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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Remembering when the Mariners tried to pull a suspension fast one

Now that Cliff Lee’s suspension has poof, disappeared, by decree of major-league baseball, the Mariners can stop plotting scenarios by which they could have had Lee serve his time with the least possible disruption to the team.

Tweeter bigjimmy77 yesterday reminded me of an incident in 1993 when the M’s got a little sneaky to minimize as best they could a suspension to starting pitcher Chris Bosio.

First, a little background: You might remember the brawl to end all brawls between the Mariners and Orioles at Camden Yards on June 6, 1993. It started when Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina hit Mariners catcher Bill Haselman in the left shoulder with a fastball in the seventh inning. Haselman charged the mound, and chaos ensued. Twenty minutes later, after innumerable fistfights, seven players plus Mariners’ manager Lou Piniella had been ejected. Haselman had homered earlier in the game. In the ensuing fight, Bosio reinjured his collarbone, which had been broken earlier in the year. The Orioles claimed that Bosio had instigated the hostility by throwing at Baltimore hitters earlier in the game. The game ended with police officers surrounding the field. All in all, the biggest donnybrook in Mariners’ history.

When American League president Bobby Brown came down with his punishment, all four of the Mariner ejected players were suspended — Haselman three games, Mackey Sasser three games, Norm Charlton four games, and Bosio five games. Piniella was fined but not suspended.

Brown ruled that Bosio was to serve his suspension two days after he made his first appearance. As it turned out, the collarbone injury suffered in the fight landed him back on the 15-day disabled list.

Flash forward to June 25. The Mariners activated Bosio and used him as a pinch-runner against the White Sox, believing that would start his two-day clock, so he could serve his suspension as quickly as possible while continuing to have his shoulder heal. But it turned out they had misinterpreted the letter from Brown. Here’s what Seattle Times beat writer Bob Finnigan wrote:

The letter was addressed to Bosio, with a copy send to Mariner Vice President Woody Woodward. In it, Brown said the suspension would start two days “after the next time you (Bosio) pitch.”

Seattle Manager Lou Piniella used Bosio as a pinch runner for DH Bret Boone Friday night, since the Mariners had thought the letter Brown sent had specified only an “appearance” in a game, not a pitching performance.

“We were wrong,” Piniella said. “I was under the assumption the it was an appearance (in any form). I’ll take responsibility and say I should have checked it out further.”

When asked who got the letter in the Mariner front office, Piniella repeated, “I’m the field manager and I’ll take responsibility. Don’t blame anyone else. I look stupid for putting Bosio in as a pinch runner anyway.”

So the next day, the Mariners tried a different tactic. Bosio was the starting pitcher against the White Sox, threw one pitch to retire Joey Cora on a grounder to second baseman Boone, and was promptly pulled from the game in favor of Erik Hanson. The suspension clock started.

Post-script: Bosio served his suspension and finally came back for real against Boston on July 4 at the Kingdome — and had a no-hitter going for six innings. Remember, Bosio had thrown a no-no against the Red Sox earlier that year, on April 22 (the last no-hitter thrown by a Mariners’ pitcher, the 17th anniversary of which is tomorrow). In the seventh, however, Mo Vaughn hit a three-run homer, and Seattle lost the game 6-0.

Obviously, someone must have broken the no-hit jinx.

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