Needling Umpires Just Part of the Game

Needling umpires is part of the game

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By BARRY SPARKS

(50PLUSWIRE) The constant conflict between players and umpires is baseball’s version of The Hundred Years’ War. It isn’t the longest-running battle—it just seems that way.

Former major league umpire Ed Runge probably offered the best reason why his job was so difficult.

“It’s the only occupation where a man has to be perfect on his first day on the job and then improve over the years,” he said.

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to know umpires seldom lose an argument. But that hasn’t stopped players and managers from trying to get in the final word. Figuring out new ways to tell an umpire he’s wrong has been a challenge to many players and managers. Some have needled umpires rather masterfully.

Former New York Mets outfielder Cleon Jones used to set up an umpire by asking, “Can I get thrown out of the game for thinking? “No,” was the umpire’s standard reply. “Well, then,” Jones would say, “I think you’re a rotten umpire.” 

Here are some more dandies.

What’s My Occupation

San Diego Padres manager Dick Williams was never a favorite with umpires. Years ago, while managing in Boston, Williams had a running argument with the home plate umpire. Finally, he went out on the field and told the ump, “I’m not going to complain about your calls on balls and strikes, because, if I do, you would throw me out of the game.”

The umpire then asked him why he was out there if he wasn’t going to complain.

“I just wanted to tell you that you could go on ‘What’s My Line’ wearing that chest protector and mask, and no one on the panel would guess your occupation.”

Reading the Rules

Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was notorious for his arguments with umpires. Pitcher Dave McNally told this story about his boss.

There was a questionable play involving a rule. Weaver told the umpires he knew the rules as well as they did.

“I’ve got a rule book in the clubhouse to prove it,” Weaver told them.

“I’ve got the rule book with me now,” the umpire answered. “I’ll show you.”

“That’s no good because I can’t read Braille,” fumed Weaver.

Out of Sight

An umpire’s eyesight is the subject of constant debate. St. Louis Cardinal Lou Brock delivered the perfect squelcher the first time he was thrown out of a game.

It was during a bitter 14-inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Everyone assumed Umpire Andy Olsen had booted Brock for kicking dirt on home plate. Actually, as closer observers noted, Brock merely spread dirt over home plate.

“What’s the idea of covering the plate?” demanded Olsen.

“Because,” cracked the usually mild-mannered Brock, “you can’t see it anyway.”

Eyeballing

San Francisco Giants catcher Tom Haller made his point with umpire Bruce Froemming in a most original manner.

For five innings, Haller asked Froemming about every close pitch. He wasn’t arguing or trying to incite Froemming. He was just testing his judgment. And then after one call he particularly disagreed with, Haller casually asked, “Bruce, what’s your last name?”

It seemed innocent enough.

“Froemming,” the umpire said.

“How do you spell it?”

“F-r-o-e-m-m-i-n-g.”

“That’s with one i?” Haller asked.

“Yep,” Froemming replied.

“And that’s exactly how you’ve called this game all night,” shot back the quick-witted Haller.

A Close Second

In a near thankless job, umpires seldom hear a word of praise. Runge recalled how a player even turned an apparent compliment into a barb.

One day Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox paused at the plate and said to him, “Ed, you’re the second best umpire in the league.” But before Runge had time to enjoy the compliment, Yaz added, “Unfortunately, the other 23 are tied for first.”

You’re Fired

Umpiring, of course, isn’t an easy job. Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem pointed that out to a couple players many years ago. On a 3-2 count, Klem called ball four, and the pitcher, Burleigh Grimes, let out a squawk.

“Where was it? Where was it? he yelled to his catcher Johnny Gooch.

“Answer that question and you’re out of the game,” warned Klem.

“Never mind him,” yelled Grimes. “Tell me, where was that pitch?”

“Right over the plate,” Gooch said.

“Get off the field, you’re both out of the game,” Klem snapped, giving them the thumb.

“What for?” demanded the perplexed Gooch. “All I did was answer his question.”

“For being such a lousy umpire,” Klem roared. MSN

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