reliever. And just like the two previous times, Mr. Vizquel got to first with a fastball in his back.

How did Mr. Vizquel offend Mr. Mesa? In his book, Omar! My Life on and off the Field, Mr. Vizquel blamed his then-teammate for collapsing in the 9th inning of Game 7 against the Florida Marlins in 1997. "The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made," Mr. Vizquel wrote in his 2002 autobiography. "Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home."

Folks could have expected the hard-throwing right-hander to be miffed. Mr. Mesa was beyond that, though. "I will not forgive him," Mr. Mesa told reporters after the book was released. "Even my little boy (Jose Jr.) told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. Every time. I want to kill him." Mr. Mesa has repeated the death threats.


“‘You are scared of Cincinnati.’ That’s what I told my teammates, "Every time we play Cincinnati, the hitters are on their ass.”

In 1970, ‘71, and ‘72, he says, the rest of the league was afraid of the Pirates. “they say, 'Here come the big bad Pirates. They’re going to kick our ass!’ Like they give up. That’s what our team was starting to do." Cincinatti will bull[****] with us and kick our ass and laugh at us. They’re the only team that talk about us like a dog. Whenever we play that team, everybody socializes with them.” In the past the roles had been reversed. “When they ran over to us, we knew they were afraid of us. When I saw our team doing it, right then I say, "We gunna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherf******s.’” [...]

Taking his usual warm-up pitches, Dock noticed Pete Rose standing at one side of the batter’s box, leaning on his bat, studying his delivery. On his next-to-last warm-up, Dock let fly at Rose and almost hit him.

A distant early warning.

In fact, he had considered not hitting Pete Rose at all. He and Rose are friends, but of course friendship, as the commissioner of baseball would insist, must never prevent even-handed treatment. No, Dock had considered not hitting Pete Rose because Rose would take it so well, ”He’s going to charge first base, and make it look like nothing.” Having weighed the whole matter, Dock decided to hit him anyway.

“The first pitch to Pete Rose was directly toward his head,” as Dock expresses it, “not actually to hit him, ” but as “the message, to let him know that he was going to get hit. More or less to press his lips. I knew if I could get close to the head that I could get them in the body. Because they’re looking to protect their head, they’ll give me the body.” The next pitch was behind him. “the next one, I hit him in the side.”

Pete Rose’s response was even more devastating than Dock had anticipated. He smiled. Then he picked the ball up, where it had falled beside him, and gently, underhanded, tossed it back to Dock. Then he lit for first as if trying out fro the Olympics.

As Dock says, with huge approval, “You have to be good, to be a hot dog.”

As Rose bent down to pick up the ball, he had exchanged a word with Joe Morgan who was batting next. Morgan taunted Rose, “He doesn’t like you anyway. You’re a white guy.”

Dock hit Morgan in the kidneys with his first pitch.

By this time, both benches were agog. It was Mayday on May Day. The Pirates realized that Dock was doing what he said he would do. The Reds were watching him do it. “I looked over on the bench, they were all with their eyes wide and their mouths wide open, like, 'I don’t believe it!’

“The next batter was [Dan] Driessen. I threw a ball to him. High and inside. The next one, I hit him in the back.”

Bases loaded, no outs. Tony Perez, Cincinnati first baseman, came to bat. He did not dig in. “There was no way I could hit him. He was running. The first one I threw behind him, over his head, up against the screen, but it came back off the glass, and they didn’t advance. I threw behind him because he was backing up, but then he stepped in front of the ball. The next three pitches, he was running, "I walked him.” A run came in. “The next hitter was Johnny Bench. I tried to deck him twice. I threw at his jaw, and he moved. I threw at the back of his head, and he moved.”

With two balls and no strikes on Johnny Bench—-eleven pitches gone: three hit batsmen, one walk, one run, and now two balls—-[manager, Danny} Murtaugh approached the mound. “He came out as if to say, 'What’s wrong? Can’t find the plate?’” Dock was suspicious that his manager really knew what he was doing. “No,” said Dock, “I must have Blass-itis.” (I was genuine wildness, ªnot throwing at batters—-that had destroyed Steve Blass the year before.)

“He looked at me hard,” Dock remembers. “He said, 'I’m going to bring another guy in.’ So I just walked off the mound.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 28, 2006 4:05 PM

I always wanted to see Pete Rose eat a Nolan Ryan fastball. The best part would be him playing his "Charlie Hustle" schtick while spitting teeth fragments and then collapsing halfway to first.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 28, 2006 5:09 PM

Omar Vizquel ought to go after Mesa with his bat. That's the worst thing about baseball (especially American League baseball, spit). Pitchers can try to hurt batters and batters can't strike back. Try doing that in football, basketball or hockey and see how fast you get your head handed to you.

Posted by: Brandon at April 28, 2006 6:40 PM

Brandon: how can hitters respond to pitchers in the nl?

It's pitchers who are supposed to hit them when they come to the plate, and contra all the fans of the nl, that didn't change the way either Clemens or Pedro pitched when they moved leagues. In fact, both seem to have enjoyed the lame-ass hitting they faced in the sr circuit.

There's plenty ways btw that hitters can get at pitchers in the al, of course charging the mound is one of them -- ask Robin Ventura -- and how 'bout a drag bunt up the 1st base line leading to a steam roll of the pitcher?

Doc Ellis: wasn't he the dude who pitched a no-hitter on acid?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 28, 2006 9:05 PM