When watching the MLB Playoffs this week I noticed there was a point when the umpires were huddling up for quite some time to discuss a call, as they tend to do from time to time. The fans were losing their minds both in the stands on my tv and also on the sofa in my living room. There was much ranting and raving and all manner of righteous indignation. It occurred to me that I always thought that the most stressed out person in a baseball stadium was the mom of the pitcher. But I have changed my mind on that. I think the pitcher's mom is out-stressed-out by the mom of the man in blue.
Over my many years in the bleachers, I have run into every sort and type of umpire. We've had those who barely whisper and so subtly motion their strikes and balls that you have to look at each other and try to figure out what in the heck is going on. We've had those that scream at the top of their lungs and have perfected their 3rd strike call with such theatrics that you'd think they were auditioning for a Broadway play. One of our favorites was the New Yawker who called the high pitch "upstaahs" and the low pitch "downstaahs".
And then we've had those who have left us all shaking our heads and wondering if they are living in the same universe as regular every day human beings. We had such an experience a number of years ago and it has become a legendary story among my baseball posse.
Before I tell you this story, I will point out that I am all in favor of respecting umpires even when it takes all your will power and a big dose of the Holy Spirit. I don't condone arguing with the umpire. Mainly because it's rude and obnoxious, but also because it doesn't do you any good. It doesn't matter whether you think the batter wasn't out. If that's the call, that's the call. Never in my entire life have a I seen an umpire change a call based on Mrs. Baseball Mom's or Mr. Baseball Dad's opinion. It simply never occurs.
Still, umpires are people, too, and sometimes they do make mistakes. Sometimes really bizarre, baffling mistakes that send the fan base into a tizzy. Such was the case on a rainy day at the ball field years ago. And in retrospect it was pretty hilarious, made all the more so by the magical invention of the GIF.
This story takes place in ye olden days when I had three kids playing travel baseball and Little League which meant Saturdays involved three games and Sundays were full of double headers. If you want to do the math that would be considered a sextuple header on the day of the Lord for yours truly.
That Sunday I found myself sitting in the rain at my 5th game of the weekend, and to be honest, I had become a little tired of the whole thing. I was bored silly and thought I just could not utter "Good Eye, Timmy" one more blasted time. I was wishing for some excitement in my day. I don't know, maybe a controversy of some sort? A little drama, if you will. Perhaps, it was my fault. Perhaps I willed the crazy train to start down the track.
All I know is that baseball brought the crazy that day. And woe is me, I missed it.
Apparently, the most interesting part of the weekend came at kid #2's double header. The problem is that I had to leave kid #2's game early to get over to see kid #1's game so I missed the whole darn debacle. But I did hear the story retold via text, phone call and face-to-face conversation, so I decided to pull all of my "research" and first hand accounts together with my new found talent of searching the interweb for GIFs to retell the tale.
The little anecdote begins on a regular ol' Sunday at the ballpark with a regular ol' team and a seemingly regular ol' umpire. Then came the issues. Issues resulting in much confusion and bewilderment among coaches, parents, fans, siblings and players on both sides. Both coaches and both dugouts were flat out stumped by our dear man in blue's thought processes or lack thereof. From what I understand there might have been birds flying over head squawking about the most awful calls they had ever seen.
And while I missed the best parts, I should have known to stick around because I was witness to some foreshadowing when I left kid #2's first game. As I was walking to my car, a boy on the other team slid very, very safely (like by a mile) into second base and was called out. It wasn't even close. It was so far from the correct call, that I took pause right there in the parking lot and was all:
But since I'm really calm and collected and it was pouring, I just moved on to my car. Well, apparently, what happened next was that there were many questionable calls in the field and at the plate on both sides in Game One. The good thing is that everyone in the stands and in the dugouts behaved admirably during Game One and were all:
The game ended on a really, really terrible call, but the classy folks from both teams just took some collective deep breaths and decided to reset for Game Two. I mean, it was a baseball game, right? No biggie. Let's eat our Subway sandwiches in between games, guys. It's all good.
Before Game Two, the coaches went to their requisite meeting at the plate with the umpire who told them that his strike zone would change based on the count. A pitch that was outside the plate with less than two strikes would be called a strike, but if there were two strikes the pitch would have to be over the plate to be called a strike.
Yep, that's what he said.
So our coach was all:
And then the coach on the other side was all:
And that meant that all the batters trying to hit the ball at the plate were all:
And then a lot of the fans were all:
So Freddy got called out on a ridiculous Strike 3 call which caused Tommy's dad to lose a little bit of his mind and start arguing with the umpire from behind the fence. So then this happened to Tommy's dad.
Then Freddy's dad felt like since Tommy's dad had stood up for Freddy that he would have to be ready to defend his honor. (Baseball dads are weird.) So when the next bad call came, Freddy's dad started squawking.
Then the ump told Freddy's dad that he better stop, so Freddy's dad says something like, "I'll get better if you get better." So then this happened to Freddy's dad.
Then Jimmy's dad felt like it was his turn to step up to the plate - or the fence, as it were -because all the batters on both teams who'd been playing baseball for years suddenly were so confused that they were all:
So you can guess what happened to Jimmy's dad
And then apparently there were more arguments and more ejections of fans and delaying of the game and all kinds of excitement and drama, so that in the end the last fan standing was Freddy's four year old sister wondering where everybody went.
And I like to pretend that I am really bummed that I missed it all but my people know me better. Due to the fact that I am a card-carrying member of the "I CANNOT HANDLE CONFLICT CLUB" and the fact that my husband calls me "WIDESPREAD PANIC" whenever there is controversy of any sort, had I been there I would have been all:
So, I suppose, it's a good thing I missed it.
In closing, please let this story serve as a cautionary tale. You don't want your 12 year old to have to rely on his 4 year old sister to get him a ride home after the game. Do all in your power to respect the umpire, even when it is very, very difficult. So difficult that you might need to a brown paper bag.
Carry on, Baseball Fans.
Jennifer P. Skinner