Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.


It’s a phrase commonly used in sports, particularly baseball, but I’m convinced those who complain the most have other, bigger, issues when they accuse others of “hotdogging”.

Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman was the center of baseball conversation earlier in the week.  No, not for his 100-mile-per-hour fastball, but for the tumbling act he exercised in front of the mound after saving Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

It got immediate attention, and not for any kind of comparison to Mary Lou Retton, either.  The issue was…did Aroldis Chapman “show up” the Brewers by calling that much attention to himself as a professional baseball player?  Did he offend them with his excessive celebration?  Did he break some so-called “unwritten law” of baseball decorum?

A lot has been said about this in the five days hence, and the closest that anyone’s come to telling the truth of the matter has been to say that Aroldis Chapman was doing nothing more than expressing a little emotion over something finally going right for him.  After being unhittable for the first 2 1/2 months of the season, of late he’s been imminently hittable…pinch hitters lining his Cuban “missiles” to the deepest parts of the ballpark.

I wouldn’t go so far as to even say that Chapman was blowing off a little steam, even.  No, the truth of it is he probably had a spontaneous moment of fun on the field…relieved to be on the “smiling side” of things for once, as broadcaster George Grande is want to say.

So, what “is” being shown up in baseball, in basketball, football, or related sporting activities?  What does it mean, and what actually constitutes “embarrassing” an opponent?  Because literally, that’s what someone’s claiming when they use the term…he or she tried to show me up.

Well, in basketball it means running up the score.  If you’re leading by 20 points with two minutes to go in the game and you leave your starters in, or keep shooting three-pointers, that could be interpreted as being poor sportsmanship, or, showing up an opponent.

Of course, nothing is said about players dunking and hanging on the rim…or strutting around the court if they’re fouled in the act, thumping their chest and glaring into the crowd, ala Dwyane Wade.  No showboating there, right?

Likewise, in football.  If you’re leading by three touchdowns with two minutes left and you’re still throwing the ball into the end zone trying to score again…that could be called showing someone up.  (And please, pardon my ending of a sentence with an preposition.)

And hey…what about that business where the defensive back or linebacker stands over some helpless receiver on the ground that they just blindsided, daring them to “come into their house?”  That’s not showing anyone up, is it?

In baseball, there’s a variety of offensive options:  Trying to steal a base when you’re leading by ten runs, for instance.  Bunting for a base hit when you’re up by a big margin.  Running the bases too slowly after hitting a home run, as if to overly glory in the act…to call attention from the opposing team that you just took their pitcher’s best out of the yard.  Stuff like that.

I’ve also seen players accused of “showing up” opponents for running too fast after a home run.  Former minor leaguer Tim Ireland used to get accused of that during his time in baseball. Ireland, a contemporary of mine when I was umpiring in the Florida State League and the Triple-A American Association, didn’t hit very many home runs to begin with, but when he did he would literally sprint around the bases…full-out go.  The opposition took that as him trying to show that a home run was meaningless compared to his hustle and speed, and the four-letter insults came flying out of the dugout every time he did it.  And the next time he came to the plate?  Invariably he got plunked, which delighted him all the more.

Fist-pumping by a pitcher after a strikeout is another act that some call “showing up” the hitter that just struck out, especially if fist-pumping is something a pitcher doesn’t normally do.

And of course, doing a floor exercise in front of the mound is not something that Aroldis Chapman does on a regular basis so it was construed by both the Reds and the Brewers that he was taking undue liberties Tuesday, unbecoming to a professional and unbecoming to the sanctity of the game.

To the purist, these would be offensive to some. "Showing up" can take on many forms.

Being a baseball purist, I buy some of this, agreeing that there are certain acts you don’t do.  But I’m also the first to say that too many baseball players cry about being shown up just because they got their butt kicked.  It “IS” embarrassing to get beat, and it is annoying to see a player having fun at your expense for the fact of him being on the winning side.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s trying to show you up.  (Again with the preposition.)

Those that cover the Reds wrote about Dusty Baker taking Chapman behind closed doors and reading him the riot act for what he did.  But in a realistic sense, what I hope Dusty told him was something like…hey, I know there’s a few things new to you in this game, and I want you to understand that other teams might not look kindly on what you did out there.

No riot act needed.

Frankly, I hope the Milwaukee Brewers shrugged their shoulders and said what the hell.  There’s supposed to be a little fun in this game and this time it was his turn.  What goes around, comes around.

In the bigger picture, I hope a lot of people offended by Aroldis Chapman’s Olympic moment take a chill pill, or better, take in a Little League baseball game.  Witness some actual baseball joy and understand…that every time you pump your fist, or stand at home plate and watch a home run leave the park, it means nothing more than someone taking a little satisfaction in a personal triumph, if only for a moment.  It’s not a heinous act.

Now, if you take one in the ribs the next time you come to plate…that’s part of baseball, too.  Just a reminder from the other team…that they have the right to exhibit some pride of their own.

And yes, a little joy over your pain!