No matter who wins the World Baseball Classic, the image of the tournament most likely to endure is the brawl between the teams representing Canada and Mexico last weekend.
In the ninth inning, Canada was up six runs when their leadoff hitter bunted for a base hit. Apparently unaware that by the rules of the tournament run differential could come into play in determining which teams would advance, several Mexican players decided Canada was humiliating them up by trying to run up the score. Accordingly, they felt the next batter should be hit.
Third baseman Luis Cruz signaled pitcher Arnold Leon to that effect, and even after he’d been warned by the umpire for throwing inside twice to Rene Tosoni, Leon plunked Tosoni in the back.
The ensuing brawl included actual punches, which is bizarre for baseball players, who usually dance and shout “Hold me back” rather than indulge in fisticuffs.
There is no truth to the rumor that two Canadian players actually started the fracas by tossing down their fielder’s gloves and shouting “You want to go?” since their team was at bat when the deal went down.
One explanation for why the brawl got more serious than most baseball scrums is that for well over a century there had been simmering an argument about whether Canada or Mexico had been more seriously ripped off by the country they both border. Canadians are said to be bitter about an 1829 arrangement that saw the King of the Netherlands brought in to rule on the boundary between Canada and Maine, and the ceding of the Oregon territory to the U.S. in 1846 following a joint claim by the U.S. and Britain left some in the western part of Canada seething.
Mexicans claim they were swindled when the sale of Southern Arizona and Southern New Mexico for $10 million went through in 1853. They’d already lost Texas to annexation in 1845 and what would become California, Nevada, Utah, and Western Colorado, among other splendid places, in 1848 for what they would come to consider a pocket full of baubles such as promises.
“Sure,” the Canadians might have rejoined, “but they got us again in 1925 when Minnesota grabbed another few acres.”
If so, it might have been the weird claim that said acres in the frozen North could legitimately be compared to what became Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Denver and stuff like that that provoked Arnold Leon to hit Rene Tosoni.
In any case, apparently no lasting harm was done, since, as Team Canada Manager Ernie Whitt said afterward, “You can’t hurt us Canadians.”
No lasting good was done, either, since both teams crashed out of the tournament.