In a word, Alomar's act was inexcusable

September 28, 1996|By John Eisenberg

TORONTO -- He lost his cool, which happens.

He said he was just responding to an insult, which also happens.

But that doesn't mean he was right.

Roberto Alomar couldn't have been more wrong to spit in umpire John Hirschbeck's face after being ejected from last night's game at SkyDome for arguing a called third strike in the first inning.

How could such a smart player do such a dumb thing?

How could a player who does so many things right do something so incredibly wrong?

Alomar was wrong because he was unable to play in a critically important game, hurting the Orioles' cause in the wild-card race.

His talent is such that he could have changed the course of what wound up being a one-run loss for the Orioles.

He also was wrong because he put himself into position to get suspended and miss postseason games, although that probably won't happen.

Not that he doesn't deserve such punishment.

The American League has every right to throw the book at him for spitting in an ump's face.

"That has never happened to me in 21 years of pro ball, never," Hirschbeck said after the game. "He spit all over my face is what he did. In my eyes, everywhere."

Alomar said he did it because Hirschbeck called him "a name" after ejecting him.

Sorry, but "a spit for a name" isn't "an eye for an eye."

There's no excuse for spitting on an umpire.

If Albert Belle had done it, his head would be on talk-show platters across the country today.

Nice-guy Robbie Alomar did it, but that doesn't make the act any less offensive.

It's a disgusting, degrading way to treat someone and there is no justification for it.

Alomar tried to justify it when he spoke to reporters after the game; he admitted that he had made a mistake, but he thought Hirschbeck had made one, too.

Not understanding that a mistake in the course of a baseball game has nothing in common with a "mistake" such as spitting on someone.

"He missed that [third-strike] call by a whole lot," Alomar said. "A professional umpire should do a better job than that in such a big game. Then he called me bad names. There was no reason for that. He should admit he made a mistake, too."

The longer Alomar talked, the more ridiculous he sounded.

"Do you regret doing it?" a reporter asked, giving him a chance to soften his stance.

"No, I don't regret it at all," Alomar said. "He called me some names. I don't regret anything that I did over there. I don't regret nothing."

Then Alomar explained that he had a running feud with Hirschbeck dating to last season, when Hirschbeck tossed him from a game in Oakland. Alomar said that Hirschbeck "had become more bitter" after Hirschbeck's son, John, died of a rare disease in 1993.

"I know that's something real tough in life for a person," Alomar said. "I don't know, he just changed personality-wise. He just got more bitter."

Alomar had no business bringing such a personal tragedy into a baseball discussion of any kind, as if it were the least bit relevant. Bringing up Hirschbeck's son's death was a cheap shot, the lowest of the low.

Alomar owes him an apology for that.

As well as one for spitting in his face.

Several of the Orioles were shocked to learn what Alomar had done.

"He did what?" one said, incredulous, after a team official told him why a mob of reporters had gathered around Alomar after the game.

The amazing thing was that Alomar was the Oriole who snapped in such a fashion. He was the least likely candidate. He has a calm, almost serene manner. He is pleasant with reporters, even after tough losses.

But he is in trouble now.

There is no doubt he will get suspended, but he probably won't have to miss playoff games. He can appeal the suspension, drag out the process and push the sanctions back to next year.

Still, American League president Gene Budig wouldn't be wrong to push for a suspension in the playoffs.

You have to protect the umpires in such a situation.

Bumping or striking an ump is the most serious of baseball crimes, and spitting on one is no different.

It doesn't matter if the ump blows a call as badly as Hirschbeck blew this one, and then baits the player into an argument.

Replays indicated that the pitch by Blue Jays starter Paul Quantrill was far outside, maybe by as much as six inches. A brutal call.

"I don't think a big-league ump should miss a call that far," Alomar said. "If he would have said, 'I missed the call,' I would have done nothing. But he told me, 'You have to swing at that pitch.' I just reacted."

He argued, retreated to the bench and continued to argue. Only after Hirschbeck tossed him did he return to the field and spit in Hirschbeck's face.

Alomar lost his cool, which happens.

He was in a pennant race and the call was bad and he snapped, which happens.

The umpire baited him by telling him he had "to swing at that pitch."

But that doesn't mean he was right.

Boy, was he wrong.

The Orioles wanted him for his grace under pressure, but this was as graceless as it gets.

Alomar blew it, big-time.

It would serve him right to have to miss playoff games, not that he will.

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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