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Published: Friday, 7/18/2003

The wurst of times

THOUGH the Toledo Mud Hens are no longer the doormats of the International League, thanks to a new ballpark and an infusion of talent from the parent Detroit Tigers, Hens fans can identify with followers of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have spent the last decade hoping for the best and expecting the wurst.

But none of them ever anticipated that Pirate player Randall Simon would swing a bat at a 19-year-old woman dressed in an Italian sausage costume and participating in a race during a 2-1 loss last week to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Though it was hardly a full-fledged swing, Simon made enough contact that the sausage fell to the ground, tripping a hot dog in the process. Running in those outfits is tough enough without somebody trying to knock you over.

After it happened, a man dressed as a bratwurst called it “unbelievable.”

The Polish sausage offered no comment, and the Italian sausage, while not relishing the incident, was ready to forgive.

The whole sordid affair gave indigestion to the embarrassed Pirates organization as national news media made mincemeat of the slugger Simon.

Who knows? Did the Pirates slugger have a bad experience once in an Italian restaurant? Was it frustration over another mediocre Pirates season bubbling to the surface? C'mon, there's no deeper meaning here. A ballplayer was just trying to have fun. Judging from the video replays, it certainly doesn't appear any harm was intended.

The wounded wieners suffered only scrapes on their knees. But pig-headed Milwaukee authorities - obviously unable to think outside the bun - arrested Simon anyway and fined him $432 for disorderly conduct.

Baseball teams never forget a grudge, so Pirates and Brewers fans will no doubt be watching for any reprisals when the two teams next play each other. That would be Aug. 15. Oh, yes, the dog days of summer.

Rumor has it the pierogies will race the wursts to see what they're made of.

There might even be a baseball game that day.

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