Posted on July 12, 2003


Blame The Pierogies

Randall Simon is not responsible


Daniel Clark



To baseball fans, Bobby Thomson's 1951 pennant-winning home run has been known as the "shot heard 'round the world." No longer. That distinction now belongs to the shot that Pittsburgh Pirates' first-baseman Randall Simon delivered to the back of the head of an Italian sausage.

Chasing after runny eggs?

The incident occurred during a game between the Pirates and Brewers at Milwaukee's Miller Park, when the traditional Milwaukee sausage races took place between innings. In these races, which have become a staple of Brewers' baseball, people in tall, tube-shaped costumes painted to look like bratwursts, hot dogs, and other kinds of sausages run a lap around the field. It may not sound like much, but the fans in Milwaukee get more excited about it than anything else they see all season.

On this occasion, as the sausages rumbled past the visitors' dugout, Simon crept up and tapped the Italian sausage with a bat on the noggin. It wasn't a violent bashing, mind you, as if he were doing an impression of De Niro as Al Capone. But he did strike a person -- or at least a costume with a person in it -- with a baseball bat. It must have just seemed to him like the witty thing to do.

It turned out that the person inside the sausage was a young woman. The costumes are so tall that she was not herself struck by the bat, but they're so top-heavy that she could not maintain her balance. She fell forward, and another young woman wearing a hot dog costume tripped over her. Both sustained minor scrapes and bruises, but neither was seriously hurt.

An enraged Brewers' vice president Rick Schlesinger declared that "this is an insane act by a person whose conduct is unjustified." Although Schlesinger wanted to see Simon disciplined, and probably isn't satisfied with the three-game suspension he received, this remark of his is actually an argument for leniency. Insane acts do not need to be justified, because the people who commit them cannot possibly be responsible for them. Obviously, Simon believed that he was participating in a cartoon (with which the average Pirates-Brewers game is easily mistaken ... but I digress). If that isn't insane, then what is?

When a child hits another child with a ball peen hammer, we don't blame the child. We blame Moe. We blame Beavis. We blame movies like The Program, Money Train and The Matrix. It is the source of the idea to commit the act that is at fault, not the person who did it.

Simon shouldn't be treated any differently just because he's a grown man, because any man who gets paid handsomely to put on funny clothes and play around in the dirt is in a state of arrested development. If any more evidence of this is required, look no further than Barry Bonds, who is refusing to participate in this year's Home Run Derby "because I'm an adult and I don't have to do it." The papers didn't quote him as sticking out his tongue after saying that, but that's probably only because the reporters didn't know how to spell "mlllmnmnnm!"

Who, we must then ask, is Randall Simon's Moe? Who could it be that has desensitized him to violence against animated grocery items? To those who regularly attend Pirate games at PNC Park (we do exist, you know), there can be only one answer: The Pierogies.

Jalapeno Hanna: Tater Tart

In a variation (i.e., theft) of the Milwaukee sausage races, the Pirates began several years ago to put on races as a season-long advertisement for Mrs. T's Pierogies. The original three contestants -- Potato Pete, Cheese Chester and Sauerkraut Saul -- have since been joined by the obligatory politically correct female participant, Jalapeno Hanna, and a spectacled character named Oliver Onion. The pierogies were originally hilarious, but before long they became cloying, and finally, they've gotten so grating that they could drive one to wallop the taters out of them with a baseball bat. (Oh, lighten up. It's only a figure of speech.)

Leave it to Pittsburghers to take a family-friendly event like dressing women up as sausages for thinly-veiled gambling purposes, and turn it into something tacky. Simply racing the pierogies against each other wasn't good enough. Since their first season, the pierogie races have morphed into a soap opera, studio rasslin' and "reality TV" all rolled into one.

The most tiresome story line has been the Pirate Parrot's courtship of Jalapeno Hanna, for which reason he sabotages the other pierogies on an almost nightly basis. In a typical race, the parrot will leap out and tackle, clothesline or drop-kick whichever pierogie is in the lead, and then escort Hanna to victory. Occasionally, Hanna will leave the parrot and run off with one of the other pierogies. If you find this entertaining, you would probably go home from the stadium gossiping about the pierogies, while completely failing to have noticed who won the baseball game. If many such people exist, the Pirates should start selling tickets on non-game nights, so that thousands of dolts can show up to watch the pierogies, and then do The Wave for three hours, without bothering any actual fans.

Aside from being attacked by the parrot, the pierogies often shove and trip one another, and will probably get around to hitting each other with chairs before much longer. But never, ever has any of them been injured. Never has any of the Pirates' executives become as outraged as Mr. Schlesinger has been. Never has the Pirate Parrot been cuffed and hauled away. Not only do those spectators who care about the races not become angry when the pierogies are abused, but they actually derive enjoyment from it.

How was Randall Simon supposed to anticipate that the fans at Miller Park would react with such hostility? He'd seen far more violent acts against foam mascots applauded about forty times this season. All right, his attack wasn't in the script, so what's wrong with a little improvisation? Some onlookers were upset that even after knocking the sausage to the ground, Simon just stood over it holding his bat, instead of stepping out onto the field to assist it. But none of the pierogies had ever needed to be helped to its feet after being assaulted. As bewildered as Simon appeared at that moment, he was probably saying to the sausage, "What? Don't you get it?"

Simon's teammates have been quick to point out that he has always had a spotless personal reputation, and that he certainly isn't the kind of man who would ever intentionally injure a woman. They even produced the Fuzzy Zoeller "jokester" defense on his behalf. There's no reason to doubt any of this. He must therefore have been traumatized when the sausage turned out to contain 19 year-old Mandy Block. Girls never pop out of pierogies at PNC Park. If they did, it wouldn't be funny to see them get knocked around.

In this age of frivolous litigation, Block admirably forgave Simon, downplayed the incident, and immediately ruled out the possibility of a lawsuit. She did accept the bat that he used in the incident, which could probably fetch a handsome price on eBay, but she could have easily held out for more if she were so inclined. In her press conference, she memorably remarked, "I'm just a sausage, guys. It's not a big deal. I'm fine." See how pervasive this problem can be? Even Mandy Block believes herself to be a sausage. Is it really so surprising that Simon thought the same thing?

Block is right about one thing, though. She's fine. It is Randall Simon who's been the victim of the pierogies' deceit. Not only must he carry with him the guilt of having swung a bat at a nice lady, but the entire world he'd been living in is now shattered. Now that he's learned that those foam mascots contain people, it's only a matter of time before he arrives at the devastating realization that he's never really had pancakes with the Easter Bunny after all.



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