Thursday, May 1, 2008

That WAS the WORST Call

Harry Wendelstedt can thank Gary Darling for replacing him, from what must have seemed like the loneliest position, at the top of major league baseball's all-time bad calls list. Considering the arrogance of today's umpire, it only took 40 years for one of the worst calls to be topped.

In Harry's defense, he was a rookie. In 1968, while umpiring home plate, in a game where Don Drysdale was setting the all-time record for innings pitched without giving up a run. (Fifty-eight -58- to be exact. Orel Hershiser went 59 consecutive scoreless innings, 20 years later in 1988). So you can understand why he claims to have seen something nobody else at Chavez Ravine or planet Earth saw, the night Dick Dietz, the San Francisco Giants' slugging catcher, was ruled not to have made a valid attempt of getting out of the way of a Drysdale pitch! It never occurred to the rookie umpire that maybe the reason Don Drysdale had the scoreless innings streak was because he was fooling the hitters. Well, add the Mule (Dietz' nickname) to the list of bamboozled batters. (What makes this call so bad is that nowadays very few batters exhibit the ability to make-an-attempt to get out of the way of a pitch headed for them. Perhaps the protective gear they are wearing allows them to "hang in there" that much more.)

A youngster trying to prove he belongs over-stepped his boundaries to see to it that a record was set. It was agony for fans of the orange and black but simply marvelous for baseball statisticians, not to mention "bleeders of Dodger blue."

Then, on April 29, 2008, Gary Darling relieves Harry, father of current ump Hunter, of the dubious distinction as the umpire who made the worst call in major league history. (Almost 47 years to the day, when Willie Howard Mays, Jr., hit 4 home runs at County Stadium in Milwaukee...on April 30, 1961.)

This guy had the audacity to make the signal for a "time out" and then, as the pitcher (Tim Lincecum) obliged, he changes his intent and calls the pitcher for a "balk!" It was Darling who balked, not Lincecum.

The idea that an ump would first signal "time out" and then change his mind AND THEN CALL A BALK is without question the reason this IS the worst call in major league history.

There may be an irony here. The previous "worst" involved Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale versus the San Francisco Giants. This call, involved Tim Lincecum, of the San Francisco Giants. Maybe, in time, Lincecum will have a career worthy of Cooperstown mention. And if he does continue to make strides toward enshrinement, it permanently etches this memory -in stone- so Gary Darling can dream this -nightmare of a call- over and over until each sleepless night convinces him he was the bum who made the worst call in major league history.

Kevin Marquez