Strange But True: Bat Throwers

Throwing a bat is one of the most dangerous things a baseball player can do, and umpires usually send a man out of the game for throwing it on purpose. But in at least two cases major league umpires found a different way to handle a bat-thrower.

The Cleveland Indians once had an infielder named Ivy Olson. Olson wasn’t much of a hitter. In one game, Olson was at bat, and the count was three-and-two. He watched the next pitch go by, and the umpire called strike three. Olson got very angry. He said a few harsh words to the umpire and then threw his bat high in the air.

When the bat landed on the ground, the umpire calmly picked it up and threw it in the air himself, much higher than Olson had thrown it.

“O.K.,” growled the umpire. “You’re no good at throwing a bat, and you’re no good at judging a ball or strike. Now shut up and sit down or I’ll throw you out of the game!”

Some years later, Danny Murtaugh, then playing for Houston in the minor leagues, was in the same situation as Olson. Again the count was three-and-two, and Murtaugh took a called strike three. Murtaugh tossed his bat high into the air. But the umpire of that game had no sense of humor.

“You catch that bat before it lands or I’ll fine you twenty dollars,” the umpire roared.

Murtaugh judged the flight of the bat and caught it before it hit the ground. He later played in the major leagues and managed the Pittsburgh Pirates to two National League pennants. But he never made a better catch in his life.

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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  1. When I was a kid playing little league softball, I had a bad habit of throwing the bat away whenever I got a hit. I almost took out my own teams’ entire sideline at one game and the umpire went apeshit. I eventually had to completely focus on remembering to just drop the bat, but I was so intent on not throwing it that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the ball and my batting average went down the shitter.

  2. This is a scary incident. Lots of classic Billy Martin action:

    It’s an odd camera angle on the pitch, so it’s hard to tell how blatant the throw at Bert Campaneris was before he threw the bat.

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