Murray Chass has a great story about the late Bill Lajoie. He wrote about it in the New York Times when it occurred in 1988, but that was before I was paying attention to the New York Times, so I never heard it. The scene: Lajoie’s Tigers trade for Fred Lynn at the end of August. Under an odd rule at the time, Lynn had to physically be in the same city as the Tigers by midnight at the deadline in order to be eligible for the playoff roster. Lynn’s plane arrived a tad late. No one would have known any different. Lajoie as honest about it:
He knew that Lynn technically had not arrived in Chicago on his chartered jet from Anaheim, where the Orioles were playing, by midnight. He knew that the plane had not entered Chicago air space until 10 minutes after midnight. Lajoie could have said that Lynn had beaten the deadline and, an official in the commissioner’s office said, the office would have accepted his word. But Lajoie chose to be honest.
“He didn’t get there,” Lajoie admitted the next day. “They were over the city limits about 10 after 12.” Asked why he didn’t fudge the time, Lajoie said, “I just felt a rule’s a rule. There’s no sense playing with it. That’s the rule and we’ll live by it.”
Stupid rule or not, that’s pretty astounding. How many of us would have been so forthcoming, especially given that it was well-known that the league never investigated such matters and deferred to the word of the GM in these matters? How many of us would have thought “It’s a dumb rule. It was mostly complied with. I’m lettin’ it slide.”