Ump: Alomar only to blame Angelos says 'be man enough' to apologize

Hirschbeck refuses

February 18, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney | Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Roberto Alomar's marketing agent and Orioles owner Peter Angelos want John Hirschbeck to apologize for swearing at Alomar, saying the verbal attack prompted the second baseman to spit on the umpire last September in Toronto.

But Hirschbeck said last night that he would not apologize, and maintained he was not to blame for the incident.

"Do I think I did anything wrong? In my opinion, I do not," Hirschbeck said from his home in Poland, Ohio. "Do I think I owe anyone an apology for anything I did? Absolutely, positively not.

"If they think I do, then they have a major problem. I have tried to handle this whole situation as professionally as I possibly can. I only wish that the Orioles and Roberto Alomar would handle this as professionally as I have."

John Boggs, Alomar's marketing agent, said yesterday that an apology by Hirschbeck would help bring closure to an issue that continues to simmer with Alomar expected to join the Orioles at spring training today.

Angelos, asked to respond to Boggs' comments, said Hirschbeck should "be man enough" to admit what he said to Alomar, calling his player's reaction "unfortunate" yet "understandable."

Hirschbeck and Alomar have said they wanted to move forward, but the comments by both sides yesterday reflect the tension that still exists six weeks from Opening Day.

"Part of getting past this thing would be if John Hirschbeck admitted to what he said to Robbie, as opposed to just forgiving Robbie for his transgressions," Boggs said. "John Hirschbeck knows what he said. [Orioles manager] Davey Johnson heard what he said.

"He should just own up to that, and also acknowledge that he was wrong in what he said, and Robbie was wrong in what he did, as opposed to this one-sided forgiveness, which still makes Robbie look like a spoiled athlete just reacting to a bad call.

"That's incorrect. It's not that at all."

Angelos said his own investigation revealed that Hirschbeck's remarks provoked Alomar's response, an act that drew him a five-game suspension at the start of the coming season.

"If you say something to a 28-year-old athlete like that, you can understand that's going to be the reaction," Angelos said. "Probably Robbie wanted to take a poke at him, but he couldn't reach him, and he did the next best thing."

Angelos continued: "His reaction makes no sense unless you understand the context. If you look at the record, John Hirschbeck is a fine, upstanding individual and Robbie has been, too.

"There are those saying, 'Let's forget about it and move on.' Yeah, but it's forget in a fashion that is unacceptable to those who seek the truth and want to know exactly what happened. There is a gross injustice here."

Hirschbeck declined to comment specifically on the remarks by Angelos. Alomar was unavailable to comment, and has requested that he be asked no more questions on the matter.

Still, the issue lingers.

Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone said in October that the club was preparing a "public defense" of Alomar, and that it would be presented by Angelos, who made his fortune in asbestos litigation.

The Orioles never made their case, but Angelos renewed his support of Alomar in recent weeks, saying he would pay the player during his suspension -- a standard practice in baseball.

"I keep getting asked, 'Why take up for the guy?' " Angelos said. "He's been indicted for something, constantly and publicly castigated for it. But the circumstances have been kept from the public, and the public is making a judgment. No one is going to approve of what Robbie did, and he himself is sorry. But let's know the facts and go from there."

The incident occurred after Hirschbeck called Alomar out on strikes in the first inning of the final series of the 1996 season, with the Orioles attempting to clinch a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

Alomar complained about the call as he walked away from the plate, and the argument continued after he returned to the dugout. Hirschbeck then ejected Alomar, and the second baseman came running on the field with Johnson.

Afterward, Alomar said that Hirschbeck's personality had changed since the death of his son in 1993. Hirschbeck stormed into the Orioles' clubhouse and threatened to kill Alomar upon learning of his comments the next day.

The central question now is what happened on the field.

"If you take literally what he said to the kid, he accused him of having a sexual relationship with his mother," Angelos said. DTC "Now, just because it's used a lot, rarely does anyone make that statement to anyone in a confrontational manner. And in this case, it was.

"Does that make John Hirschbeck a bad man? No. What I'm saying is, 'Be man enough to admit it and let's go from there.' "

Pub Date: 2/18/97

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