Tigers pitching coach claims firing was result of misunderstanding around 'monkey' nickname

One day after Chris Bosio’s sudden firing that was reportedly due to a “racially charged” comment, the former Detroit Tigers pitching coach is claiming the whole incident stemmed from a misunderstanding with a clubhouse attendant.

In an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Bosio said that the comment that led to his firing was using ‘monkey’ as a nickname in a conversation overheard by an African-American clubhouse attendant. The clubhouse attendant reportedly believed the term was being used to describe him, but Bosio ‘insisted’ that the nickname was for injured Tigers pitcher Daniel Stumpf.

“Someone in our coaches’ room asked me (Monday afternoon) about Stumpf,’’ Bosio said. “And I said, “Oh, you mean, ‘Spider Monkey.’ That’s his nickname. He’s a skinny little white kid who makes all of these funny faces when he works out.

“The kid thought we were talking about him. He got all upset. He assumed we were talking about him. I said, “No, no, no. We’re talking about Stumpf.’

For what it’s worth, Stumpf is listed as 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds. And yes, he does seem to make some funny faces when physically stressed.

Daniel Stumpf claims no knowledge of ‘Spider Monkey’ nickname

Not helping Bosio’s case is that Stumpf reportedly had no knowledge of Bosio’s supposed nickname for him.

“Spider Monkey is not a nickname I have been called or I’m familiar with,” Stumpf said to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free-Press. Stumpf denied any further comment.

That statement basically gives us three possibilities: Bosio never used the “Spider Monkey” nickname within earshot of Stump, Bosio’s cover story isn’t true or Stumpf isn’t telling the truth for some reason. None of them are exactly pretty.

How the Tigers fired Chris Bosio

Once news of the conversation reached Tigers brass, Bosio was reportedly called into a meeting on Tuesday with with Tigers GM Al Avila, manager Ron Gardenhire and assistant GM and general counsel John Westhoff, where he was asked if had used the term ‘monkey.’ Bosio didn’t deny it, but tried to clarify he was actually talking about Stumpf. The Tigers apparently didn’t buy it, as Bosio was fired a day later on Wendesday.

“Al said, we got all of our information, and we’re firing you because of your insensitive comments,’’ Bosio said. “I said, “Comments? There was one comment. And it wasn’t even directed at the kid.’

“Al said, “We and Major League Baseball have a zero-tolerance policy. I said, “Al, I don’t have any issues with anybody. I didn’t cross the line. I’m really sorry, but that’s not my intent. I can’t believe this.”

We’re only hearing one side of the story here, but it does seem to set up as a tragic misunderstanding. However, the Tigers probably wouldn’t have fired Bosio if they legitimately believed he was only talking about Stumpf. Also interesting is Avila alluding to “things,” emphasis on the plural, in his reported conversation with Bosio, which he backed up by saying “there were things involved” when asked for comment by USA Today.

Chris Bosio is planning to lawyer up after his firing from the Tigers. (AP Photo)
Chris Bosio is planning to lawyer up after his firing from the Tigers. (AP Photo)

Where Chris Bosio and the Tigers go from here

Whatever did happen with Bosio on Monday and the rest of his short time with the Tigers, Bosio said he was “crushed.” He reportedly plans to hire an attorney in order to determine whether or not he should file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

The 55-year-old was in the first year of his tenure in Detroit, and will now be looking for work again. His resume includes six seasons as the Cubs’ pitching coach until his surprising firing last offseason. During that time, he helped the Cubs rise from the cellar and likely played a significant role in Jake Arrieta’s transformation into an ace as well as the development of Kyle Hendricks.

The Tigers have named bullpen coach Rick Anderson as Bosio’s replacement for now, though there’s a decent chance they might go looking for a full replacement this offseason.

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