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Ballplayers and Umpires

June 26, 2013 - Al Stephenson
Major league baseball umpires have come under a lot of scrutiny this season. We have a tendency to villify the man in blue if he makes a call against our team. We forget how many correct calls are made in every game, if just one pivital call is missed. It's not fair, you know. A hitter who gets a hit three out of ten times is considered a good if not great hitter. An umpire that is on target 98% of the time will not get that label if he blows the big call.

Umpires have a difficult job, but sometimes it creates humorous situations. I was reminded of that when I ran into ex-Tiffin University men's basketball coach John Hill the other day. He related a story about a game in which the Tiffin Elks semi-pro baseball team was playing at Loudonville years ago. Though I played several years for the Elks with John, I do not recall the incident.

It seems the Elks players were not happy with the hometown umpire working the plate in the game and were letting him have it. Numerous suggestions were made that the man was favoring the local club. Finally the ump had had enough. He ripped off his mask and made straight for the Tiffin dugout. He said, "if I hear the word "homer" used one more time, someone is going to get tossed."

Shortly thereafter Tiffin's Sam Cook strode to the plate. From the Tiffin dugout came the voice of outfielder Mike Hart. "Come on Sam, hit a HOMER" he shouted. Again the umpire rips off his mask, but this time he looks at Sam and says while laughing, "that's a good one!"

The story reminded me of a few umpire stories that I like to tell from time to time. One involved a slow-pitch softball game. The batter who was notorious for griping about just about everything strode to the plate. The first pitch arced in and the umpire shouts "strike one." The batter steps out of the box and starts letting the ump know that he made an incorrect call. The umpire just ignores him. When the second pitch floats up to the plate, the umpire yells "ball one." Now the batter steps out and unhappily lets the umpire know that the pitch was in the exact same place as the first one.

The ump then responds with this gem. "OK, strike two!"

Another one told by a former big league umpire also rates high on the hilarity list. It seems that the umpire called Cal Ripken, Jr. out on a borderline two strike pitch late in a game. The next day Ripken strolls up to the umpire who is now working third base. The ump is not sure what to expect, but to his surprise Ripken tells him that he thinks he is the second best umpire in baseball.

The umpire, glad to see that Ripken has forgotten the call from the day before thanks him and then asks who is number one. Ripken's reply... "All the others are tied for first!"

The view from my seat suggests that humorous stories like these help prove that baseball is a great sport that is a lot of fun to play as well as watch. Now if we could just get the Indians and Cubbies to land in the World Series...

Yeah, I know. That's pretty funny too!


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