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Somebody is going to get seriously hurt

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 17, 2009 - Comedian Bill Cosby, before he began taking himself a bit too seriously, had a routine involving baseball and the folly of the batter being hit by a pitch.

Unlike almost any other major sport, a baseball player can’t “take a play off” after being slightly injured. This becomes quite apparent when he is hit by a pitch.

Cosby describes the feeling of a player being drilled, then hearing the words “take your base.”

While still in pain, the new base runner looks up and sees that the third base coach is giving him the sign to steal second base. As Cosby’s audience laughs, he describes the poor guy attempting to steal a base while in obvious discomfort. He is thrown out by 20 feet and he tells the infielder applying the tag “thank you very much.”

In reality, there is nothing humorous about being hit by a pitch, especially in the Major Leagues.

New York Mets star David Wright spent Saturday evening in the hospital after being beaned in the head by San Francisco’s Matt Cain. He has post-concussion symptoms and the Mets have no idea when he will return. Mets’ ace Johan Santana, one of the game’s best pitchers who is rarely wild, hit the Giants’ Bennie Molina after Wright was hit. Funny how that worked out.

For years, Cards’ manager Tony La Russa has been accused of telling his pitchers to hit an opposing team’s star if one of the Redbirds’ stars gets clipped.

Brad Thompson of the Cardinals was suspended five games after nearly drilling Wright in the temple 10 days ago. He was obviously retaliating for his team after Mets’ pitchers had hit several Cardinals.

While protecting teammates has always been a part of baseball, there is something out-of-control and dangerous going on in 2009.

Boston’s Kevin Youkilis charged the pitcher’s mound after he got hit by Detroit’s Rick Porcello earlier this week. Then, on Saturday night, Red Sox reliever Fernando Cabrera hit Texas All-Star Ian Kinsler in the shoulder and head.

Youkilis says he went off because he thinks he was hit in retaliation after Boston had belted several home runs that night. Kinsler hinted he was hit because the Rangers had stolen seven bases during a 7-2 win over Boston.

In other words, retaliation is being doled out for reasons other than teammates being hit by the ball. Then, the team that has been violated must get vengeance.

Is this baseball or Scarface?

Trust me, you could get hit by a pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning, the score tied, bases loaded and a 3-2 count and still be upset enough to fight. It’s obvious the pitcher didn’t mean it, but your initial reaction is to go bananas.

So, when a player gets hit with a “purpose” pitch – especially near or on the head – expect fireworks.

The great pitchers could buzz your head, move you off the plate and generally put the fear of God in you without hitting you. As Bob Gibson used to sometimes yell at angry batters after a brush back, “If I wanted to hit you, you’d be going to the hospital!”

But today’s pitchers don’t have that type of control; and as a result, things have gotten out of control.

Sooner or later, someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed. If things don’t calm down, it will be sooner and it will have a shattering impact on baseball.

Imagine if a star such as Albert Pujols got hit in the head and it ended his career – or worse his life.

This would be far from funny, folks. Even a young Cosby couldn’t make us smile while watching baseball for a very long time.

Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.