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Thursday, August 16, 2007
Policing Violence in Baseball

For those that thought assault charges for on-the-field violence was reserved for hockey misconduct, Bridgeport, CT police have arrested former Major League Baseball player Jose Offerman for allegedly charging the mound with his bat during an August 14 independent league baseball game between the Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish. Offerman, who says he believed that he was intentionally hit by a Matt Beech pitch, purportedly swung his bat at least twice, striking catcher John Nathans in the head with his back swing and then striking Beech with a front swing. It has since been reported that Nathans suffered a concussion as a result of the attack, and Beech a broken finger.

Presuming these events actually transpired as they have been reported, I think few would argue with the Bridgeport police's decision to arrest Offerman and charge him with two counts of second-degree assault, even though the last recorded time that a baseball player struck another player with a bat, the San Francisco's Giants' Juan Marichal walked away with a mere eight-game suspension from the league, and no criminal record.

Obviously, since the Marichal incident in 1965, police have become more willing to charge professional athletes with gross wrongdoing for conduct indirectly related to the game. The interesting question, however, is what this arrest means for the next time a batter charges the mound in Bridgeport, CT, presuming that batter does not carry a bat, as did Offerman. Is there really much difference between a raged Jose Offerman charging the mound with a bat, and any other raged player charging the mound with just his fists? What if that player is trained in martial arts?

As a sports fan, I do not want to see athletes fear the risk of criminal charges for aggressive play related to the game itself. However, charging the mound in baseball has nothing to do with playing hard-nosed winning baseball. If more professional athletes are arrested for charging the mound and hitting opposing pitchers, whether it be with fists or bats, presumably such behavior will decline -- not only in the professional game, but also on the amateur level where fans often emulate the pros. That would be a positive result for society overall.


Charging the mound is "part of the game." Charging the mound with a bat is not "part of the game." Or at least this is how this shoudl be viewed before criminal charges are brought. Think about it, if you start bringing assault and/or battery charges from every skirmish on the field, where does it stop? What happens when a pitcher comes up and in on a hitter? Technically assault, right? Do we need to convene a grand jury after every inside pitch?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/16/2007 12:03 PM  

I don't know enough about baseball to critisize the view that charging the mound is part of the game. Unlike fighting in Hockey, or a bit of grabing in any other contact sport, there is no inevitable contact between the pitcher and the batsman. The pitcher and the batsman are at least 10 metres apart from each other, right? Can charging the mound and striking your opponent really be viewed as part of the game?

But there is no issue with it not being part of the game if the player has a bat...

I never thought baseball could pose these sorts of issues as I don't see it as a contact sport. Duncan Furguson, a former soccer player, was sentenced to time in jail for headbutting an opponent. Headbutting is definitely not part of the game, unlike a harsh tackle, for instance.

Swinging a bat against a catcher in the course of attempting to play the ball... that could be marginal, even if done with some intent. But walking a few metres to deliberately confront and strike another player. I don't see an issue here: not part of the game. But again, I don't know too much about baseball and I can be way off here.

Anonymous Luis Cassiano Neves -- 8/16/2007 1:11 PM  

Charging the mound is certainly not an official part of baseball, but it's a practice that's been going on for decades. It often not surprising at all when a struck batter goes after the pitcher. I just don't understand why such a big fuss is being made over the Offerman incident. Criminal charges are absolutely NOT justified.

Anonymous Peter -- 8/16/2007 4:37 PM  

What if he in fact beat the pitcher to death on the mound with the bat? If no circumstances allow criminal charges to be filed against a player for conduct on the field then homicide would also be excluded.

I think a common sense approach that recognizes that charging the mound and tackling or punching the opponent falls loosely within the risks of the game. Beating someone with a bat is simply unacceptable despite what Juan Marichal did 40+ years ago.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/16/2007 6:43 PM  

What if he in fact beat the pitcher to death on the mound with the bat? If no circumstances allow criminal charges to be filed against a player for conduct on the field then homicide would also be excluded.

That's a mere hypothetical. No one died or suffered serious injuries.

Anonymous Peter -- 8/16/2007 11:06 PM  

Peter--in the light of more awareness of concussions these days, not just in football--how is the catcher getting a concussion NOT a serious injury? (Or, for that matter, the pitcher with a broken finger--if on the pitching hand it can affect his career.)

Luis--the distance is 60 feet, 6 inches, pitching rubber to home plate, or about 18 meters. Charging the mound is one thing; having a bat in hand (see "Marichal-Roseboro baseball fight") is a far different matter.

By the way: I thought Marichal should've been sat for a year, plus arrested; kudos to the police for arresting Offerman.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/17/2007 12:49 AM  

Going beyond player striking player, there is the infamous Randall Simon hitting a sausage with a bat in 2003.

Simon was arrested on charged with two counts of assualt. Charges were dropped and Simon was fined for disorderly conduct.

Blogger Brian Cole -- 8/17/2007 4:29 PM  

Charging the mound is one thing; having a bat in hand (see "Marichal-Roseboro baseball fight") is a far different matter.

Marichal did not charge the mound; he was at bat and Roseboro was immediately behind him. Roseboro didn't have much of a chance to defend against or avoid Marichal's attack.

Anonymous Peter -- 8/18/2007 12:33 AM  

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