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How Umpires Work


No Joy in Mudville
New York Yankees manager Billy Martin (c) is shown arguing with umpire Tim McClelland over the amount of pine tar on the bat used by George Brett of the Royals, who got a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Brett came charging out of the dugout moments later.
New York Yankees manager Billy Martin (c) is shown arguing with umpire Tim McClelland over the amount of pine tar on the bat used by George Brett of the Royals, who got a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Brett came charging out of the dugout moments later.
© Bettmann/Corbis

"Kill him! Kill the umpire!"shouted someone on the stand; And its likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

When Ernest Lawrence Thayer wrote the immortal poem "Casey at the Bat" in 1888, he knew that baseball fans and players viewed the umpire with the utmost disdain. Still, "mighty Casey," was a magnanimous slugger who could silence a jeering crowd with a raised paw. These days, players aren't as noble. Like petulant children, they sometimes cry, stomp and even spit when an umpire rules against them.

Stories of such on-field histrionics are legion. One of the most vitriolic occurred in 1996 when Baltimore Oriole Roberto Alomar spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck after a called third strike. The incident did not keep Alomar out of the Hall of Fame, however (and it didn't stop the two men from eventually developing an unlikely friendship). In 2006, Tampa Bay prospect Delmon Young threw a bat at a minor league umpire, striking him in the arm. The league suspended Young for 50 games.

Then there's Kansas City Royal player George Brett crazily storming out of the dugout on July 23, 1983, after home plate ump Tim McClelland nullified a home run Brett had just hit against the New York Yankees. McClelland ruled, after some prodding by a wily Yankee manger named Billy Martin, that Brett used an illegal bat (too much pine tar, don't cha know.) Brett madly charged out of the Kansas City Royal dugout, arms flailing, eyes bulging, lips and tongue screaming hysterically. Days later, American League officials overturned McClelland's ruling, saying McClelland should never have called Brett out. Instead, McClelland should have tossed the bat.