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Ashway: Where has sportsmanship gone?
Denton Ashway

They don’t call Yankee Stadium the Bronx Zoo for nothing. Saturday afternoon, the Bleacher Creatures showed why the sobriquet remains merited.

The Yankees had just tied the Indians, sorry, Guardians in the bottom of the ninth. Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled off the left-field wall, leaving Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan shaken up. Kwan had crashed into the wall attempting to make the game-saving catch.

Kwan’s injury evoked mocking from the Yankee faithful in attendance. Soon, Myles Straw was defending his teammate’s honor by scaling the outfield wall to confront the major heckler.

“There was a specific Yankee fan in left field that was celebrating Kwan getting hurt,” outfielder Oscar Mercado told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It’s almost like an act of violence. You can’t say something like that, especially after someone gets hurt.

“I just said, ‘Listen, man, you can chirp all you want, but don’t celebrate someone getting hurt. That’s classless.”

Added Straw: “Kwan is the nicest guy on the planet. He’s my teammate. He’s my brother. And some of the things that were said to him weren’t going to fly. My emotions got to me a little bit. At that point, if you’re a Yankees fan, you should be cheering for your team. You should never be preying on a guy who just went head-first into a hard wall.”

Act II opened with the next batter. Gleybar Torres singled in Kiner-Falefa with the winning run, igniting another lovely exhibition. “I was going for the ball, and then I made a left turn to go to the dugout,” Mercado told Hoynes. “That’s when I felt a beer can fly right by me. I turned around and saw another one coming right at me.”

“It was just a beer parade,” added Straw. “You could see them coming from a mile away. We were just trying to avoid the beer cans. Our bullpen was getting hit with them, too. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Instead of celebrating the walk-off win, Yankee players wound up sprinting to the outfield, trying to calm the mob. “I appreciate the Yankee players coming out and trying to control the fans,” added Mercado. “I have a lot of respect for that.”

While Yankee fans have long set the standard for classless behavior, cheering an injured player represented a new nadir. And as of Monday morning, the Yankees still had not issued a statement.

This outrageous incident occurred just three days after an equally alarming incident. Last Wednesday, Josh Phillips of North Central Texas College homered off Owen Woodward of Weatherford College.

Per the umpires’ report, Phillips shouted an expletive at Woodward while rounding second base. When he rounded third, Woodward tackled him.

“We are shocked and disappointed at what happened in our game today,” Weatherford coach and assistant athletic director Jeff Lightfoot said in a statement. “We do not condone this type of behavior. We have worked hard to build a program with the highest standards. We are completely embarrassed by this incident.”

Umpires suspended the game, and Woodward was dismissed from the team.

It might be easy to dismiss these two separate incidents as random acts of idiocy. But maybe that’s too easy.

Kristi Moore was a special guest at Friday night’s Braves game. She was invited by umpires Lance Barksdale and Ted Barrett through UMPS CARE Charities.

A few weeks ago, Moore stepped in to umpire a 12-year-old girls softball game for an umpire who was ill. After a call at second base, a parent began screaming profanities. “She accused me of cheating these kids,” Moore told Paul Newberry of the Associated Press.

Moore ordered the woman to leave the game; she did so only after a forfeit was threatened. But she was there when the game ended.

“I was maybe three steps off the field, and she was there, and that’s when she punched me,” Moore told Newberry.

Moore sustained a black eye, nerve damage, and a bruise inside her ear. And she’ll probably never umpire another game. “In the back of my mind, I’m like, what if she had a knife in her bag and stabbed me? What if she went to her car and got a gun, then came back and shot me? It’s just scary.”

Sadly, what happened to Moore isn’t an isolated incident. Dana Pappas, director of officiating for the National Federation of State High School Sports, told Eduardo Medina of The New York Times that between 2018 and 2021, an estimated 50,000 high school referees had quit. That’s roughly twenty percent of the officiating work force.

“This is a nightmare across all sports,” Pappas told Medina. Pappas also confirmed that this year reported incidents included referees being followed to their cars, attacked by players on the field, struck by objects thrown by spectators, and knocked to the ice during a hockey game in Massachusetts. WSB-TV recently reported a DeKalb County incident of a basketball referee being chased, kicked, and punched.

Insanity. We live in a society here. Why can’t people live up to that responsibility?

And when did we lose sight of the fact that sports begin with sportsmanship?