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Remembering Sausage-Gate

I don’t technically need a reason to post the video above. It stands alone, and the test of time, as you certainly know by now. That’s the beauty of NotGraphs; under Chairman Cistulli, we roam free. But I actually have one. A reason, I mean: The New York Times wrote about the Milwaukee Brewers’ famed sausage race:

And just past first base, it was the chorizo, the one in the sombrero, who broke the orange tape as the victor.

How’s that for a sentence about a sausage race? The Times makes it so easy to visualize the race, to picture the sausages running for glory. In my mind’s eye, I can see the chorizo crossing the finish line, arms raised in triumph, ending with whatever the hell it is a victorious Usain Bolt does at the end of one of his races.

Obviously, no article about Milwaukee’s sausage race is complete without the details of what occurred at Miller Park on July 9, 2003. With one swing of the bat, history was altered. Pittsburgh Pirates then-first baseman Randall Simon’s life would never be the same. Nor would Mandy Block’s. Not after Simon struck poor Block, only 19-years-old at the time of her assualt, an innocent Italian Sausage running her first and last sausage race, with a bat to her head.

Our lives, too, were changed. We — society — knew that we would never, ever see or hear three people talking as seriously about a sausage race again.

The police report of the incident, which ESPN’s Page 2 were the first to get their hands on, was damning:

Character assessment: It should also be noted that Simon is a notorious free-swinger who hacks at just about anything. Weighing in at 242 pounds for his booking, the 6-foot Simon also doesn’t appear to be a man who is truly abstaining from meat.

The suspect entered the interview room with mustard smudges on his shirt and a glob of relish on his bottom lip. Interrogating officers, shocked by his casual disregard for the gravity of the situation, and troubled by his cruel, steely gaze, wiped his face clean and pushed him into a chair. The suspect responded only with a belch and a sick, satisfied chuckle.

Simon, cold and calculating, may have only physically assaulted Block, but his actions were felt far and wide. There were many innocent victims, including Veronica Piech, then 21; or as she was known that day, “Hot Dog.” When Block — Italian Sausage — fell to the ground, she took Hot Dog down with her. I can only assume that Piech received a certificate of bravery from the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, too, as Mandy Block did.

The fans in attendance, those who watched the senseless attack, they too suffered. And Randall Simon recognized their pain. Upon his return to Miller Park in September 2003, this time as a Chicago Cub, he tried to make amends, buying Italian Sausages for 330 fans seated in section 112:

[Randall Simon] spent more than $1,100 on the sausages, which were distributed during that night’s race (which went off without Block, who’s gone back to college). “I think it got me closer to the fans,” he said of the meaty gesture. “I wanted the fans here to know that I don’t have anything against Milwaukee.”

A deeply religious man, so much so that in March 2003 Simon actually said “Pittsburgh is going to challenge for the playoffs,” it’s been Simon’s faith in God that has helped him overcome his demons. Today, he’s a changed man. Rehabilitated. His sausage-bashing days — day, actually — are behind him.

But we’d be remiss to forget. It happened. We’re all better for it. I think.

I just watched the video again. Yes, we’re definitely all better for it.

Gracias: @kid_kawartha for sending the clip my way via the Twitter.