Pittsburgh athletes can be found on right, wrong end of equipment-related shenanigans
Not since Randall Simon swung a baseball bat at a sausage race competitor 16 years ago has the national spotlight shined on a Pittsburgh professional athlete for an incident involving a piece of equipment.
Only this time, a Pittsburgh player was on the receiving end when Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was conked on his unprotected head by his own helmet Thursday night courtesy of Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett.
Hours after Garrett swung the helmet and made contact with Rudolph, the NFL suspended him Friday for the rest of the regular season, which consists of six games, and the postseason. The suspension also could carry into the 2020 season.
While Garrett’s helmet swing had the intention to injure, Simon merely took a playful swing of the bat too far in July 2003.
The Pirates were playing a game at Miller Park in Milwaukee when Simon, a first baseman from Curacao, leaned over the dugout railing and interrupted the Brewers’ nightly sausage race, which is similar to the pierogi competition held during games at PNC Park. Using his bat, Simon plunked 19-year-old Mandy Block, who was representing “Guido,” the Italian Sausage competitor. The bat struck Block on the top padded portion of her costume, causing a tumble and a scraped knee.
Simon was arrested after the game and booked for misdemeanor battery. The next day, the charge was dropped and Simon instead paid a $432 fine for disorderly conduct. Major League Baseball later issued a three-game suspension and $20,000 fine to Simon, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs a few weeks later.
A decade earlier, in May 1992, the Penguins suffered a literal blow to their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champion when star Mario Lemieux was slashed on the left hand by the New York Rangers’ Adam Graves in a playoff game. The slash resulted in a broken bone for Lemieux, who missed five games before returning to lead the Penguins to their second title. Graves received a four-game suspension.
Penguins forward Matt Cooke was the perpetrator in 2011 when he hit Rangers player Ryan McDonagh in the head with a flying elbow while skating into the boards. Cooke immediately was ejected, then served an indefinite suspension that lasted the final 10 games of the regular season and all seven games of the Penguins’ first-round playoff series loss to Tampa Bay.
In a much less serious transgression in 1980, Pirates third baseman Bill Madlock drew the wrath of MLB umpires when, during the course of disagreeing balls and strikes, he poked home-plate umpire Jerry Crawford in the face with his glove. Madlock was suspended 15 games and fined $5,000. Madlock initially appealed the penalties but then served them when umpires threatened to eject him from every game he played in that season.
Garrett’s six-game suspension is the second-longest in NFL history, trailing only the 12-game ban that Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict received this season for repeated violations of the league’s personal conduct policy.
Burfict, of course, was notorious for his altercations with Steelers players when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals. His first suspension, for the first three games of the 2016 season, came after his head shot knocked out Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown near the end of a 2015 wild-card playoff game. The penalty assessed on Burfict’s hit helped the Steelers get in range to kick a game-winning field goal, but a concussed Brown was unable to play the next week in the Steelers’ divisional playoff loss at Denver.
Other NFL suspensions of note:
• Houston Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith was suspended for two preseason games and the first game of the 2013 regular season for fighting with Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito. Like Garrett, Smith used his opponent’s helmet as a weapon, although he did not make contact with Incognito’s head.
• In 2015, New York Jets guard IK Enemkpali was suspended four games for breaking the jaw of teammate Geno Smith during a locker-room skirmish.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .