This week is famous encounters week at Diamond Hoggers. We will post what we’ve got each day in the way of a famous encounter with a figure in major league baseball along with any reader submissions we receive. Today, our famous encounter was with former Tigers and Reds Pitcher, Luis Pineda:
The year was 2002. The editors of this blog were freshman in college and life was simple. We had recently discovered the vast new world of dip, and we had taken an immediate liking to Skoal Mint in particular. I promised George a trip to Cincinnati after we became friends to see the Reds play, and on this spring day we had no baseball game or practice, we climbed into my Ford Exploder and set sail towards Cincinnati.
On this day the Cincinnati Reds were taking on the San Francisco Giants. We wanted to see Adam Dunn and Barry Bonds play, we took off early enough on this saturday afternoon to see batting practice. Jose Rijo was starting for the Reds this day, which was an extra special treat. Rijo ended up dominating that day and getting the win, Bonds doubled, and Dunn homered (as well as Corky Miller) but that was not the story we took away from this day, and it was not our famous encounter.
The famous encounter was with Reds reliever Luis Pineda, he was a 6 foot 1, 160 pound right hander that threw absolute gas. Seriously, this guy could throw as hard as any pitcher I’ve ever seen, and it was probably just arm problems that are the reason for him being out of the league at this point, because man could be bring the heat.
We were down the right field line in old Riverfront Stadium, and the players were walking by one by one, just shooting the shit with the fans and such. George and I decided we wanted to “christen” the field, this is where we insert a giant hog, let it hang out a while, and spit onto the major league turf, to you know, christen it. Just after we did so Luis Pineda came strolling down the line, signing autographs and he himself had a giant dip in. Enormous. To this day I don’t know how he packed an entire tin in his Dominican mouth. He said not one word to anyone, but like I said, he was signing autographs.
When he got down to us, he had a sharpie in hand, ready to sign at will. George and I were starstruck, not because he was a major leaguer, but obviously was a proud hogger, sporting his slobby chubby in his front lip. He was too professional to spit, and I could tell that either he couldn’t speak English or was just being a pro hogger and holding in about an hours worth of spit until he was out of eyesight of the adoring fans.
I quickly said “Hey, Luis! Hey Pineda!” and pointed toward my own dip of Skoal Mint I had in, and George’s fat lip. Pineda grinned at us and reached forward for a baseball card, or a program, possibly a baseball to sign for us. It was all his pleasure, he was ready. On this day, I had nothing in my pockets but a ticket stub, and that tin of Skoal Mint. I decided I had enough signed ticket stubs. I thought it would be a lot cooler to have a signed skoal mint tin on my dresser of memorabilia then another ticket stub. I pulled out that tin of skoal mint very quickly and stuck it in front of his small Dominican hands to sign.
At an instant he eye balled it, and started to get startled. You would have though he was the devil and I was holding a cross in his face. Remember, he wasn’t talking to anyone, and to this day I don’t know if it’s because he couldn’t speak English, or because he had to spit and refused to do so in front of his fans or what, but he started to back away and shake his head no. He left it up to us to figure out exactly why he was not going to sign that tin of skoal mint he was basically endorsing like Joe Camel in front of our very eyes.
George and I began to panic and try and figure out this puzzling situation. “What, you won’t sign tin?” we asked. He shook his head defiantly, and began to walk away, he simply pointed at the tin and shook his head very deliberately “no”. Puzzled, I went down the line a little ways and tried to sneak it in front of him again, to see if he’d do a quick sign of it and just let us walk away. Again, Pineda kind of didn’t say anything, and shook his head no and walked away. He would not sign the tin.
George guessed that maybe he was told by his agent or someone in baseball he couldn’t endorse tobacco products by signing them, no matter how much he liked them. In some strange way, we understood and left him alone after that. Pineda never pitched in the big leagues again after that 2002 season with the Reds, and that I am sorry for. Still, his significance on that fateful April Saturday afternoon will live on in the memories of Diamond Hoggers forever.