The Idle American

Time to Dump the Ump?

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I take no joy in alleging the shortcomings of others. On land or sea, I typically choose “fluffy” topics devoid of controversy. My intent is to provide gentle humor for all readers, despite their station, religion and/or political leaning.

On land, I wouldn’t join troops risking entanglements “through the briars and the brambles where a rabbit wouldn’t go.” On the sea, while others joust with the bad guys and/or creatures of the deep, I’m “scrunched down,” trying to strap on two life jackets.

In short--like most folks--I identify with Sam Rayburn’s political philosophy: “If you want to get along, go along.”

This said, however, I take time and space today to decry decisions made by two game officials, both of whom may wind up tied in my memory bank for sheer “boneheadedness.”

One occurred close to 40 years ago in the May, TX, High School gymnasium. There, a young basketball game official tossed an innocent fan from the gym.

The other “goof” was committed recently by a veteran Major League umpire with 34 years of experience. Gerry Davis, the second base umpire, stopped the game to tell the Texas Rangers’ beloved Adrian Beltre to stand on the on-deck mat. Beltre, accustomed to moseying around prior to batting, perhaps thought Davis--the crew chief, for crying out loud--was kidding. Beltre moved the on-deck mat a few feet before complying.

Davis saw no humor, immediately thumbing Beltre from the game. Skipper Jeff Banister saw nothing laughable about Davis’ action. And the same thumb that took out Beltre sent Banister to the showers, too.

Despite possible rules-- replete with Roman and Arabic numerals, as well as small-letters in parentheses--on-deck infractions have long since been ignored.

To cite such a rule at such a time with such a player on the cusp of getting his 3,000th hit is to take leave of common sense. The ump’s unfortunate action is little different from a law enforcer arresting a citizen for carrying a pair of wire cutters in his overalls. Though still a “law” in Texas, no one knows when it was last enforced.

Here’s what got the ref’s dander up in the long ago basketball game. It was a heated contest, and the ref had heard enough from a visiting team fan sitting high in the bleachers. He instructed Superintendent Don Rhodes to banish her from the gym. Rhodes wasn’t sure which fan it was.

“Walk the aisle above the bleachers,” the ref suggested. “Take a step behind each person, and when you are behind the offender, I’ll signal you.” Rhodes complied….

Upon seeing the signal, Rhodes asked the lady to leave. She exited immediately, followed closely by her husband. It turned out that the ref missed correct identification by just ONE SEAT.

The good news was that the rabble-rouser knew she had been spared. She lowered her volume to a whisper the rest of the game. The bad news was that Rhodes--following the ref’s orders--had tossed out a respected pastor’s wife from Priddy, TX. Let’s assume the young official learned something. Blame his goof on youthful inexperience.

Davis, however, doesn’t get off so easily. Maybe he was bored with it all; the “laugher game” was three hours old, and the Rangers were down, 18-6. More likely, he wanted to make sure EVERYONE knew who was IN CHARGE. Good arbiters hope that at game’s end, players, coaches and fans will not remember there were any officials present.

Two games later, Beltre could have been elected king. Hours after his 3,000th hit on July 30, they named a giraffe in his honor at the Fort Worth Zoo. If they name an animal for Davis, it will be one that brays.

I close with the old line. Old age and wisdom sometimes ride into town on the same horse. Sometimes, though, old age rides in alone.

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