The Dangers of Trash-Talking

Some lessons about baseball (and beating Donald Trump in 2020)

Tim Wise

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He had owned the Vanderbilt hitters all night, giving up only three hits in eight innings, and none of them very impressive.

He had struck out the nation’s home run leader (and fourth overall pick in the Major League draft) twice.

And by the time he struck out senior Julian Infante — his tenth of the night — Louisville pitcher Luke Smith had left one of college baseball’s best offenses with only the final inning to mount a comeback. If they failed to do it, the teams would meet the following day in an elimination game to determine who would face Michigan in the College World Series finals.

And that’s when it happened.

As Infante walked to the dugout, Smith let his emotions get the better of him. And he did something that will now be immortalized on film — and certainly online — forever. Rather than quietly walk from the field, three outs from victory, or even pump his fists as is common for pitchers who know they are dominating an opponent, Smith berated Infante with an expletive-filled tirade that seemed to lack even the slightest rationale.

Although Smith’s catcher would later say Infante had been staring at Smith, one wonders how a hitter seeking to make contact with a 92 mile-per-hour fastball or three-foot breaking slider might manage the feat without looking intently at the person hurling it in his direction.

That Smith’s rant, in which he flung f-bombs at Infante and the Vandy bench, was tactless goes without saying. That it revealed an interesting discontinuity with the oversized cross hanging from Smith’s neck is also worthy of note.

But for Louisville, there is a more important lesson than a moral one. Whether it be karma or just the ironclad rule best summed up by the old saying, “You’d probably do well not to taunt the best team in college baseball,” the lesson was dished out to Smith in painful fashion last week.

Stirred from their offensive slumber and given now a personal reason to knock Smith from his perch (and the mound), Vanderbilt did what they do: a walk and a double driving Smith from the game, then two more singles off…

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Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)