I had somehow forgotten all about this until Deadspin reminded me just now. Don’t ask me how I managed to forget something this funny. Way too much stuff happens way too fast now.
It was June 26, 2001, and the Pirates were bad. They were already 21 games under .500 when in a game against the Brewers, umpire Rick Reed called out Abraham Nunez on a bang-bang play at first, and then, two innings later, Jason Kendall was called out on a similar play. McClendon, who after the game would accuse umpires of “relaxing” when working games involving the going-nowhere Pirates, had seen enough. The rookie manager got into it with Reed, got ejected, and flung his cap out onto the infield dirt. And then he went after the base.
“I told him he wasn’t using it,” McClendon said, “so I thought I’d take it.”
McClendon stomped all the way back up the tunnel and brought the bag to his office; umpires retrieved a new one rather than send someone in to ask for it back. What was McClendon thinking at that moment? Eight years later he recalled, “I didn’t realize I’d ripped the skin off all my knuckles trying to get that damn thing out of the ground. I said, ‘Damn, that hurts.’”
Apparently the Pirates kept it on display in their clubhouse, and even got McClendon to sign it years later when he came back as a coach with the Tigers.