This is going to sound like sour grapes. But listen, it’s just a baseball game……we’re not talking world peace or some political fiasco over who actually controls the Straits of Gibraltar. And I understand judgment calls. We all make them……from who to take to the senior prom to which brother-in-law you may not want to lend your money to.
Major league umpires just take it to another level. They must make lightening quick decisions based on whether the throw beat the foot to the bag, the catcher got the tag on the sliding base runner and was that pitch exactly on the outside corner or did it just nick the black.
They don’t get every call right, of course. Major league umpires are good, mind you, but not perfect. Historically, those missed calls are simply factored in as a part of the game. With all the electronic data available it was only natural that big league baseball has instituted replay cameras in certain situations, mostly dealing with whether a ball cleared the outfield fence for a home run.
It is still the judgment of the umpire on that half swing at home plate or that whisper close play at first base. That might have all changed with the just finished World Series. In the very first inning of the very first game the second base umpire ruled quickly and instinctively that the St. Louis shortstop had held the ball long enough to get the force out at second and was “in the act of throwing” when the ball dropped from his glove. This was not the case however. The TV cameras revealed in super slow motion that the ball was never held by the shortstop.
The umpire clearly and distinctly made the out call. That call has always stood! Forever in baseball! The fact that it was wrong was just “part of the game”. The Boston Red Sox manager came out to argue. I would have done the same thing. He was not expecting to get the call reversed. Baseball never reverses that call! The umpires quickly huddled, discussed the play and then called the runner safe.
I was stunned. Umpires had historically backed each other up, right or wrong. They take great pride in their fraternity. This was certainly a turning point…..and on the biggest stage in baseball for goodness sakes! The announcers quickly applauded the fact that “they got it right”. Baseball, represented by Joe Torre, reflected after the game that “they got it right”. Reporters the next day dutifully reported “they got it right”.
I won’t argue the point. The runner, who was called out, later scored and Boston played the game with an “extra out” that directly affected the outcome of the game. No one can argue that point either! And that game affected the outcome of the World Series!
I am trying hard not to be bitter or a sore loser here. But I do have a pertinent thought on the matter. Now, that we have hung our hat on “they got it right”, let’s back up to 1985. It is the eighth inning of the sixth game of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. In the crucial play of that game, and the series, Jorge Orta hit a slow grounder to Jack Clark, who fielded it cleanly and flipped to Todd Worrell covering first base. The replay clearly showed, as do still pictures, the runner is out. Worrell beats him to the bag by a country mile! Don Denkinger called him safe. Whitey Herzog, the Cardinal manager, argued vociferously to no avail. Not one of the other five umpires moved in to “get it right”. The play went down in history as simply “part of the game”. Every announcer and commentator working the game, as well as Denkinger after it was over, emphatically stated that the runner was, in fact, out.
Something doesn’t seem fair here. If we’re going “to get the call right”, let’s get them ALL right! I want to start that game over from where the umpires huddle and overrule Denkinger’s call!
And we can go back even further. I remember Squeaky Ridinger sliding into third base at the ball field across from the Pajama Factory. He was called out. George Sexton missed the tag by another country mile! We argued briefly and got on with the game. We were having too much fun to belabor one close call. But Squeaky was safe. And it cost us that game! If we are now bent on “getting the call right” at all cost, it is only fitting that we reconvene on that hot July afternoon in 1958 and start over with Squeak still at third base.
Can you see the possibilities here? It shouldn’t be limited to baseball. What about the guy who said “I do” but really meant “I don’t”! A terrible marriage ensues that could have been avoided if the right group had huddled quickly as the music was about to start and overturned the wedding. Someone would be out a nice dress, a layered cake and a little pride, but hey, they “got the call right”!
What about politics? Can you imagine? A bad law is about to be written into the books……wait a minute, let’s huddle……
O.K., maybe there are a few grapes involved here after all.