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The Ump Who Sued Lou Piniella (And Other Baseball-Related Legal Disputes)

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It's surprising how often America's national pastime, baseball, finds itself snugly entrenched with the country's second-favorite hobby, litigation. Over the years a number of baseball incidents and disputes have found their way into courtrooms. Here are five examples.

1. Sweet Lou Kicks Dirt on an Ump's Reputation

Lou Piniella has had his fair share of difficulties with umpires over the years, to put it mildly. None of his dirt-kicking and stomping histrionics can quite compare with the pickle he worked his way into during an August 1991 game, though. In the bottom of the 8th inning with Piniella's Cincinnati Reds trailing the San Francisco Giants 7-3, Reds second baseman Bill Doran banged a solo homer just inside the foul pole to cut into the Giants' lead.

First-base umpire Dutch Rennert called Doran's shot a homer, but home plate ump Gary Darling overturned the call and said Doran's blast was a foul ball. At this point, Sweet Lou went ballistic, did his customary cover-home-plate-with-dirt bit, and got ejected from the game. But the real fun didn't start until afterwards.

After the game, Piniella told reporters, "I honestly feel that Darling has bias against us and won't give us a call all year." A few days later, Darling filed a $5 million lawsuit that contended his reputation had been "severely damaged" by Piniella's claims. The umpires' union had Darling's back, and Piniella eventually settled the suit for an undisclosed amount while saying he had "high regard for Gary Darling's integrity" in a statement.

2. Ross Grimsley Throws Too Hard

grimsley
On September 16, 1975, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Ross Grimsley was warming up in the bullpen of Boston's Fenway Park. The Fenway fans, as they tend to do, were heckling Grimsley, and the pitcher eventually decided he'd had enough. He whizzed a pitch at the protective screen in front of the fans to scare them a little. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the safety netting gave way and the ball struck fan David Manning.

Manning was understandably a bit upset at being conked by a fastball, so he sued Grimsley for battery and negligence. Although Grimsley won on both counts in the trial, Manning appealed, and the appellate court decided that since Grimsely was an expert pitcher, he had in fact committed battery and been negligent. Ouch.

3. Curt Flood Changes the Game

Curt Flood was a pretty great ballplayer. His career included three All-Star nods, two World Series rings with the St. Louis Cardinals, and seven Gold Gloves for his work in center field. If you mention his name now, though, most of us just remember him as the pioneer who helped pave the way for free agency in pro sports.

floodFor years baseball had a "reserve clause," which basically meant that when a player's contract with a team expired, he couldn't just jump to another squad. The team to which he had originally been signed still maintained his exclusive rights, even though they didn't have to pay him anything unless the two parties negotiated a contract for the next season. Basically, once a player signed with a team, his playing rights belonged to the franchise forever.

Like a lot of players, Flood thought this system was profoundly unfair. When the Cardinals traded Flood (along with Tim McCarver and two other players) to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for three players in October 1969, Flood refused to show up in Philly. Two months later, Flood wrote to Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn with a simple demand that he be declared a free agent since the reserve clause violated his constitutional rights.

Kuhn predictably balked at this request, so Flood sued the commissioner and MLB for a million dollars. The Flood v. Kuhn case eventually ended up in front of the Supreme Court, which sided with Kuhn and MLB in a 5-3 decision. Flood ended up missing the entire 1970 season due to the legal wrangling, and he retired in 1971 after a brief stint with the Washington Senators. Eventually, the reserve clause fell thanks to an arbitrator's ruling in 1975, and Floods dream of free agency became a lucrative reality for his successors.

4. Frank Francisco Gives a Lady His Seat

francisco-chairIf Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco ever gets tired of baseball, he'll be a natural fit in pro wrestling. During a September 2004 road game against the Oakland Athletics, the Rangers' bullpen endured the normal merciless heckling from the home fans. The fans allegedly crossed the line, though, when one of them make a crack about Rangers reliever Doug Brocail's stillborn child, which so enraged Brocail that he rushed to confront the fan. A full-blown melee broke out, and during the fracas the rookie Francisco chucked a folding chair into the stands. The chair hit Jennifer Bueno, whose husband allegedly hurled the disrespectful heckle, in the face, breaking her nose.

Francisco was quickly arrested for his chair toss and charged with aggravated battery. He pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to a work program and anger management classes. Bueno also filed a civil suit against Francisco for breaking her nose, which was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

5. God Blesses a Trip to the Men's Room

jeterLast summer Bradford Campeau-Laurion had to use the restroom during the seventh-inning stretch at a Yankees game. He popped out of his seat and headed for the facilities, but a NYPD officer intercepted the fan and told Campeau-Laurion he would have to wait until the playing of "God Bless America" ended to relieve himself. When Campeau-Laurion insisted that he really, really had to go and wasn't particularly interested in the patriotic anthem, another officer joined in, and the two cops threw him out of the stadium.

With help from the New York Civil Liberties Union, Campeau-Laurion filed a suit against the city of New York in federal court for "political and religious discrimination." It ended up being an expensive bathroom break for the city; earlier this month they settled for $10,000 plus another $12,000 to cover Campeau-Laurion's legal fees.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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