At some point today, probably around 8:50 p.m. Central Standard Time, it’ll be one billion seconds since the beginning of one of baseball’s nastiest beanball incidents. You can’t quite call it a beanball war, as this was pretty one-sided.
In the top of the first inning in a Rangers-Royals game, KC leadoff batter Frank White got hit by a pitch from Texas hurler Ed Farmer. It wasn’t just a nick—the pitch broke a bone in White’s hand and he missed a month of baseball.
In and of itself, that’s unfortunate, but that wasn’t it. Four innings later, Farmer drilled right fielder Al Cowens in the face, breaking his jaw. Cowens would miss more than 20 games while his bones mended. A lot of games have multiple HBP in them, but how often do two players in the same lineup get their bones broken as a result? Bill James once noted that this game is remembered in KC. I can see why.
Farmer nowadays, harder to charge.
Were the hit batsmen intentional? Farmer he had no history with White that I know of, and the HBP was just in his hand. As for Cowens, Farmer had never faced him before in the majors. That said, Cowens had sparked a rally with an RBI single in his previous a- bat, and Farmer blasted him with a fastball to the face.
It’s clear Cowens thought the pitch was intended because there’s an odd coda to this incident from the only time Cowens and Farmer ever faced each other after the beaning.
It was in a game the next season, and by that time both men had changed teams. Cowens now batted for the Tigers and Farmer pitched relief for the Chicago White Sox (who currently employ him as their radio announcer).
My father and White Sox Fan Brother were at that game and it was one of the stranger things they’d ever seen. In a tie game, Cowens led off the top of the 11th against Farmer in old Comiskey Park. For my dad and brother, it looked like a routine play – grounder to short, easy throw to first. The batter was out by . . . – hey, where is he? How come there’s no one running to first?
Oh—there he is: charging the mound! Huh?
There’s a new one. When’s the last time you saw a batter charge the mound on a routine grounder? (In a tied game in extra innings, no less!) Suffice it to say, Cowens wanted payback. Dad and White Sox Fan Brother figured it was due to some confrontation they’d had in the minors or something. I always wondered what Cowens’ Tigers teammates thought about it.
I don’t know if that incident shook Farmer up at all, but he immediately surrendered a walk and game-winning double.
Regardless, sometime tonight will be a billion seconds since first the White plunking and then later Cowens beaning.