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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Sunday, 26 August, 2001, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Earring dispute stuns baseball
Arthur Rhodes of the Seattle Mariners
Arthur Rhodes is given his marching orders
Mass brawls are not uncommon on the baseball field.

Wild pitches or controversial decisions often lead to both dugouts emptying as the teams square up to each other.

But Saturday night's rumble at Safeco Field in Seattle did more damage to America's national sport than most.

A difference of opinion over jewellery between Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes and Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel hardly lived up to the macho image of the Major League.

He was pointing at me like he was going to hit me or something
Vizquel on Rhodes
"This is supposed to be baseball," said one commentator. "It's more like Ken and Barbie go to the beach."

Rhodes was preparing to take over from Kazuhiro Sasaki when Vizquel told plate umpire Ed Rapuano that he was being distracted by the sun reflecting off the pitcher's earrings.

"It was blinding," said Vizquel. "It was distracting."

An unusual complaint but not one aimed at causing offence, you might think.

Vizquel and the umpires had clearly underestimated just how attached Rhodes was to his diamond studs.

The Mariners man became incensed and refused to budge.

"I told the umpire I've been wearing them the whole year," he said. "So why should I take them out?"

In time honoured fashion, the two teams poured out of the dugouts as the crowd bayed for blood.

Omar Vizquel
Omar Vizquel was keen to make his point
Rhodes did not exactly calm the atmosphere by agreeing only to take one of his earrings out and intimating to Vizquel that his next pitch may be aimed rather higher than most.

Third-base umpire Tim McClelland was left with no option but to eject Rhodes from the game before throwing a pitch.

"It became a shouting match between Vizquel and Rhodes," said McClelland. "To stop anything further, I asked Arthur to leave."

Vizquel was still at a loss to explain why Rhodes took such offence at his complaint after the game.

"I don't know why he acted the way he acted," he said. "I think it's in the rules anyway that you're not supposed to wear any jewellery out there.

"He started pointing at my head. He was pointing at me like he was going to hit me or something."

With the match over and having had some time to reflect on his behaviour, Rhodes came to the only logical conclusion.

"A little short hitter like him," he said. "A little midget. I'm not worried about him. I'll go right at him if I face him again. A buck 25. You think I'm scared of him?"

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