Beef often begins with friendship, and such is the story of Omar Vizquel and Jose Mesa. The two were close friends on the contending Cleveland teams of the mid-’90s. Vizquel was the star shortstop, Mesa who’d developed from a middling starting pitcher into an elite closer. But in October 1997, with a World Series victory on the line, Mesa choked, blowing a save in Game 7 against the Marlins, and beginning a collapse that ended with an extra-innings Florida walkoff.
After failing his teammates at such a critical juncture, Mesa was extremely sensitive. He didn’t like it when, in spring training scrimmage the following year, Vizquel hit a home run off him and went over the top in celebrating. He REALLY didn’t like it when, years later, the first page of Vizquel’s autobiography derided Mesa’s Game 7 performance.
The two were on separate teams by this point, and Mesa made it clear that at every available opportunity, he would hit Vizquel with pitches. And when those opportunities arose over the years, he did.
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