The Excommunication of Gerald Perry

Rex Duncan weighs in on Wednesday's extracurricular activity.

One of the facts of life within Cardinal Nation is the axiom "Once a Cardinal, Always a Cardinal."  Don't believe me?  Ask Mike Matheny when he returned to an adoring St. Louis ovation last weekend.  This phenomenon has been observed over and over in a never-ending ritual of respect for former Cardinals who wend their way back to Busch Stadium. 


It takes a lot for an ex-Cardinal to ruffle the feathers of Cardinal Nation, but after the pre-game brouhaha (I love that word) last night in Pittsburgh, Gerald Perry clearly crossed a major line of poor behavior in punching Cardinal pitching coach Dave Duncan, and has now officially earned the enmity of Cardinal Nation.  As a practicing Catholic, about the closest parallel I can draw is that Gerald Perry is now excommunicated and no longer one worthy to be given that special moniker "ex-Cardinal."


I don't know the origin of the bad blood that evolved between Tony La Russa and Lloyd McClendon.  I accept at face value the fact that the Pirates under McClendon have generally been slipshod and fundamentally unsound, and have underachieved based on the potential of the personnel they've had and that can be frustrating.  I further accept at face value that the proclivity of Pirates pitchers to throw inside is more a function of undisciplined wildness than it is intentional but poorly executed beaning.  If anything, I don't understand the excessive patience shown by Pirate ownership with McClendon in his handling of the Pirates.  Even Captain Joe Hazelwod of the Exxon Valdez, another famous shipwreck, lost his job.


What I cannot and will never accept is the clear disregard for the welfare of other players by McClendon as he casually watches his pitchers wildly drill Cardinals.  If any manager in baseball – yes, including Dusty Baker – has seen his training room look more like a MASH unit it is La Russa and he is justifiably sick of it. 


La Russa's comments showed cleared disdain for McClendon's failure to restrain his wild things.  He was adamant that if a pitcher like Ryan Vogelsong was a Cardinal and buzzing inside late in a 10-0 rout, he would yank that pitcher and directly inform him that that is not how the game is played.  La Russa was furious that despite the lop-sided score, Vogelsong and other Pirate hurlers kept coming inside on Redbird batters and actually drilled bench star So Taguchi on his left hand.  That Taguchi didn't suffer a Yadier Molina-type break is nothing short of miraculous.


I'm not sure how it was that Dave Duncan and Lloyd McClendon came face to face during batting practice last night.  Kudos to Dunc (no, we're not related) for holding McClendon responsible for the conduct of his team.  The Pirate skipper apparently has gotten a free ride from his management, so someone has to stand up to him.  That Gerald Perry would make a bad situation potentially dangerous by sneaking up behind McClendon and sucker-punching Duncan with a right fist to the head is reprehensible, juvenile, possibly criminal, and completely unworthy of one who had been known as an "ex-Cardinal."  Perry's comical denial indicated that he hadn't yet seen the Fox Sports News videotape that recorded his assault.


As an ex-Cardinal I would have expected better of Perry.  Rather than sock Duncan, he could have emerged as the man of the hour, stepping between the two verbal combatants and separating them before things became heated.  He could have been the cooler head that might have prevailed in defusing a volatile situation.  The last and worst thing he could have done was throw fuel on a lit match.


Gerald Perry is now and forever on the outside looking in.  He's history.  A non-entity in Cardinal Nation.  If and when he returns to Busch Stadium in a Pirate or any other uniform, Cardinal fans – the faithful who since he left the team in 1995 have followed him and his endeavors – are now free to boo and berate him in a manner worthy of one who exercises such poor judgment and discretion.  He is an embarrassment to the legion of ex-Cardinals who have played, managed, and lived honorably.  As you sow, Gerald, so shall you reap.


Rex Duncan



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