I’m a longtime baseball fan. I’ve loved the game from the very first pitch I ever saw – and let me tell you, that was some consequential pitch: it was the gopher ball Yankees’ pitcher Ralph Terry threw to Pirates’ second baseman Bill Mazeroski in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. Despite that, I became a diehard baseball fan and Yankees rooter, and have remained one ever since.
A lot of people have been grousing about the flood of changes to the game since…well, since Curt Flood. Among recent changes, the inclusion of a balls-and-strikes-calling automaton has excited the most frenzied protests…among the world’s last remaining absolute monarchs: baseball umpires, who see this as a fatal undermining of their Divine Right.
We know how jealously people with power guard their power, don’t we, Gentle Reader? So it was only to be expected from the umpires. And there have been quite a few incidents in baseball history that make plain the absoluteness of their authority. So you’d expect them to react rabidly against even the smallest chink in the wall.
There’s a classic story about umpire abuse of a player in Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four:
The other day [Seattle Pilots’ center fielder Wayne Comer] got himself in trouble with another umpire by getting on his son, who is trying to be an umpire. The son told the father and the father told [Pilots’ left fielder] Tommy Davis that Comer better come up swinging. He meant he wasn’t likely to get any balls called.
Sure enough, the first pitch to Comer was a high curve and he called it strike one. Comer didn’t even look back. He swung at the next pitch and hit a line drive off the fence for a triple. The ump looked over to our bench and said “See, it makes him a better hitter.”
How’s that for some 200-proof shamelessness, eh? It was 1969, but things haven’t improved since then, what with expansion and the demand it created for more umps. And today, to establish beyond all doubt that that pitch-calling robot is a good thing, we have this, from college baseball:
[Mississippi Valley] Delta Devils outfielder Davon Mims was at the plate, with two outs, at the top of the ninth inning. As unlikely as a Mississippi Valley State comeback was, it certainly wasn’t impossible, so you can forgive Mims for being very upset with the strike-two call.
That ball appeared to hit the dirt, a clear ball. When [home plate umpire Reggie Drummer] called it a strike, a despondent Mims hopped around before pointing at the divot that the baseball left in the dirt.
It was a bad call and Mims had said his piece. Surely he would get a fair crack at this unlikely comeback with his next swing of the bat.
That swing never came.
The umpire, operating with the world’s most generous strike zone apparently, called a game-ending third strike on a pitch that was so obviously down and out that the announcer began calling it as such before blurting out an astounded, “Oh my gosh! Wow!”
Mims followed the umpire, screaming about the missed call, before his catcher ran up and held him back from compounding the situation.
I can’t help but wonder what that ump had against that player. Did Mims impregnate Drummer’s daughter? Did he offer to buy Drummer a white cane and a seeing-eye dog? We may never know. But we can be sure there was something going on there. At any rate, the Southland Conference suspended Drummer immediately after the game.
Whatever the case, as an illustration that no one, not even an umpire, should be above the law, that incident is priceless. But don’t expect the umps to agree. After all, this could be only the beginning. What might they lose next? Their power to solemnize weddings at second base? Their power to order a manager’s summary execution? The horror!
Similar backgrounds, Fran. I remember the 1956 World Series and Larson’s perfect game. However, in 1960 we moved to New England, and I have become a life-long Red Sox fan. As a traditionalist, I am slow to change, especially when it comes to the American pastime. In recent years, however, I am of the opinion that the technology is there to improve on human judgement calls. Perhaps the most obvious indication of how human judgement is messing with the game is the “compensation call”. That’s when a home plate umpire purposely calls the opposite of a ball or strike to compensate for the one he earlier missed. It’s way more prevalent in football, where a pass interference call is questionable, and the official lets a more flagrant one go on the next play. In both cases, the point is that after a call is made by the monarch, there is no admission of fallibility from the official. You can’t take it to a higher court, protestors in the street won’t help your cause and like Mao himself, the word is final.
Bad umpires are part of the decline of the game. They need and require constant reminders of their place as employees of the teams, not overlords.
Baseball died for this fan, who grew up on(and in) Wrigley, with the strike in the early 90s. I had season tickets to the first few seasons of the CO Rockies. I’ve abandoned BB and the NHL for the obvious racial bullshit. I’m down to professional tennis and that’s looking shaky with the barring of Novak for Chinese flu hysteria. In the end, I really could care less. I have much more time for my personal pursuits so fuck em.
I do however enjoy playing tennis, no BS Chinese flu crap can ever take that away.