A Murderer Enters The Baseball Hall of Fame

Contrary to popular belief, the most wanted criminal in the world is not Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, who broke out of a Mexican prison earlier this month. No currently, the most sought after fugitive from justice is quite a lot taller than the diminutive drug kingpin and will soon be spotted lurking around the grounds of the historic Otesaga Resort Hotel in the tiny hamlet of Cooperstown, New York. This is because on Sunday, Randy Johnson is scheduled to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame but, if aviary officials have their way the 6’10” inch “Big Unit”,  as he is commonly known by accomplices, will be standing trial for murder.

Here are the facts as we know them. On March 24th, 2001, Johnson, already more than halfway through his two decade long career and pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, took the mound in a Spring Training game against the San Francisco Giants. It was during the 7th inning of this contest that the absurdly length left-hander delivered one of his patented 95 mph pitches directly into the flight path of an innocent dove. The force of the fastball reduced the the bird to feathers as its lifeless carcass faltered to the earth. Below you can watch the raw, uncut video of the moment Randy Johnson blew up a bird. (Caution…this video contains disturbing images that you’ve probably already seen before. Proceed with caution.)

The Diamondbacks would go on to win this meaningless game while in 2001 the Big Unit enjoyed one his best seasons in professional baseball leading the league in both ERA and strikeouts as well as winning his 4th Cy Young and first World Series.

Immediately following the gruesome incident Johnson demonstrated very little remorse in saying, “I didn’t think it was funny”. Failing to find the humor in the moment does not absolve one of any wrong doing and if the pitcher were really concerned about the well being of the bird perhaps he would have approached the featherless remains to assess whether or not CPR was warranted. Instead he remains dumfounded in front of the mound waiting for catcher Rod Barajas to throw him a clean baseball without any bird blood on it.

Now, 14 years and lord knows how many more dead doves later, Randy Johnson is a free man soon to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame alongside fellow inductees Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, none of whom, as far as we know, has ever been suspected of murdering a bird with a baseball.

Maybe if Johnson didn’t already have a history of attempted manslaughter could we then believe that he didn’t intend to harm that dove however we baseball fans, remember the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards in Baltimore when the Big Unit, then pitching for the Seattle Mariners, almost decapitated Phillies’ first baseman John Kruk. Kruk was so visibly shaken by the near death experience that he could barely muster even a few feeble swings while the only sign of emotion from the sinister Seattle pitcher was a conniving wink and smile.

With members of the Audubon and Humane Societies amongst the thousands of people flocking to upstate New York for this weekend’s Hall of Fame festivities, Major League Baseball remains confident that the statute of limitations on murder of bird by baseball has expired and that the celebration will go off without incident.

Nevertheless, it’s very difficult to appreciate Randy Johnson’s remarkably dominant baseball career while also thinking about that dove’s family, waiting in vain for their daddy to return to the nest. Little did they know that their father was killed by a fastball. But not just any kind of fastball, a Hall of Fame fastball.

Monday Morning Musings: 4th of July Edition

There is not a straightforward way to reach the quiet hamlet of Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Google maps will send you past every dairy farm in upstate New York. I think at one point we even passed the Bubble Boy’s house.

It might not be the easiest place to find, but Cooperstown is certainly the perfect spot to spend a Friday afternoon in early July.  We didn’t go through the actual Hall of Fame museum, choosing instead to walk around and snap a few photos of Doubleday Field, a place where I was fortunate enough to play a couple of baseball games back when I was in high school. It had been quite a while since I last visited Cooperstown and in that time I had totally forgotten how short the right field porch is. Only 312 feet down the line is a very tempting distance for a left handed hitter.

It was also nice to see that Doubleday Field is used regularly as the homefield of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes, a New York Collegiate Baseball League summer team. Fields as historic as Doubleday need to be kept busy, otherwise they become overgrown relics of yesteryear.

A Quick Trip Around the Bases

1B – Call it what you like. Grade 1. Mild strain. Day to Day. But however you choose to diagnose Jose Reyes’ latest hamstring injury, one thing’s for sure, the timing of this latest setback couldn’t come at a worse moment for the Mets or Reyes. Everyone involved is saying that the All Star shortstop could be back in the starting lineup as early as Tuesday in Los Angeles but for a player like Reyes, who has a long history of hamstring issues, the Mets will most likely be airing on the side of caution. This injury does once again raise questions regarding whether Jose Reyes is durable enough to command the type of long term contract he had positioned himself for after his historic first half to the 2011 season.

2B – So who is at the top of the 2011 All-Star Game “snub list”? CC Sabathia? Victor Martinez? Andrew McCutchen? How about  White Sox 1B Paul Konerko? Many consider Konerko a top 3 MVP candidate and he has certainly more than made up for Adam Dunn’s  historic first half incompetence.

3B – Recently, the most subtle move up the standings has been the ascension of the Angels out in the AL West.  Anaheim has won 8 of 10 games and moved into a tie for first place with reigning American League champions the Texas Rangers. Here on the East Coast we don’t hear a lot about the Halos but should probably start paying more attention to players like Jered Weaver, he of the 1.92 ERA.

HR – Derek Jeter played 6 innings of pain free baseball for AA Trenton and is now scheduled to return to the Yankee lineup Monday vs the Indians in Cleveland. Upon hearing this news, thousands of Yankee fans packed up their SUV’s and headed out west on I-80 hoping to reach Progressive Field in time for Jeter’s 3000 hit. Do you think manager Joe Girardi holds Jeter out of the lineup if he inches a little closer to 3000 just so he can reach the milestone at home in Yankee Stadium next weekend? Stay tuned.