For Pete's Sake

How a cheerleader costume once saved a MLB pitcher who was shot

Cleveland Indians rookie pitcher Kyle Denney (right) signed autographs outside Kauffman Stadium before boarding the team bus for the airport following a September 29, 2004 game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland Indians rookie pitcher Kyle Denney (right) signed autographs outside Kauffman Stadium before boarding the team bus for the airport following a September 29, 2004 game between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. jsleezer@kcstar.com

You won’t see many Major League Baseball players dress like Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling in the future.

Well, that is, you won’t see players in cheerleader uniforms. Stripling and his fellow Dodgers rookies dressed up last fall for a road trip. It’s been a tradition in baseball that near the end of the season, baseball teams force their rookies to wear unusual outfits when the team goes on a road trip.

According to the Associated Press, Major League Baseball created an Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy as part of the new collective-bargaining agreement. That means players won’t be “dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identify or other characteristic.”

But dressing as a woman once helped a Cleveland Indians pitcher when the team left Kauffman Stadium for Kansas City International Airport.

Back when Jeff Passan was with The Kansas City Star, he wrote about an incident in 2004 when Kyle Denney wore a pair of knee-high go-go boots for his USC cheerleader outfit.

Near Interstate 70 and the Blue Ridge Cutoff exit, a bullet entered the team bus and lodged in Denney’s right calf.

Denney told Passan that the bullet, which grazed teammate Ryan Ludwick, was removed quickly by team trainers, and the go-go boot stunted the impact of the bullet.

“I’m sure glad the boots were on,” Denney told Passan. “I feel fine. Totally fine. I’m not upset with the person who did it. I obviously wish they wouldn’t have shot me. But it happened, and you deal with the things that happen. It’ll make me stronger.”

Denney said at the time that he heard a loud noise an assumed a veteran player tossed a firecracker.*

*Yeah, I hope that firecrackers on a team bus have also been banned

“All of us jumped,” Denney told Passan. “It got me. It seriously felt like somebody came up and pinched me real hard on the leg. I didn’t think anything of it. I felt a little bit of a sting, though, so I reached down to feel it, and there was a hole in my boot. I put my finger inside and pulled it out, and there was blood.”

There are two more oddities about that unusual story.

1. Although he was fine, Denney never pitched again in the majors after that incident.

2. Justine Gilman, adviser for the USC Song Leaders cheerleaders, told The Star in 2004 that their cheerleaders don’t even wear boots.

The new rule does allow players to dress as superheroes, but I’m not sure where the league would fall on the costumes that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas wore as rookies. They dressed as Ambiguously Gay Duo from “Saturday Night Live.” I’m guessing we won’t see this again.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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