Here are the Cole, hard facts
I must have been listening to the same back-in-my-day blowhards as Cole Hamels. When the Phillies lefty plunked Bryce Harper, then admitted it was an intentional welcome-to-the-big-leagues pitch, I have to admit to three immediate reactions:
1. Wow, a modern player actually aware of the game’s history.
2. He’s right; there’s a tradition for this. Veterans used to lay rookies, not welcome mats, in the dirt.
3. Fine, yes, but no way he gets suspended.
I was dead wrong — on all three counts. Being surprised by the misconceptions on the first two, of course, left no surprise for No. 3. MLB did the right thing by handing Hamels a five-day timeout. He could also have been sentenced to Old School, and I’d be in the desk next to him.
Separating myth from fact:
This is totally arbitrary, I know, but at random I looked at the Major League debuts of a baker’s dozen of eventual Hall of Famers and All-Stars from different eras who broke in with the Harper-type of fanfare that might have provoked pitchers to put them in their places: Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Ted Williams, Bob Horner, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Martin, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson, jim Rice, Fred Lynn.
An eclectic mix, I know; I said it was random.
Some got plunked at an early stage comparable to Harper’s eighth game. Rice, for instance, was hit in his debut game, and DiMaggio got it in Game No. 3. But enough contemporaries were not hit at all (Mantle, not once in his entire rookie season; Cobb, 50 years earlier, never got hit as a rookie; Williams didn’t go down until September of his first year) to make all that seem incidental.
This wasn’t a scientific, conclusive study. I also realize you don’t actually have to be hit to be given a message; getting dusted off is as effective, without making it into the stat line.
However, I think Cole and I both need to enroll in History Revision 101.