|Baseball reconsiders its long-running postgame tradition|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 11 May 2007 13:22|
But, as the San Diego second baseman rushed toward the door, he yelled back his two cent's worth on the latest hot-button issue:
``Keep the beer in the clubhouse!''
Giles' plea aside, it seems another of baseball's time-honored traditions is going the way of wool uniforms and daytime World Series games. At least 13 teams now prohibit beer and other alcoholic beverages from being consumed in the clubhouse, several teams spurred by the recent alcohol-related death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock.
For players who enjoyed winding down from a game with a brew in hand, it seems an unreasonable step - especially since Hancock was killed in a wreck about six hours after he left Busch Stadium.
No one has implied he downed even one beer at the park before he headed out for a night on the town that went horribly wrong.
``It's not fair for those who can control themselves,'' Braves outfielder Andruw Jones said. ``Some guys just like to have a couple of beers to calm their nerves after a game.''
For others, it only makes sense.
``Why would any employer want to be liable for something that could potentially occur, especially when you think about the investments they are making in us?'' Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said. ``As unfortunate as everything has turned out to be, it's probably overall going to be a good thing for baseball and baseball players.''
Visiting players don't have to worry about getting behind the wheel when they leave the stadium; buses are provided to take them to their hotel, or they can hop in a cab. As for the home team, many players let their wives, girlfriends or other family members handle the driving on the way home.
``When guys hang around and do drink, they're usually just trying to let the traffic die down,'' Jones said. ``People know what to do. It's not fair for any team or Major League Baseball to ban alcohol. We're all man enough to control ourselves.''
But in the early morning hours of April 29, Hancock crashed a SUV into the back of a flatbed tow truck stopped in a driving lane. Police, who discovered marijuana in the car, said he was drunk and talking on a cell phone.
The Cardinals acted within days, banning beer from their clubhouse at Busch Stadium. Other teams quickly followed, locking up the refrigerator or cutting off the tap in their clubhouses.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen already was one of the most vocal critics of barring beer from the clubhouse. Earlier this season, he mocked the A's for a ban that went into effect after Oakland pitcher Esteban Loaiza was arrested for drunken driving last year.
Hancock's death did little to soften Guillen's outspoken opposition.
``They should cut it off because they don't want (players to) drink,'' Guillen said. ``But you're going to cut it off because something real bad happened? I think that shows people feel guilty about something, and I don't feel guilty about nothing.''
He's not alone. Players such as Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra don't understand why Hancock's death is being linked to clubhouse drinking, even though baseball seems to be the one major sport that largely turns a blind eye to what is essentially alcohol in the workplace.
``Honestly, I think it's a dumb issue to be talking about,'' Garciaparra said. ``It's unfortunate what happened to Josh ... but to say that's the reason why this happened - it's not why this happened.''
ton Nationals had bans in place or quickly added them after Hancock was killed. The Arizona Diamondbacks also are considering a ban.
That's more in line with other sports.
The NFL bars alcohol from being consumed in any locker room or team training facility. Heck, football doesn't even allow the Super Bowl champion to pop open a bottle of champagne in its moment of triumph, even for the ceremonial spray-down.
Although there are no leaguewide standards for the NBA and NHL, most teams responding to an informal Associated Press survey said they do not make alcohol available in their locker rooms.
NHL spokesman Frank Brown added most hockey teams ban alcohol on team flights, and all teams have a ``free cab'' policy: If a player feels he is too inebriated to drive, the club will reimburse him for taking a cab.
``For a player to crack a beer at the end of a game would be so shocking,'' Anaheim Ducks spokesman Alex Gilchrist said. ``His teammates would be all over him before anyone else would.''
Baseball takes a more casual approach to drinking after the last out. No one thinks twice about a player standing around the clubhouse with a beer in hand, even while talking to reporters. To some, it's a good way to wind down after a long day. For others, it's a ritual that helps create a bond among disparate teammates.
Former pitcher Dave LaRoche, the father of current major leaguers Adam and Andy LaRoche and now a minor league pitching coach, remembers sitting around after games during his playing days, sharing a few beers and swapping stories. If a veteran ran dry, a younger player was expected to bring him another cold one.
When that duty fell to LaRoche, he didn't mind a bit. It was just part of the game.
``I know my first few years with the Angels, I learned so much sitting around and talking with the veterans,'' he said. ``It was great. Those were some of the times I look back on fondly.''
Today's players aren't as likely to linger. It's rare to find anyone still hanging around even an hour after the game, unless they need treatment.
Most would rather be at home with their families or do their drinking at a bar or nightclub, which surely has better ambiance than a smelly locker room.
``It has thinned out a little bit,'' said Florida's 37-year-old Jason Wood, who played more than 1,700 games in the minors. ``In the early to mid-'90s, guys got after it after games and really had a good time. It was something we looked forward to. Now guys are in and out of the clubhouse and have their things to do. There's not a lot of socializing and sitting around and talking about the day's events.''
There are exceptions, of course. Last weekend, about a dozen Milwaukee players hung around the clubhouse to watch the Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather bout on pay-per-view. Some of them sipped on beers, which seemed downright natural for a team that's named the Brewers and plays at Miller Park.
``It's like going home after a hard day at work,'' said outfielder Kevin Mench, who often has a brew in his hand after games. ``You want to go home and have a cold beer. You just have to be smart about things.''
Even those who were close to Hancock feel baseball has overreacted to his death. Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson was a college teammate and wore Hancock's number on his chest in the first start after his death.
``We're grown men,'' Hudson said. ``Not everybody makes good decisions, but I don't think that's a step everybody needs to take. If some clubs want to do that, that's fine, but I don't think it should be a mandatory league thing.''
For LaRoche, it's simply a matter of fairness.
``How can you say we can't have a beer,'' he said, ``yet everybody in the stands can have them?''
AP Sports Writers Steven Wine in Miami, Colin Fly in Milwaukee, Rick Gano in Chicago, Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis, John Nadel in Los Angeles, Ira Podell in New York, Associated Press writer Sarah Larimer in Miami and AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd in Atlanta contributed to this report.