Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spikes-up Duncan can do damage in the pool, too.

Well those Yankees and Rays are having some fun in spring training, aren't they?

In case you missed it, New York was a little upset that Elliot Johnson decided to run over Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli in the ninth-inning of Saturday’s game. It would have been hailed as a spectacular play – had the game happened in August. Or May even.

But taking out the catcher Pete Rose-vs.-Ray Fosse style in a spring training game struck plenty of people the wrong way. Especially, apparently, Yankees manager and former catcher Joe Girardi. Though Girardi hasn’t taken credit (or blame) for the actions of his Yankees in Wednesday’s follow-up meeting, it’s hard to believe the ultra-competitive manager didn’t at least stir the clubhouse pot.

New York pitcher Heath Phillips plunked Evan Longoria in the first inning. In the following inning Shelley Duncan cleared the benches when he slid spikes-up into second, catching Tampa shortstop Akinori Iwamura in the thigh.

Duncan was ejected immediately, but that wasn’t good enough for Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes, who raced to second and tried to tackle Duncan. The benches cleared. Gomes and a couple of Yankees coaches were ejected. All good spring fun.

Why does The Dugout care about a major league dustup? Faithful readers know The Dugout holds a place for both Duncan brothers, Shelley and St. Louis outfielder Chris.

For those who don’t know this story, here is one of Shelley’s entries from The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball.

Think The Explorer Would Be Proud?
Shelley Duncan has been around baseball all his life. His father, Dave, won two World Series rings as a catcher on the 1971 and ‘72 Oakland Athletics, before heading to Baltimore. During his playing career he caught three Cy Young award winners: Vida Blue, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Jim Palmer.
Nowadays, the elder Duncan is probably better known as the pitching coach who helped develop a dominant Oakland staff in the late 1980s that included Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley. Those Oakland teams led the American League in ERA from 1988-1990. Duncan continued his success in St. Louis when he and manager Tony LaRussa moved there in 1995, coaching the Cardinals to a World Series berth in 2004. As a coach he fostered three more Cy Young winners: Stewart, Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm.
Dave Duncan knows pitching, making it a little ironic that his sons Shelley and Chris would become professional hitters.
The 24-year-old Shelley is a first baseman/outfielder in the Yankees organization and Chris, who is one year younger, is a first baseman in the Cardinals organization. The pair is close, talking almost every night. Shelly considers their time together playing high school baseball to be, “the best experience ever.”
Shelley came close to being a professional pitcher. He pitched at the University of Arizona, but a sore shoulder ended that career path.
Now the younger Duncans make a living with their bats, and Shelley gives their pitching-coach extraordinaire father plenty of credit for their success.
“We know a lot about pitching,” Shelley said. “He’s best at teaching a pitcher how to pitch; how to execute pitches, what to throw and when to throw, how to approach different hitters. That’s where we learned a lot of stuff too. It gives us a good idea of how to have an approach at the plate.”
The brothers don’t get to see each other much during the season. Shelley toils for the Class A Tampa Yankees in the heat of the Florida State League while Chris has advanced to the Class AA Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League. The separation may be a good thing for all involved, considering the last time the pair got together during baseball season.

Shelley Duncan: I was playing in Greensboro in the Sally League. I broke my hand with about two weeks left in the season. I was done for the year, so they said I could go home.
I went up and surprised my brother at one of his games. He was playing for the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League. I went to Burlington to one of his [road] games. I was screaming and hollering and being a goof. That’s when he noticed me.
We went back to Peoria the next night. He had an apartment complex right near the hotel. It’s called the Mark Twain. It’s a hotel that has apartments that they rent out and they have maid service. He’s living there. So I got a room at the Twain.
It was someone’s birthday on his team so the whole team went out. His team that year was just crazy – the whole team went out. Everyone was getting hammered. We didn’t get in until like 5:00 in the morning.
My brother decided to stay in my room because his roommate snored. We come crawling in at 5:00 in the morning. We’re dead asleep. Let me just explain that this was one of those hotels where it’s indoors, there’s a pool in the middle and the rooms are all around the pool.
We wake up to the sound of, “Marco. Polo. Marco. Polo.”
We feel like it’s 7:00 in the morning when in reality it’s like 11 o’clock. But still, we were sleeping. Chris gets pretty upset about this. He opens the door and yells, “Thank you, everyone. We really appreciate it. You woke everybody up. Good job. Thank you very much.” He was thinking that would shut them up.
We tried to go back to bed. We close our eyes. About 15-20 seconds after we lay down we hear, “Marco. Polo.”
I was like, “Damn it, Chris, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
So I stick my head out and yell, “Shut the fuck up!” at the top of my lungs.
All the kid’s parents were right around the pool, too, and their eyes were bug-eyed to the top [of the hotel]. I slammed the door and went back to bed. They were quiet, too. I said, “That’s how you do it, Chris.”
A minute later there’s a knock on the door. We just let it go. They just kept knocking. I got up and went to the peephole. It was the hotel manager.
I opened the door and said, “Yes.”
“We heard that you yelled profanity at these little kids at the pool.”
I said, “No, no – it was the people next door.”
I shut the door on her and laid down in bed. You could tell she was really, really upset. She turned around and yelled, “All right kids. Go ahead and keep playing. And be louder.”
All the sudden you here “MARCO! POLO! MARCO! POLO!” They are going nuts.
So I get up on the bed. I look like I’m getting crazy.
Chris said, “Shelley, what are you doing? What are you doing?”
I said, “I’ll take care of this.”
I put my shorts on and I storm out the door. I walked down the stairs and went straight to the pool. I jumped in the pool – a cannon ball. The kids all scattered off and the parents were all sitting around the pool.
I started yelling, “Yeah, let’s play! Let’s play!” I started splashing water all over the parents. The kids were scared to death. They didn’t know what to do. The parents were treating me like I had a disease or something.
I started yelling, “Marco!”
My brother is up on the second story. He started yelling, “Polo!”
I’m yelling, “Marco!”
He’s yelling, “Polo!”
The next thing we know the manager runs out. She starts screaming, “I called the police. You better leave immediately.”
I got up. Walked upstairs. Went into the hotel room. Me and my brother are laughing in the hotel room. I’m drying myself off.
A minute later the police are knocking on the door. They know Chris because he’s been on the Chiefs for about two or three years. They said, “What happened?”
We told them exactly what happened. They couldn’t help from laughing at the whole thing. They said, “That’s hilarious. We can’t really do anything except ask you to leave because that’s what the manager says; but, did you really start yelling ‘Marco Polo’ in the swimming pool?”They were just dying laughing in the room. All they made us do was go back to Chris’ little apartment. He got a couple laughs when he told his team that story.

No comments: