Monday, August 17, 2015

A Bad Mutha

"You talkin' 'bout Kelly Leak? That dude is a bad mutha."- Ahmad Abdul Rahim, The Bad News Bears

The character Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears was a pretty bad dude, or at least came across as one on the silver screen, but he was no Claudell Washington. Leak smoked cigarettes; Claudell snorted cocaine. Kelly drove a stolen van; Washington drove a Jag. I'd have to revisit the Bad News movies but I don't ever recall Leak pummeling pitchers- other than from the plate, that is. Claudell, well, let's just say that if you were an opposing pitcher, you had better not throw anywhere near his chiseled physique.

I was reminded of just how bad Mr. Washington was recently as I was watching a video on the 1983 Atlanta Braves team.  In a game in Montreal during the '83 season, Claudell inadvertently stepped on the foot of pitcher Scott Sanderson, who was covering 1st base on the play, causing a gash on the pitcher's foot. Six days later, the clubs met up once again- this time in Atlanta- with Sanderson taking the bump. Leading off the bottom of the first, the left-handed Washington dealt Sanderson the first of two blows by hitting a home run. In the sixth inning, Claudell landed the second blow- this time a left to the chin of Sanderson, after the pitcher threw one high and tight under the hitter's own chin. A tit-for-tat, if you will.

Hopefully the video is queued up for the melee (it's supposed to be)- but if not, it starts at 11:58

A year later, the Braves outfielder was involved in another incident, leading to a brawl with the Cincinnati Reds. Once again, Washington led off the bottom of the first with a homer, this one coming off Reds' ace Mario Soto. The next time Claudell came to bat, he was brushed back with a Soto pitch and would eventually strikeout. Clearly looking for vengeance,  Claudell came to bat in the fifth and let 'er rip- with the bat 'flying' out of his hands before walking out towards the mound. Words were exchanged and CW went in for the kill before Soto hit him with the ball as Reds catcher Dann Bilardello tackled him.

Although he was about 5 inches shorter and 50 lbs lighter than Jason Heyward, I always thought of Mr. Washington whenever I'd see Heyward in a Braves uniform. Obviously, both were impressive specimens, physically, but each also possessed tremendous power and speed and were rookie phenoms at the age of 20. I don't know if I've ever seen Heyward charging the mound, though.

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