It’s back to the well with another look at “The Baseball Codes,” a book about the unwritten rules of the game, including the business of beanballs. Hitting a batter, it turns out, is not always about retaliating after the batter takes the pitcher deep, or tosses the bat too far, or stares too intently at the ball leaving the ballpark. Sometimes, it’s about off-the-field issues.
A week ago we learned that former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven beaned ex-Oriole Phil Bradley in 1990 because of “Bradley’s hard-line stance in labor negotiations that, in Blyleven’s opinion, prolonged settlement of the 32-day lockout that delayed the start of the season.”
And then there was the time an old flame came between pitcher and hitter.
On July 10, 1977, the Twins’ Mike Cubbage, who spent five seasons with the club as an infielder, found himself bailing out of the batter’s box four times after Seattle Mariners pitcher Stan Thomas repeatedly tried to hit him. The year 1977 was the M’s inaugural season.
Thomas “uncorked four wild pitches in the first two innings against Minnesota. All four, including three in the first inning, were aimed at the head of Cubbage in response to a five-year-old tiff over a woman the pair knew when they were minor-league teammates.”
“Thomas got his priorities mixed up today,” Cubbage later said. “He’s supposed to be trying to win a game instead of throwing at me.”
It would be a long afternoon for the Mariners because the Twins rolled to a 15-0 win, scoring all those runs on 16 hits. Roy Smalley doubled twice, Cubbage tripled and Dan Ford hit a home run, but the rest of those hits were all singles. Rod Carew was hitting .401 and Lyman Bostock had three hits in six at bats to raise his average to .333.
The Twins led 7-0 after three innings, then scored eight more runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Mariners pitching walked nine batters that afternoon.
Twins pitcher Geoff Zahn, who spent four seasons with the Twins, pitched a complete game three-hitter with a walk and six strikeouts.
The M’s Thomas allowed five runs (four earned) on three hits with two walks, including the aforementioned wild pitches, in an inning of work. He never pitched in the majors again after the ‘77 season.
Sources: The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca; Baseball-Reference.com.