SoSH Interviews Lou Brown About The “Wussification” Of Baseball

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The current debate surrounding the sliding rules in MLB has led to everyone getting a voice in the matter. However, Rick Rowand felt there was one man’s opinion that was left out – Lou Brown – so he went and found him.

If you’ve been paying attention to major-league games for the past week, then you’re very aware of the controversies surrounding how umpires enforce the newly-modified sliding rules for baserunners. It’s exactly what we were waiting all winter to incessantly over-analyze! Let’s break it down.

In order for a slide to be legal,

  1. The runner must slide before he gets to the bag;
  2. The runner must attempt to (and be able to) reach the base with his hand or foot;
  3. The runner must remain in contact with the base (the exception is home plate);
  4. The runner doesn’t change his path in the baseline in order to initiate contact.

So far this week, you’ve seen the Rays win a game when baserunner Jose Bautista was called out (along with the hitter) for interference when he grabbed the ankle of Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe, as Forsythe was throwing to first for the double play. The slide was initially ruled legal, but was overturned after the umps viewed the replay. Game over.

We’ve seen Chase “defender of all that is noble and right” Utley veer a full 45 degrees to run into the catcher in an attempt to break up a play at the plate. Out.

The latest out call came when Astro Colby Rasmus made no attempt to touch second when he slid into the bag to break up a double play attempt by the Brewers. This also ended the game. Brewers win.

Almost everyone who is, or has been, involved in baseball in one form or another, from current to ex-players, and broadcasters has said their piece on this issue. All save one: ex-Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown.

Brown has been out of professional baseball since the end of the 1990 season, which saw the Indians make the playoffs for the second straight year after having finished in last place in 1988.

We were able to sit with Mr. Brown at his tire store in downtown Toledo over the weekend. He’s starting a “Buy three, get one free” sale on Monday if you happen to be in the area.

Rick Rowand: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today Lou – is it alright if I call you Lou?.

Lou Brown: Aw hell, it’s my pleasure. I always love to talk about baseball. And tires. We have a hell of a deal on tires this week. I can get yours changed out by the time we’re done here. Full warranty too.

Rick: Thanks for the offer Lou, but it’s a rental.

LB: I’m just surprised anyone wants to listen to what I have to say about the game these days. I haven’t been asked about the game since I was interviewed for one of those local channels a few years ago. It’s all about basketball around here these days.

Rick: Well, we wanted to ask you about baseball because you led one of the most dramatic turnarounds in baseball history back when your Indians won the division over the Yankees in a one-game playoff. Besides, your opinion on the state of the game carries as much weight as Harold Reynolds does.

LB: Damn, that makes my heart sing… I always like watching Harold play. And yeah, I’ve kept up with what’s been going on. Those rule changes don’t mean much to me. The way I figure it, there’s no need to try to run into a guy from another team, even if he is one of those little guys that plays second or short. I’ve got guys on the community college team I help out with, that could eat some of those middle infielders for breakfast.

Rick: So the rule changes to avoid collisions are alright with you?

LB: Back when I managed the Indians, we had Willie Mays Hayes on the team. Great base stealer, but if he’d tried to take out a guy covering second it would have been like playing Pick-Up Sticks with his arms and legs and teeth out there. We had less than a handful of players who actually belonged on a major-league field and we needed ‘em all every day, so I put in a rule to avoid collisions. It’s not like they’re playing rugby out there – but don’t get me wrong,  I love that British shit!

Rick: I never heard you had that rule with the Indians. So, you were really ahead of your time. Let me ask, what do you think about what Goose Gossage and others have said on a different topic, about what they perceive as showboating after homers and and other things that go on out on the field?

LB: How much do you know about those two Indians teams, son? Like I said earlier, we didn’t have shit on our roster for players, but we had some characters that stood out, even by baseball standards. I told you about Hayes, so fast he could steal bases while weighed down by more jewelry than a Kay’s storefront, but couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield to save his mother’s life.

Everything about him was flashy. He wore two-tone spikes before anyone else did. Used to rub it in the other teams face by telling him that he was gonna steal and by God, off he went, usually safe. The teams we played were so scared of him getting on base they just ignored what he said and did.

And then there was Pedro Cerrano. A guy who came from Cuba. He believed in voodoo. Even had some voodoo shrine set up in his locker. Really pissed off some of the old guys, but if it helped him hit, I couldn’t have cared less. We’ve all got our little rituals we go through before a game to get in a zone, and I’m here to win, not judge.

And Cerrano, he loved to watch the ball leave the park. He’d stand there for what seemed like an hour just watching it. And then he’d flip the bat! Really pissed off some pitchers, especially from the Yankees, but screw ‘em. It worked.

Hell, one game he brought out this snake he kept in his locker into the on-deck circle. And I don’t mean some little snake here, this thing was about 10 feet long. We used to let it run loose in the clubhouse during games. Never had a mouse problem again.

And then there was Eddie Harris. Now, he wasn’t flashy at all, but with the amount of crap he used to hide on his body you thought he had stock in Walgreens or something. And the smell! If you had a cold, all you needed to do was get within three feet of him and your sinuses cleared right up. If that wasn’t enough, he’d also say a prayer for you on the mound after he struck you out.

So, all that showboating crap people are complaining about, and the rule changes? A whole lot of hot air. They’ve been changing the rules ever since baseball was invented. Players have been showboating just as long.

Shit changes. You gotta change too. Why, when I first got into the tire business, white walls were all we sold. Now you can’t find a car with white walls on it!

It’s like the DH. That’s been in the AL since what, 1973. People complained about it on opening day that year,  and they’re still complaining about it now. It seems like some people don’t have anything better to do but complain.

Rick: Lou, it looks like you have some customers walking in, and we need to get back on the road. We really appreciate your time today.

LB: It’s been my pleasure. Drop by anytime you feel like it. But next time, bring your own car and I’ll give you a great deal on some tires.

Rick Rowand has written about Boston’s young stars, David Ortiz’s career, Brock Holt’s aura, and Boston’s new starting third baseman.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.

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