Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moving the Batters Boxes: A Photo Essay

Baseball’s modern era dates back to 1901, but one never knows when something new and unprecedented will occur. On August 17, 2006, for example, I attended a White Sox-Royals game with my 94-year-old uncle Adolph. The leadoff men for each team homered in the 1st and 2nd innings, the first time this happened (and hasn’t since) in Major League Baseball history. The irony wasn’t lost on being with a fan who attended his first Sox game in 1921.

I don’t know the last time umpires ordered the batters boxes to be obliterated and re-chalked during a game but it happened on the White Sox’s Opening Day on April 13, 2012. Here’s the sequence of events.

After Jake Peavy struck out the first two batters to start the game, Tigers 3rd baseman Miguel Cabrera strode to the plate and immediately began pointing to the batters box for right-handed hitters. Tigers manager Jim Leyland came out to confer with home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson and crew chief Gary Cederstrom. Fans could only guess what was going on, although many speculated Cabrera was trying to screw with Peavy’s rhythm.

Cabera points to home plate

The umpires then summoned head groundskeeper Roger “The Sodfather” Bossard to home plate and, after some discussion, Bossard walked over to a storage room beyond the first-base dugout. Bossard and a member of his crew would reenter with a broom and a rake.

Bossard head to the storeroom

In the meantime, Sox manager Robin Ventura, two outs into his MLB managing debut, came out to find out what was going on. In true Chicago fashion, he joined the two umpires staring at the home-plate area while waiting for Bossard to return.

Ventura makes the scene

Bossard with a rake and his aide with a broom proceeded to obliterate both batters boxes while Ventura and A.J. Pierzynski kibitzed the umps.

Out go the boxes

While all this was going on, Cabrera and the on-deck hitter, the newly signed Prince Fielder ($44 million/year in combined salaries), watched from the dugout railing. Delmon Young (in sunglasses) would be arrested later that month in New York for among other things allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks to a panhandler.

$44 million sitting on a fence

The game was further delayed because the wooden frame holding the chalk for the batters boxes is stored under the center-field stands. Another crewmember was dispatched to bring it to home plate.

Call to the pen, so to speak

Bossard supervised placing the new batters boxes a few inches farther from the pitcher’s mound. Cabrera, it turned out, was correct.

New boxes go down

Finally, after a 10-minute delay, the six-time All-Star stepped up again to the plate, He flied out to right field on the first pitch. He went 0-3 with a walk. 

One pitch, one out

The Sox would go on to win, 5-2.

Another Opening Day victory

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