Jimmy Cordero drilling Willson Contreras over the season’s (and maybe the century’s) most artistic home run-hitting bat flip Friday night got himself a three-game suspension Saturday. At this writing, he plans to appeal. It’s not that Cordero knows me from Adam (Dunn or otherwise), but I’d like to make a suggestion to him for future reference.
Bat flippers matter. And they’re not the only ones who should be given such license when we talk about Letting the Kids Play. But almost never do we see anyone suggesting that if it’s ok for a home run hitter to send his bat into orbit it ought to be ok for a pitcher to celebrate a big strikeout.
I’ve said it before—they’d done it before. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley used to make like he was fanning a pistol in his hand after (as he might have said in his old Dial-Eck jive talk) showing them the high cheese before punching them out with the yakker.
Pistol-fanning in the real Old West was something usually frowned upon—except in Hollywood. Wyatt Earp himself once said, “the gun fanner and the hip shooter stood small chance to live against a man who . . . took his time and pulled the trigger once.” In the Old West, it might get you killed. On the mound, it might get you laughs.
If you’re the hitter who doesn’t like it, just wait for your next time up and for the yakker that hangs. Then, have a yakker after you show him the high cheese . . . sailing into the bleachers, or the next county, whichever comes first. Yak for the Morticia is yak for the Gomez, you know.
If you’re a pitcher but you don’t want to be seen as a gun nut, you could always try wielding an imaginary bullwhip. Or a butterfly net. Or your best Al Bundy called bowling strike—roll your ball, pirouette, pump your fist, jerk your knee bend, and holler “steeee-rike!” before you know the ball’s half way to hitting the pins in the first place.
How about the pantomime fading basketball jump shot? Like the one Jim Carrey delivered in court in Liar, Liar. You could even run clubhouse surveys on who does it better—or funnier: a 6’8″ galoot like Dellin Betances, or a 5’7″ peanut like Marcus Stroman. And challenge each other to put that galoot or that peanut to shame.
One thing missed about this year’s Washington Nationals—2,000 year old man Fernando Rodney bending, aiming, and shooting arrows at the sky after nailing a good inning or, especially, a relief save, the latter being a lifelong habit. Now and then, of course, Rodney received tastes of his own medicine, which he didn’t really seem to mind.
Case in point: a 2014 game against the Los Angeles Angels, while he pitched for the Seattle Mariners. Rodney finished a scoreless eighth by shooting his invisible arrow right into the Angels dugout. That’d teach him.
In the ninth, he surrendered a walk to Mike Trout and a prompt RBI double to Albert Pujols. Pujols and Trout shot invisible arrows back and forth between second base and the dugout. The Angels’ Grant Green shot a game-winning RBI arrow through Rodney’s heart and into center field for the 6-5 win. All in good fun, we presume.
But why should the hitters and the pitchers have all the fun? If Willson Contreras can flip a bat spinning up equal to the Guaranteed Rate Field roof line, or Dennis Eckersley can shoot bullets after he’s thrown a few for a strikeout, why can’t the middle infielders have a little mad fun?
Kolten Wong (second base) and Paul DeJong (shortstop) turn double plays smoother than short-order cooks turn pancakes or pizza makers flip and spin the dough, right? (Now that I mention it, Contreras’s Friday night flip did kind of spin as high as some pizza makers spin the dough, at least when they’re spinning it in the front window and they’ve got an audience.)
Often as not, it’s Wong grabbing a hopper close enough to the middle of the infield and flinging inside-out to DeJong to turn and whip one to first base. Especially to retire the side. Why shouldn’t Wong and DeJong face each other, crouch, and juggle imaginary . . . well, anything—bats, balls, knives, garden shovels, meat cleavers, take your pick?
Come to think of it, with a name pair like theirs they could take that act on the road and bring down the house. Unless, of course, they bring down the wrath of a Fun Police pitcher and get to dance erroneously to a little chin music, maestro.
Even in the ancient days, the ones the Fun Police say meant respect, there were those who knew how to have fun. Even the almighty imperial New York Yankees. They had the perfect answer for Bill Veeck’s exploding scoreboard in Comiskey Park. As it happened, they also had the perfect manager for it—Casey Stengel.
Led by the Ol’ Perfesser himself, the Yankees answered one of their own hitting one out by sending up that scoreboard—prancing around the front of the dugout holding Fourth of July sparklers aloft for the Comiskey crowd to see.
And wouldn’t you just love to see a batter hit a milestone home run and celebrate it by trotting around the bases backward? Jim Piersall thought of that, in 1963, when he hit the 100th home run of his major league career, as a Met. Only he learned the hard way that even Stengel’s vaunted sense of humour had its limits.
Piersall led off against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Dallas Green (future major league manager) in the bottom of the fifth, with the Mets holding a 1-0 lead, and drilled Green’s first service into the Polo Grounds’ right field seats. He took two steps out of the box, did an about face, and backpedaled his way around the bases.
The Phillies were probably too stunned to think of anything other than a few snickers. Piersall’s home run shuffle has yet to be topped even by today’s flippers, fanners, and jugglers. It was Piersall’s first home run as a Met. It was also Piersall’s last home run as a Met.
Stengel—the man who once flipped the bird out from under his hat during a game—was so amused by Piersall’s backpedaling he made sure the veteran outfielder was cut two days later, only to be signed by the tender mercies of the then-toddling Los Angeles Angels.
“But I got $6,000 severance pay for one month,” Piersall remembered much later, “which made it my best payday in baseball, although I’d hit only .194 for the Mets. He did me a favor.” Who had the last laugh now?