In the absence of an Emily post or an Amy Vanderbilt, A's designated hitter Dave Parker used his eyes to define his rules of baseball etiquette for Blue Jay third baseman Kelly Gruber. After the second game of the American League playoffs, Gruber said that he had taken offense at the snail's pace of Parker's home run trot after Parker had put one over the fence in the sixth inning. So after hitting another homer in Game 3, Parker made the turn at third base and glared at Gruber. "I wanted him to know that that was my normal home run trot," says Parker. "What is the Kelly Gruber School of Baseball Etiquette? Have you ever heard of anyone who graduated from it?"
Manners became the principal source of controversy in these playoffs after Parker stood at the plate in Game 2 and admired the sight of his homer as if it were a Carmel sunset. Said Gruber after the game, "If I were a pitcher, I might have some guy ducking up there. And the next time Parker takes a day and a half rounding the bases...." In that same game, Rickey Henderson tippy-toed into second on an uncontested stolen base. Said Blue Jay catcher Ernie Whitt, "Rickey tried to show us up."
But what neither Gruber nor Whitt nor anyone else could do is define exactly what "showing someone up" means. "I think there are boundaries players shouldn't cross," says Oakland pitching coach Dave Duncan, "but they're personal, such as yelling at or pointing at a pitcher or hitter. While I might not like all that hot-dog stuff, it's part of the game."
"Back in the fifties and sixties, if you did that celebrating stuff to a Bob Gibson or a Don Drysdale, you risked having your head torn off," says Toronto coach Mike Squires. "But that was then, this is now, and more of our players were upset with Kelly for what he said than with Parker or Henderson."
October 15, 1989
Parker has actually toned down his home run act. He was known to detour almost into the first base dugout before manager Tony La Russa suggested that he straighten out the trot a bit. However, he still does a pretty good job of lingering in the limelight. "Fans love that stuff," he says. "Isn't it most fans' fantasy to hit the home run and watch it?"
"The people who spend $10 for a ticket don't want to see robots," says Henderson. Indeed, if everyone played the game like the Mets' monochromatic outfielder, Kevin McReynolds, the stands would be half empty. Characters, be they hot dogs or merely flakes, enliven the game—and boost interest. For example, in 1988 the Expos averaged 8,000 more fans per game at home when quirky Pascual Perez was the starting pitcher.
"Everyone's got to have something," says the A's Dave Stewart. "Ozzie Smith used to do backflips. How about Bo Jackson snapping his bat over his head? You see it on the Pistons in the NBA, you see it all the time in the NFL. Have some fun. Ask the fans."
"Babe Ruth watched his homers; it was part of his act," says NBC announcer Tony Kubek. "Nobody hot-dogged more than Reggie Jackson," says former Oakland catcher Ray Fosse, now an A's broadcaster.
"What that stuff does is make you a marked man," says Parker. "Some guys don't want to be noticed. They're afraid of the heat; they know that when the other team gets you, you have to suffer the consequences. But when Rickey got picked off [in Game 4] and the crowd went wild, Rickey just laughed and waved to the crowd. He can take the heat."