- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2003

The charge: assault with a baseball bat.

The victim: a 6-foot Italian sausage running by the visitors dugout, considered to be unarmed and delicious.

The verdict: guilty, sort of.

The beef ended yesterday after prosecutors in Milwaukee decided not to charge Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon with assault for bopping a sausage mascot with his bat during a game against the Brewers on Wednesday night.

Instead, Simon was cited for disorderly conduct and fined $432.

The swing seen ‘round the nation took place at Miller Park after the sixth inning, when the Brewers routinely stage a race to amuse fans. Little did anyone suspect that the competition would lead to one arrest, a few scraped knees and at least one baseball executive who appeared to have been shell-shocked by the incident.

It was “one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen inside a ballpark or outside a ballpark. It sickened me to see it,” said Rick Schlessinger, the Brewers’ executive vice president for business operations.

The trouble began as the competitors — an Italian sausage, a Polish sausage, a bratwurst and a hot dog — raced toward home along the infield warning track.

The steady-hitting Simon, overcome by either the spirit or the aroma, took a playful whack at the Italian sausage. The blow sent the sausage tumbling to the dirt and into the path of the approaching hot dog — a chain reaction that led to a couple of scraped knees and a lot of legal paperwork.

Simon was booed by fans when he appeared as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and grounded out in his only at-bat. He was escorted from the ballpark after the game and taken — in handcuffs — to Milwaukee County Jail. He was booked for misdemeanor battery, released and ordered to appear in the district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors elected yesterday not to charge him after reviewing a tape of the incident and coming to the conclusion that a court case is an awful thing to waste on an Italian sausage.

The female faces behind the meat products apparently agreed.

They “were not interested in having him charged criminally” and did not believe Simon meant to hurt them, Deputy District Attorney Jon Reddin said of the two victims.

Simon said he is the kind of guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly — or even a sausage.

“I thought at the moment they were trying to play with us. They were running right next to the players,” he said. “I’m a fun player, and I’ve never hurt anyone in my life.”

That was not good enough for Sheriff David Clarke.

“Fun can sometimes lead to injury,” he said.

Simon said he hopes to apologize to the woman before he leaves Milwaukee.

“That wasn’t my intention in my heart for that to happen,” he said. “I was just trying to get a tap at the costume and for her to finish the race.”

For the record, the bratwurst won the race and the Brewers won the game, 2-1 in 12 innings.

The Pirates issued a statement saying the franchise does not condone swatting a sausage with a baseball bat.

“The Pittsburgh Pirates apologize to the Milwaukee Brewers organization and to the Brewers’ fans for this unfortunate incident,” the team said.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig was equally disturbed.

“Obviously, the type of behavior exhibited by Mr. Simon is anathema to the family entertainment that we are trying to provide in our ballparks and is wholly unacceptable,” Selig said, adding that the league is reviewing the matter.

The uproar managed to please at least one group: the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

“I think it probably raised awareness that there are all types of sausages out there. But I had no idea you could race them,” said the Council’s Josee Meehan. “We were talking about it in the office today, about which one would win. We thought it probably would be the hot dog, because it’s leaner than the other ones.”

Undeterred by the violence, the Brewers staged the race again during yesterday afternoon’s game with the Pirates.

Four new people were inside the costumes, and the Pirates players removed themselves a safe distance from the field.

“They’re rounding the Pirates dugout — they’ve made it safely,” said Robb Edwards, the Brewers announcer, to the cheers of fans.

The Italian sausage won.

This story is based in part on wire-service reports.

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