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Tribe's Thome nothing but class



Published: Fri, June 1, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sometimes nice guys finish first.

If Albert Belle hadn't left the Cleveland Indians after the 1996 season and Manny Ramirez followed last November, Jim Thome might never have become the club's all-time home-run king.

But they did and Thome, easily the most popular Indian in Charlie Manuel's lineup, hit No. 243 the other night.

It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy or a classier Indian.

Michael, Michael motorcycle: Speaking of nice guys, long-time followers of the Pittsburgh Penguins (those of us who paid to see the "Flightless Waterfowl" before Mario Lemieux was drafted in 1984) are tickled pink that long-time play-by-play announcer Mike Lange will be honored in November by the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Before Lemieux led the Pens to two Stanley Cups, Lange was doing his best to entertain Pittsburgh ice hockey fans with wacky sayings designed to build thrills when few were being generated on the ice.

His best? Well, "Elvis has just left the building" has always been a favorite because it meant the Pens had scored a victory-ensuring goal late in a game.

But "buy Sam a drink and get his dog one, too" rates right up there, as does "scratch my back with a hacksaw."

Although he covered some playoff games for ESPN back when the Pens regularly missed the playoffs, Lange's style never caught on with a the national audience.

That's their loss.

In Pittsburgh, Lange is a treasure. His trademark "It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh" is a warm greeting on cold winter nights.

Wacky Charlie: The Indians skipper can be one funny guy.

Last week, umpire Angel Hernandez ejected Manuel for excessive arguing.

While watching the game in his Jacobs Field clubhouse office, Manuel saw the Indians and Tigers run onto the field for one of major League Baseball's non-brawls.

So the 57-year-old Tribe manager did what any ejected leader should do -- he ran from his office about 100 yards to the Indians dugout and joined the brouhaha.

After the game, Manuel said he didn't believe he should be suspended for running onto the field after he had been removed from the game.

Oh that wacky Charlie.

Fortunately, Frank Robinson, MLB's disciplinarian, saw it differently, suspending Manuel for two games.

Manuel, to his credit, did not appeal the suspension.

Rules are rules, Charlie. Ejected means ejected, fights and all.

Diamondbacks: Can you believe how the Arizona Diamondbacks whined after San Diego Padres catcher Ben Davis broke up Curt Schilling's perfect game last weekend with a bunt single?

Excuse me for ignoring baseball's "unwritten rulebook" that says players shouldn't resort to bunting against a pitcher going for history. If I'm a paying customer sitting in Qualcomm Stadium and my Padres trail 2-0 and my guy bunts to get on base in an effort to win the game, he's doing the right thing.

How can a perfect game be considered perfect if the opposition doesn't do everything it can to win?

And what if the Padres miss the playoffs by one game?

Me and the spitter: One reason I prefer watching professional hockey to basketball is that the players usually have better manners.

Then I see New Jersey Devils captain Scott Stevens skate past the Colorado Avalanche bench during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals and spit -- not at anyone on the bench but at the ice.

So much for that behavior theory.

OK, Stevens was disgusted with the play of Avs defenseman Adam Foote, but spitting is no excuse, not in a sport that allows its players to whack each other with fists and sticks.

XTom Williams is a sportswriter with The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.




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