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Home / Editor's Notebook / Talkin’ baseball (2015 edition)

Talkin’ baseball (2015 edition)

The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing, and the cosmic connection between law and baseball remains in place.

Here’s a round-up, with stories and some material courtesy of the Associated Press, of activity across America’s ballparks.

GOT YOUR GOAT. The Chicago Cubs are in the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2003, seeking to make the World Series for the first time since 1945. Their first stop was Pittsburgh for the wild card game against the Pirates.

A Chicago fan showed up dressed as a goat (yes, a goat – legend has it the owner of a goat cursed the team when the Cubs wouldn’t let him bring his pet goat to a Series game in ’45). The fan presumably sought to break the curse.

There’s a YouTube video circulating of a dust-up between the goat/Chicago fan and a Pittsburgh cop. The cop slams the goat to the ground and then escorts him outside PNC Park. The cause of the altercation is unknown, but authorities are investigating.

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the city’s Citizen Police Review Board, said she believes the officer unnecessarily “escalated” the situation, but she stopped short of saying the force was illegal.

Pittinger said the officer, who has been on the force for four years, will probably learn to use more discretion with experience.

“It’s just a matter of professional maturity,” Pittinger said. “Put yourself in the goat’s shoes.”

BINDERS OF PLAYERS. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was trying out a dugout innovation in his team Division Series loss to the Cubs: an iPad.

Major League Baseball late this season allowed clubs to use the tablets in the dugout; they would replace thick binders of scouting reports and other information teams seek to use during a game. MLB also has inked a significant sponsorship arrangement with Apple. So no coincidence there, no, none at all.

“We haven’t really figured out how to truly maximize having that technology in there, but we’re always open to figuring out a way to see if there is something we can gain, so we have all the data loaded and available to us,” Matheny said.

Sounds like some tech-challenged lawyers trying to use an iPad to try a case.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon, usually one of the most innovative managers in the game, was skeptical.  “I’m trying to figure out why it would be advantageous,” said Maddon, who keeps a personalized lineup card with him during games.

“Everything in the dugout has to be dugout-friendly and pretty much instantaneous. You know that little thing I keep in my back pocket? That’s like instant iPad.”

BASEBALL IMITATES LAW. Sometimes it comes down to whether a play is legal or illegal. The judge in the case wears a chest protector and a mask and answers to the name, “Blue.”

In the second game of the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers series, LA’s Chase Utley made a take-out slide at second base that broke New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s right leg. The judge’s, that is, umpire’s ruling: a safe and legal play.

Just like an appeals court, a higher authority – MLB executive Joe Torre – reversed. Illegal, said Torre, who suspended Utley for two playoff games.

“I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base,” said Torre, knowing that citation of authority is always good.

Enter blustering defense lawyer, playing for the cameras. Utley’s agent called the penalty “outrageous and completely unacceptable” and said there would be an appeal.

ONE TOUGH MAMA. Los Angeles can be a rough place to watch a ball game. In 2011, a San Francisco Giants fan was left brain-damaged after a post-game beating.

After the Dodgers lost the first game of the NLDS to the Mets in LA, police said there was a parking-lot fight that left a man critically injured.

The cops were looking for two suspects – a man in his 20s and…his mother.

Authorities didn’t know if the parties knew each other or if they were rooting for opposite teams.

After the 2011 incident, the city and the Dodgers significantly increased security.

“Anyone who goes to games now sees uniformed officers inside the venue as well as outside the venue, particularly for championship games or key rivalries,” said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. “But it is a big facility, and you can’t be everywhere all the time.”

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. A guy named Mickey Cobb worked as a trainer for the Kansas City Royals for more than two decades retiring in 1990. His 1985 World Series championship ring was a prize possession and a good luck charm Cobb planned to wear to KC’s home opener in the team’s Division Series date with the Houston Astros.

Right before the game, though, thieves broke into his home and stole the ring. Not known is whether the perps were from Houston.

Lucky for Cobb and KC, it didn’t matter – the Royals took care of the Astros, winning three of five to make the AL championship series.

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