Unless the goods are found, the only penalty for scuffing is scoffing

BASEBALLGR: PHOTO

June 28, 1992|By PETER SCHMUCK

Stop with all the outrage already. The injury to Chris Hoiles was unfortunate, perhaps even pennant-threatening. It was a crime, but it isn't as if cheating is not a time-honored tradition in baseball.

Gaylord Perry had to spread Vasoline all over himself to slip into the Hall of Fame. There were enough scuffed balls collected during Don Sutton's career to fill a wing at Cooperstown, but he will be there soon instead.

The thing that galls the Orioles is that they caught Tim Leary of the New York Yankees in the act -- or at least they think they did -- and he's probably going to walk. There is no smoking gun. There was only a bag of hand-carved baseballs and a piece of videotape in which Leary is acting very suspicious.

The whole thing would have been settled in a hurry if one of the umpires had walked to the mound, grabbed Leary by the nose and forced him to cough up the evidence, but that's not the way the system works. You can't just go sticking your fingers in someone's mouth in front of 45,000 people. It's gross, for one thing, and it's a violation of the player's right to privacy.

If Leary was cheating, he did what any self-respecting scuffballer would do in the same situation. He ate the evidence. Just be glad he wasn't using a glob of Brylcream. He might have done to umpire Terry Craft what President Bush did to the Japanese prime minister.

The Orioles protested the game and built a case to support that protest, but even American League president Bobby Brown has to adhere to a standard of evidence that will make it difficult to get any action. The umpires didn't do anything. The videotape does not show any foreign object, even if it suggests that there was one. The verdict has been slow to come, but it isn't hard to figure out what it will be.

There has been plenty of evidence collected against baseball's suspected cheaters over the past several years, but the only ones who have been disciplined were those caught with the goods. Rick Honeycutt once was caught with a tack fastened to his hand. Joe Niekro was caught with an emery board. Kevin Gross was caught with a piece of sandpaper attached to his glove.

If Leary was cheating last Sunday night, he got away with it. That's baseball.

*

Strange but true: Just a few weeks after Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Seattle Mariners to an investment group headed by a Japanese businessman, the Mariners held a pre-game ceremony Thursday to honor departed star Al

vin Davis, who was in Seattle with the California Angels. Davis announced afterward that he was leaving the Angels to finish the season with the Kintetsu Buffaloes in Osaka, Japan.

*

From the home office in Arnold: With the usual apologies to talk-show host and Terry Craft Umpiring Academy guest instructor David Letterman, here's my top 10 list of entirely plausible reasons why Leary appeared to stick his hand in his mouth during last Sunday night's game at Camden Yards.

10. Only way to make sure uvula was still in place.

9. Wearing grape-flavored wristwatch.

8. Just making sure he didn't swallow that Black and Decker cordless drill he keeps in his mouth for unexpected household repairs.

7. "Martha Raye was right, that Dentu-grip really holds."

L 6. One taste of that resin stuff and you're hooked for life.

5. Adult thumb-sucking -- society's hidden scourge.

4. Would do anything to get on "America's Funniest Home Videos," even eat own hand.

3. Had to check the grit count of his Skoal.

2. Forced to chew fingernails because emery boards are not allowed on mound.

1. Trying to keep from throwing up at thought of how he was pitching before he discovered sandpaper.

*

Stone Age stadium: The proposed stadium project in Milwaukee remains on hold pending further environmental-impact studies. The project originally was delayed when a rock formation was discovered that is thought to date back 400 million years. Several months later, stadium planners still are between a very old rock and a hard place.

"They just found Fred Flintstone's footprints," Milwaukee sportswriter Tom Haudricourt said. "The stadium is going to be delayed another two years while they look for Dino."

*

Missing at sea: The Orioles Advocates sponsored a midnight cruise to celebrate the induction of Gene Woodling into the Orioles Hall of Fame last weekend, but somebody missed the boat.

It was Woodling, who was a no-show at his own party.

*

More stadium stuff: Brewers officials admittedly are green with envy over the new ballpark in Baltimore. Members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the organization that is working with the Brewers to build a new stadium, will visit Camden Yards this week to meet with Orioles officials and community leaders to see how they brought the project together.

"From a distance, the stadium in Baltimore seems to be the closest thing to what we want in Milwaukee," GMC executive director Robert Milbourne told the Milwaukee Sentinel last week.

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