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The great game robbery Baseball: From Alomar's outburst to theft by 'Jeffrey the Kid,' some dispiriting lessons.

BROTHER MATTHIAS BOUTILIER, disciplinarian at the former St. Mary's Industrial School in Pigtown early this century, thought baseball would provide a civilizing influence for a Baltimore street-kid named George Herman Ruth. The game must have changed a great deal, since these are its lessons of late:

Bad deeds go unpunished.

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Orioles' All-Star second-baseman Roberto Alomar should have been made to sit out playoff games for spitting on an umpire. Meanwhile, the Yankees should never have been awarded a home run on a play in which one of their fans interfered. And as for Jeff Maier, the New Jersey boy who intercepted the ball above the head of Orioles' outfielder Tony Tarasco, not only was he not ejected from the ballyard, he was hailed as a hero. "Angel In the Outfield," headline writers for the subway tabloids crowned him.

Justice is blind, or at least the umpires seem to be.

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Two indefensible calls by umps triggered the Alomar and home-run controversies that have mushroomed into national metaphors on morality much larger than the game. Whether the umpire who missed Wednesday's interference play, Rich Garcia, was collecting a little revenge for his colleague John Hirschbeck, who was spat upon weeks earlier, is a farfetched conspiracy theory. But the tension between the Orioles and the umps, and the fierce Bronx crowd, may have had some effect. New York City might rename its skyscraper the "Umpire State Building."

For fame, and perhaps fortune, forget the Lottery. Buy a bleacher seat and catch a baseball.

The late player and manager Leo Durocher opined that "nice guys finish last." The corollary, unfortunately, has also been borne out lately: Rule-breakers finish first.

Pub Date: 10/11/96


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