Brewers 50th Anniversary – Almost Forgotten Moments #1
Throughout the 2020 MLB season, LWOS author Emmett Blue is paying tribute to the Milwaukee Brewers 50th anniversary season. He is publishing moments in Milwaukee Brewers history that have almost been forgotten – almost.
Italian Sausage Gets Smoked
During the Milwaukee Brewers sausage race ten year anniversary season, something unprecedented occurs. Guido, the Italian sausage, falls victim to battery – literally, astonishing baseball fans around the country.
The date is July 9, 2003, ten years and 12 days after the first live sausage race at Miller Park. Nineteen-year-old Mandy Block and three other young Brewers employees are at the ballpark as part of the Milwaukee Brewers Super Team. Super Team is a promotional group that participates as the racing sausages. After 10 years of running, there have been hundreds of sausage races at Miller Park. Little does Mandy know, she is soon to play an integral role in the most famous sausage race in Miller Park history.
The sausage race starts after the first half of the sixth inning. There are only four sausages at this time – the Bratwurst, Polish, Italian, and Hot Dog. (The Chorizo does not become a regular participant until four years later.) Fans are watching and cheering with their usual enthusiasm.
The weiners round third base near the visitor’s dugout. Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman, Randall Simon, stands at the top of the dugout. As the sausages pass, Simon sticks out a bat and strikes the Italian Sausage Mandy Block. The blow does not strike Block in the head, and he does not swing with full force. However, there is enough force on the top-heavy costume to immediately send Block tumbling to the ground. During her fall, the Hot Dog Veronica Piech trips over Block and also falls. Next, the Polish sausage stops to help the Italian up while the Bratwurst Ryan Borghoff goes on to win the race.
The replay of the incident can be accessed here.
The fans at Miller Park certainly make their opinions known. Simon comes to bat in the top of the seventh inning and is immediately greeted by boos. He grounds out to pitcher Leo Estrella on the third pitch he sees. Block and Piech receive treatment at the ballpark for scrapes and bruises. After the game, Randall Simon is arrested in handcuffs and taken to the Milwaukee County jail where he is booked on battery charges.
Certainly, an event like this brings controversy. As a result, there were many different perspectives on what took place.
Rick Schlesinger was the Milwaukee Brewers executive vice president for business operations at the time. He was quite upset over the incident. He stated, “[The incident was] one of the most despicable things I’ve seen in a ballpark in a long time.”
“This is in no way a reflection on the Pirates,” Schlesinger said. “It’s an insane act of a person whose conduct is unjustifiable. It sickened me to see it. I can’t put into words the anger I feel and the sense of outrage I have. We’ve had the sausage race every day for years and never had something like this happen.”
After the incident, Schlesinger was in contact with the Pittsburgh Pirates legal department.
Commissioner Bud Selig
Then Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement the day after the incident, “Obviously, the type of behavior exhibited by Mr. Simon is anathema to the family entertainment that we are trying to provide in our ballparks and is wholly unacceptable.”
Simon showed remorse after what took place. “That wasn’t my intention in my heart for that to happen,” he told reporters before the game the next day. “I was just trying to get a tap at the costume and for her to finish the race. I thought at the moment they were trying to play with us. They were running right next to the players,” he said. “I’m a fun player, and I’ve never hurt anyone in my life.”
Mandy Block handled the ordeal with a positive attitude. “It was just a few scratches. I’m fine,” she stated. “I think the whole thing is funny.”
Post – Race Humor
Both local and national media used the event to poke some fun. Milwaukee radio station Rock 102, held a contest allowing listeners swing at a fake Randall Simon pinata. David Letterman even used the incident in his Top 10 – Excuses of the Baseball Player that Beat Up the Sausage.
Some notable excuses are as follows:
- Looking to land a big endorsement deal with Jimmy Dean.
- It was a Brewers – Pirates game. Somebody had to liven things up.
- It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you blindside the opposing team’s costumed racing mascot.
- The bratwurst gave me fifty dollars to take down the sausage.
- When a giant sausage is running at you — you act on instinct.
- Pete Rose bet me I wouldn’t.
Ultimately, Simon was not charged with battery. In assault and battery cases the District Attorney often considers the wishes of the victims when deciding whether or not to press charges. In this case, Block and Piech were not interested in pressing charges. The Milwaukee Assistant District attorney Jon Reddin told Associated Press “The women were not interested in having him charged criminally,”
Randall Simon was fined 2000 dollars and suspended 3 games by MLB. Additionally, he received a citation for disorderly conduct, which was a $432 charge. Simon chose not to appeal the suspension.
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, found MLB’s beef with the Italian sausage incident “very difficult to swallow”. “We are playing a first-place club. We’ve gotten ourselves back into the race. I would like to have my first baseman in there against this team,” he said. “It’s very difficult to swallow. I guess baseball thinks they need to make a statement to show they care, and this is their way of doing it.”
Simon’s teammate, shortstop Jack Wilson, was more understanding of the suspension than his manager. He told the Associated Press “It’s not like he meant to assault the mascot. But major league baseball players are role models and major league baseball had to do something about it. Three games is not unreasonable. We just want him to serve it and get back as soon as possible. It’s not like it’s happened before. There’s no bar to measure it by as reasonable or unreasonable.”
Block graciously downplayed the ordeal.”It just seems ridiculous,” she said. “It’s like a big sausage getting hit by a bat causes all this controversy. It just seems kind of funny to me. “It wasn’t that big of a blow. I think just because I’m so small and it’s such a big costume that I tumbled.”
Randall Simon publicly apologized in a press conference. Also, he gifted Block and Piech with one of his bats. Rick Schlesinger was grateful. “Actions have consequences,” Schlesinger said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “[Earlier] we saw the bad consequences. [Now] we saw the positive consequences. He’s apologized, and the Brewers certainly accept that apology.”
While Simon was forgiven, he was still not popular in Milwaukee. It certainly did not help matters that he was traded to the Chicago Cubs later that year and hit 3 home runs in 2 games at Milwaukee.
The following spring, Block and Piech received a trip to Simon’s homeland of Curacao, paid for by Curacao’s Department of Tourism. None of these memories ever would have happened if old hickory did not smoke an Italian Sausage.
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