Here's to you, Mr. Umpire

Posted by Chip Stevenson

I was just reminded of this story as I observed Marcus Thames' ejection from the game tonight against the Cardinals.  He came up with one out and men on second and third base, fell down in the count with no balls and two strikes, worked the count full, then got called out on strikes on a pitch that was half a foot outside.  Marcus immediately ran towards the umpire, got in his face, said some choice words and was swiftly kicked out.  Anyways, it got me thinking that the umpire had to know that he made a bad call but there was no way in hell he was going to admit it to anyone.  I would assume that most umpires would act this way after making an egregious call like that one.  That is, except for one.....

.... I was probably 13 years old, playing a stellar 2b for the legendary 13 and under Birmingham Barons.  I led the team in home runs that year with two and both of them were inside the parkers (one was a shot over the center fielder's head that just kept rolling and one, get this, was a ground ball down the right field line that got past the first baseman and rolled all the way to the fence.  I will never see something like that again in my life).  ANYWAYS, I was at third base, probably after hitting an impressive triple or something, and one of my teammates came up to hit.  He hit a shallow fly ball that was borderline deep enough to score me from third.  I went back to tag, left right when the ball fell into the fielder's glove and I raced for home expecting a close play.  The on deck hitter started waving for me to slide so I decided to try one of those "slide to the right of home and reach back with your hand" slides.  Everything worked perfectly- the ball beat me to the plate by a split second, the catcher reached for the tag right as I was sliding by him and I slipped my hand in there right before I felt the tag on my chest.  Still, the umpire called me out in the heat of the moment as he was probably swayed by the fact that the ball beat me to the plate and he had never seen a 13 year old make that impressive of a slide into home in his life.

So, to make a long story short, I got up and immediately yelped with my Eshelman-esque, onset of puberty voice, "I WAS SAFE!" and that was that.  The half inning ended and as I was running out to my position in the field, the umpire called me over.  I thought I was going to get a lecture about how I shouldn't show up the umpire like that, but instead, he admitted to me that he missed the call.  He told me that I was actually safe, he was sorry for blowing it, and he asked me for my autograph so he could sell it on ebay when I made The Show.

That is the first and only time in my life that I have seen an official in any sport admit a bad call.  While I wish he would have made the right call because it obviously would have catapulted me into Major League prospect territory (ever seen The Butterfly Effect?), I still appreciate the honesty.  I'm sick and tired of seeing umpires being as aggressive as the players or managers who are arguing with them.  I've seen too many umpires initiate too much yelling, and I think that baseball would be better off if more umpires acted like my main man instead of like Stone Cold Steve Austin about to drop the stunner on anyone who gets too close.  And to that, I salute you Mr. Umpire wherever you are and whichever garbage truck you are driving now... Pacman is drinking a Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade (his favorite) in your honor tonight at the Tags game. 


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