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.

Chris Bosio’s firing process with Tigers

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.

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Chris Bosio through his MLB career
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Chris Bosio through his MLB career
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 15: Chris Bosio #29 of the Milwaukee Brewers before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 1, 1992 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 1: Chris Bosio #29 of the Milwaukee Brewers before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 1, 1995 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15: Seattle Mariners pitcher Chris Bosio reacts after giving up a double to Eddie Murray of the Cleveland Indians in the sixth inning of game five of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio 15 October. Bosio gave up a two-run homer to the next batter, Jim Thome, to give the Indians a 3-2 lead. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JULY 13: Pitching Coach Chris Bosio of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays talks with Pitcher Jesus Colome #49 after Colome gave up a walk to Carlos Guillen of the Seattle Mariners during the game on July 13, 2003 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Devil Rays 13-2. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN -JUNE 8: Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio watches as his team plays the Minnesota Twins during the interleague game on June 8, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins won 8-7. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL- JUNE 21: Pitching coach Chris Bosio #25 of the Chicago Cubs (R) congratulates starting pitcher Matt Garza #22 after the Cubs defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 at Wrigley Field on June 21, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
04 July 2014: Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio (25) in action against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. where the Chicago Cubs defeated the Washington Nationals, 7-2. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 8: Tsuyoshi Wada #67 of the Chicago Cubs listens to pitching coach Chris Bosio prior to making his first start before the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 8, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 14: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs with pitching coach Chris Bosio #25 before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on May 14, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Pitching Coach Chris Bosio #29 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 14, 2018 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 20: Chris Bosio #29 of the Detroit Tigers walks through the dugout during the ninth inning of game one of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park on April 20, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Royals 3-2 in 10 innings. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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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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