Game's integrity up to players, Monday says

ON BASEBALL

March 21, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Former major league outfielder Rick Monday became something of a national hero when he saved the American flag from being burned during a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1976.

Baseball stood for something then. It had some warts, but it was the national pastime and '76 was the year of the nation's bicentennial celebration, and Monday did what any red-blooded American would have done when he saw a pair of protesters run onto the field and try to set fire to the flag.

"It incensed me," he said Friday as he prepared to broadcast the Dodgers' exhibition game against the Orioles at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. "It was wrong in 1976, and it is still wrong."

The incident may seem quaint through the filter of history, but there is relevance to what is happening now in baseball. The sport, mired in yet another fan-numbing scandal, needs someone to rush in and scoop it off the ground.

Monday never had a doubt about what he needed to do that day. He didn't stand there trying to decide if there were two sides to the story that was unfurling in front of him along with the flag.

"I just felt that what they were doing was the wrong thing to do," he said. "That's the way I was raised, it was reinforced during six years in the Marine reserves, and it's even more relevant today. They tried to use baseball as a platform. I'm delighted to this day that they weren't able to accomplish that."

So, what does one man's defining moment have to do with steroids? Maybe nothing, but Monday said that every player who puts on a major league uniform should do whatever he can to protect the integrity of the sport.

"I think that all of us who have been a part of the great game of baseball, who continue to be a part of it and who will be a part of it in the future need to be concerned that the game retains the goodness that people and society have long associated with Major League Baseball," Monday said.

Monday wasn't talking specifically about the steroid scandal. That's just the obsession of the moment. The game will weather that like it weathered the World Series fix of 1919 and the drug trials of the 1980s. But he does say that today's players will have to work hard to battle the cynicism that has grown up around the game during a generation of scandal and labor friction.

"Somebody passed me the baton and I passed it to someone else," he said. "We really need to protect the heritage of the game and the respect that people have for it."

Bonds takes the fourth

Superstar Barry Bonds didn't need to do much of a sell job to persuade San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou to move him from No. 3 in the batting order back into the cleanup spot.

It makes too much sense. The move will give Bonds more opportunities to hit with runners on base in the first inning, and discourage pitchers from walking him in his first at-bat whether he comes up with runners on or leads off the second inning.

"I've always liked my big guy batting fourth," Alou said. "I believe the cleanup guy has a better chance to drive in runs than the No. 3 guy. From what I saw last year, there's more production for us that way."

Schilling stirs debate

Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling found himself at the center of the steroid controversy Wednesday, when he said during an interview that he didn't trust Major League Baseball to administer the sport's drug-testing program.

His comments prompted MLB to hold a conference call to refute some of his claims, which even he later admitted were based on flawed information.

It was all a tempest in a teapot, but it gave baseball another opportunity to put the players union on the defensive when MLB labor relations chief Rob Manfred offered to turn the whole drug-testing program over to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, something the union would never agree to do.

It's the second time that Schilling has injected himself into a major baseball issue. He was fined $15,000 for taking a bat to one of the cameras that were installed in stadiums last year to monitor ball and strike calls by umpires.

Giants-A's feud, Part II

Commissioner Bud Selig wasn't happy to hear Oakland Athletics co-owner Steve Schott railing about Giants owner Peter Magowan, and he apparently stands behind the Giants in their reluctance to cede territorial rights to the South Bay area, where the A's would like to build a new ballpark.

"I'm always sensitive about owners pounding on owners," Selig said during a tour of Cactus League training camps. "It's one thing that used to go on a lot. Now it's stopped. But I'm going to talk with both clubs."

Selig supports the A's effort to initiate a stadium project, but they'll have to do so within the territorial guidelines dictated by the commissioner's office.

"We have internal rules, and internal rules are essential to running the game," Selig said.

Logic-free zone

Baseball labor legend Marvin Miller told The Tampa Tribune that baseball's steroid scandal has been a media creation.

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