Offerman denies striking player with bat, Tommy John admits throwing at Luis Tiant in testimony

In this Aug. 14, 2007, file photo, Bridgeport Bluefish catcher John Nathans, right, tries to prevent Long Island Duck's Jose Offerman (18) from hitting Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech with a bat during a fight in the first inning of an Atlantic League minor league baseball game in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Connecticut Post, Christian Abraham)

By: Joel Alderman

Jose Offerman took the witness stand on the second day of the trial in U.S. District Court at Bridgeport today (July 18th) and denied that he swung his baseball bat at two Bridgeport Bluefish players during a melee on August 14, 2007 at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.

Offerman and the team he played for, the Long Island Ducks, are being sued by Jonathan Nathans, who was the catcher for the Bluefish, as a result of injuries he says he sustained on the field that night.

Two admissions from Tommy John

Before Offerman was called to testify by Joshua Koskoff, one of Nathans’ lawyers, the celebrated Tommy John, who was then the Bridgeport manager, was the lead witness.

John confirmed two fairly obscure pieces of baseball trivia concerning his career, in the course of summarizing his credentials for the jury.

  1. He once deliberately hit a player when he played for the Chicago White Sox. “I went at Luis Tiant (and) I hit him in the derriere because that was the biggest thing on him.”
  1. In 1989, pitching for the Yankees when he was age 45, he decided to end his playing days. He said, “when your dentist’s son is getting hits off you it was time to retire” and that his dentist’s son was Mark McGwire.

Retaliation in baseball

Thursday, during opening statements, Nathans’ other lawyer, Craig Smith, told the jury “Where I come from (South Carolina) we have two sports, college football and NASCAR. The ugly side of the so-called civility of baseball is retaliation and some kind of physical violence. Charging the mound happens. . . It is `connected to the employment of a baseball player.”

Offerman was the lead-off batter and homered on the first pitch over the left field wall. He came up again the next inning, with the Ducks ahead, 3-0, and was hit in the leg by a pitch. He then allegedly charged the mound.

Did he or didn’t he use his bat?

In other testimony today a police officer, Damien Czech, who was on duty at the game, said that he saw the bat strike the pitcher’s hand and then Nathans’ head, though admitting under questioning by the Ducks’ lawyer that he did not see any bleeding.

The pitcher, Matt Beach, in videotaped testimony, said “I heard it” and it was a “pretty loud whack.”

Beech also said that he had both of his hands up and “luckily he hit my glove,” though the hit broke the ring finger on his gloved hand. “He took more than one swing. I’m sure he took several swings,” he added.

Another witness was Frank Boulton, the founder of the independent Atlantic League, who also had ownership interests in the Ducks and Bluefish. He said that although he viewed photographs of the scene, “I still don’t see Mr. Nathans being hit.”

Offerman admitted that he raised the bat above his head, but that “I never swung the bat.” He said that a teammate, Carl Everett, another former major leaguer, pulled the bat away from him and he then left the field.

Is the judge a baseball fan?

The trial is being heard by a 10-member jury presided over by Federal Judge Warren Eginton who, at 90 years of age, revealed a knowledge of baseball. As Tommy John took the stand, the judge told the jury that he is famous for the “surgery he had on his elbow (and) that is named for him.”

John may now also be famous, though to a much lesser extent, for a delivery that once hit a fellow pitcher, Luis Tiant.

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