Friday, April 24, 2015

Fortunately the Umpire Has Been Around

The play in Wednesday night's 3-2 Giant victory in which Brandon Belt singled Gregor Blanco over to third base from second base that Don Mattingly felt was Interference by a Coach was correctly not ruled as interference by Fieldin Culbreth. It was fortunate for the Giants that Culbreth has been around because had he been the ump who called balls and strikes on Wednesday (Manny Gonzalez) it may have been a different story.

I was at the game and when Belt rapped a line drive to a pulled-in Andre Ethier, I immediately looked to Blanco (number 7) and watched what he was doing. He didn't hesitate. He stopped at third base. Roberto Kelly, a newcomer at the third base coaching gig, just got caught up in the moment and stood too close to the bag. Now, I understand it could still have been perceived as interference but there was absolutely no intent. And Culbreth got the call right. I couldn't believe Mattingly moaned and groaned on that call. He was the one who orchestrated bringing Yasiel Puig in from right field to third base when Joe Panik was up to bat. There were only 2 outfielders and the one with the best arm was the guy he moved to third base. Just so happens Panik hits a high fly ball to right-centerfield, not deep but deep enough for Blanco to score on Joc Pederson's arm. But had it been Puig the game may very well have gone extra-innings. That was what cost Mattingly the game. His bonehead re-alignment of his players.

Rule 7.09(h) states "It is interference by a batter or a runner when (in the judgment of an umpire) the basecoach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base."

Seems the new, unknown umpires have a need to "be known" when calls like this occur on their watch. Who can forget the time when Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Giant's batter Dick Dietz had failed to make an attempt to get out of the way of a Don Drysdale pitch that would have forced a run home and ended Drysdale's consecutive scoreless innings streak? It was such a ludicrous call that to this day I still think it is in the Top 3 of all-time worst calls by an umpire.

(Note: The coup de grace was reading how Wendelstedt used to hound Tommy Lasorda for tickets to events that Lasorda had access to. It just proved that Wendelstedt enjoyed the limelight and was the perfect candidate for pulling off a shenanigan like the one he did in a 1968 game at Dodger Stadium. He was on a stage and took full advantage of that moment, the BUM!)

Sure, it's a wild hair in my nose. I remember first learning about the game of baseball when the umpires were: Al Barlick, Foghorn Bradley, Ollie Chill, Nestor Chylak, Jocko Conlan, Shag Crawford, Satch Davidson, Augie Donatelli, Billy Evans, Lee Fyfe, Tom Gorman, Doug Harvey, Jim Honochick, Alamazoo Jennings, Bill Klem, Bill Kunkel, Stan Landes, Bill McGowan, John P. McSherry, E. Durwood Merrill, Edward M. Montague, Larry Napp, Jerry Neudecker, Hank O'Day, Orval Overall, Chris Pelekoudas, Frank Pulli, Dutch Rennert, Edward P. Runge, Paul Runge, Al Salerno, Marty Springstead, Dick Stello, Ed Sudol, Terry Tata, Ed Vargo, Lee Weyer, and Emmett Ashford.

These were the backbone of the umpiring fraternity. Guys who made the call and there were no if's, ands, or buts. Not like today with all this apparent need to be captured on film and shown over and over on ESPN until you want to puke.

If you don't see someone on this list, like Bruce Froemming, it's because I didn't like his style. This is my list of names I saw mentioned in a book on baseball or how I remember their flash, style, and grace between the foul lines. This is my list and it's personal. I respect the game and those players who gave their all only to have some skibozo squelch their moment of glory by blowing an otherwise obvious call.

(thanks to Wikipedia for the ability to look up and find the former umpires who made this game as great as it is despite the camera hogs.)

Kevin J. Marquez