George Will

Traditionally, baseball punishes preening. In a society increasingly tolerant of exhibitionism, it is splendid when a hitter is knocked down because in his last at bat he lingered at the plate to admire his home run. But it was, Turbow suggests, proper for the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, after hitting a home run, to flip his bat high in the air to show up Pirates pitcher Oliver Perez, who earlier in the game had waved his arms to celebrate getting Pujols out.

The consensus was that the codes were not violated when, during Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941, with one out in the bottom of the eighth and a Yankee runner on first and DiMaggio, who was hitless, on deck, Tommy Henrich bunted just to avoid a double play and assure DiMaggio another chance to extend the streak. Which he did.

In the codes, as in law generally, dogmatism can be dumb. The rule is that late in a no-hitter, the first hit must not be a bunt. So the Padres' Ben Davis was denounced for his eighth-inning bunt that broke up Curt Schilling's no-hitter. But the score was 2-0; the bunt brought to the plate the potential tying run.

Cheating by pitchers often operates under a "don't ask, don't tell" code. When George Steinbrenner demanded during a game that Yankees manager Lou Piniella protest that Don Sutton of the Angels was scuffing the ball, Piniella said, "The guy (Tommy John) who taught Don Sutton everything he knows about cheating is the guy pitching for us tonight." When a reporter asked Gaylord Perry's 5-year-old daughter if her father threw a spitball, she replied, "It's a hard slider."

When the Yankees' Deion ("Neon Deion") Sanders barely moved toward first after popping up to short, White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, 42, a keeper of the codes, screamed: "Run the (expletive) ball out, you piece of (expletive) -- that's not the way we do things up here!" Were Fisk and his standards out of date? As has been said, standards are always out of date -- that is why we call them standards.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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