Some twenty five years ago, Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe took umbrage at the amount of free baseball on offer during an FSL contest between the Miami Marlins and Vero Beach. According to the recollections of MILB.com’s Kevin T. Czerwinski, Duhe was eager to begin a celebrity softball game and sought to exert undue influenece on the minor league affair that was still taking place.
The game was in the 11th inning when a close play at the plate appeared to have brought the contest to a conclusion in favor of Miami. But home plate umpire Al Migliorato ruled the Marlins runner out at home, prolonging the game and prompting Duhe to intercede. The way Duhe saw it, the game had gone on long enough.
He and his teammates were ready to play their softball game against the Florida Highway Patrol, and Duhe decided it was time to share his feelings with Migliorato. So out he dashed, the All-Pro linebacker set to have a few words with the former heavyweight boxer who, 10 years earlier, had fought a four-round exhibition with Muhammad Ali.
“We were just kind of by the outfield playing catch and warming up, and the game went into severe extra innings,” Duhe recalled. “I was kind of joking around with one of the guys in the bullpen how [the crowd] had come to see us, so let’s get on with our game.
“A bunch of us were getting impatient, and the guy in the bullpen told me that they were playing Miami again tomorrow, so I thought I could talk him [Migliorato] into finishing his game the next day so we could get on with ours. I thought it was a pretty good idea, but I guess he thought I might have been some stranger coming out of the stands.”
Newspaper accounts are unclear about what happened next, and time has blurred the memory of the people involved. What isn’t up for debate is that Duhe and Migliorato got into an argument. There was some shoving — who shoved who first remains unclear — and some screaming, and apparently some spitting, as chaos ensued.
“There was a play at the plate, and had the runner been called safe for Miami, the game would have ended,” said John Shoemaker, the current manager of the Double-A Jacksonville Suns, who had been coaching third base for Vero Beach at the time. “I don’t know if he was out or not, but [the Marlins] argued, and then for some reason Duhe came out to argue at home plate.
“He and the ump got into it. He just went off, and it became a pretty good argument. It was kind of a bizarre thing. [Migliorato] was Ali’s sparring partner or something, and here he was being intimidated and assaulted. It was kind of a shock.”
“Players with both teams took it as a personal insult,” Vero Beach radio announcer Joe Sanchez said. “It would be like the Dodgers and Marlins walking onto to field before halftime at a Dolphins game saying they wanted to play their game of two-hand touch. I got a call from [former Dolphins coach] Don Shula. He said he would look into it, but he never did.”