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Umpire turns Tavarez into the 'Mad Hatter'

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The St. Louis pitcher was ejected from Friday's opener for having a "dirty" hat.

By R.B. Fallstrom ~ The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez keeps running into trouble with his grimy, dirt-smudged cap. For the first time this season, it got him ejected.

Tavarez lasted one out in a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Friday. Umpire crew chief Joe West conducted a lengthy inspection of the cap before the eighth inning before tossing Tavarez, who made a flamboyant exit.

First, Tavarez put his arm around home plate umpire Ron Kulpa and suggested the two get a beer after the game. Then he flipped his cap to a fan in the stands behind the dugout on his way off the field.

"He asked me if it was pine tar and it was like 'No, it's just a dirty hat,"' Tavarez said. "Every pitch I throw I touch my hat, just like a lot of guys.

"I asked him if I could wear another hat and he said 'No, you're out of the game."'

West said he was enforcing Rule 802.b, which prohibits foreign substances on uniforms and caps. He also said Tavarez and manager Tony La Russa "as much admitted" it was pine tar on his cap.

"I said, 'Well, Tony, you know he can't have pine tar on his hat, it can't be anywhere on him,"' West said. "By rule, I have to kick him out of the game.

"Do you like kicking a guy out of a game because he had pine tar on his hat? No. If he was using it to cheat, he should be kicked out of the game."

The Cardinals are the sixth team in six years for Tavarez, who played for the Pirates last season. He was disappointed that manager Lloyd McClendon would use such a tactic, and deposited a handful of his clean caps on McClendon's desk after being ejected.

Tavarez also disapproved of the Pirates checking his hat in a game Pittsburgh had trailed 4-1.

"If the game was tied, let's mess with his head," Tavarez said. "It's 4-1, you're 35 games out, you ain't going nowhere, what are you doing? I got a little sad and I just took my hats over there."

McClendon confirmed he was the source of the inspection.

"It was brought to my attention on my bench," McClendon said. "It looked as if there was something on his hat and we just asked the umpire to check.

"We didn't know what it was or anything and we still don't know what it was."

It's the third time this season that Tavarez' cap has come under scrutiny, with the Braves and Phillies also complaining. He started the second game of the doubleheader with a spotless version.

"It will be clean as long as I'm not playing," Tavarez said. "Once I start warming up, it's going to get dirty.

"This is the way it is."


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