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Out to the brawlgame

National | The only good news is that these guys have about 150 games to cool off.

Issue: "Staying underground," May 3, 2003

The only good news is that these guys have about 150 games to cool off. A recap of late April events proves just how ugly major-league baseball seems to be in the early season.

Just look at what happened over Easter weekend. A brawl erupted in St. Louis when Cardinals first baseman Tino Martinez felt Arizona pitcher Miguel Batista was staring at him too menacingly after he was hit by a Batista pitch and again as he trotted back to the dugout after being retired at second base. When Martinez charged the mound, Batista hurled the ball at him and fled to left field. In typical baseball style, Cardinals reliever Jeff Fassero beaned Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez in retribution. Fassero branded himself a symbol of vigilante justice: "I play old baseball, I don't play this new style of baseball. I still believe in the old ways, settling scores for teams and stuff like that."

But the St. Louis brawl was overshadowed by an era of bad feeling in Oakland. After A's pitchers hit two Texas batters on April 19, a drunken Oakland fan pelted Rangers outfielder Carl Everett in the back of his head with a cell phone hurled from the upper deck. The next day, the A's continued their assault on Rangers batters, plunking a team-record four batters in one game. Mr. Everett got revenge in the form of a game-winning home run.

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Then there's the matter of Sammy Sosa's 504th home run, tying him with Eddie Murray on the all-time list. Mr. Sosa was greeted in his next at bat by a fastball in his left temple from Pittsburgh pitcher Solomon Torres. The pitch shattered Sosa's batting helmet, but left the slugger standing. He left the game, but promised he'd be back soon. And after an early-season temper tantrum, baseball should follow suit.

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