Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kill the Ump

It's not as if the playoffs so far have lacked exciting moments so that all we can talk about are the umpires. Jimmy Rollins comes in to knock a dinger in the bottom of the ninth to not only put the Red Quakers on top for the first time in the game but walk off with a snatched victory. TV no doubt is already mourning the demise of the Dodgers and the consequent lack of a highly profitable Yankee-Dodger Series. With all the calumny the Phils have borne these many years, they now suffer as being seen as a small-market team--heck, when I was first watching baseball, Philly was the 3rd largest city and had two teams--and the other one, the A's, had had far more success historically. Don't tell me you don't recall Connie Mack's Million-Dollar Infield?

For about the millionth time in a row, the umpires are being blasted for bad calls. McClelland's mishap at third with Posada and Cano was a real doozy, as the late Johnny Most might have put it if he could slow down enough to even do baseball games. And then he admitted he had blown it, as umps are wont to do these days. It's easy for me to take this all calmly--being no fan of Dodgers, Yankees, Phils or Angels. And now there will be instant replay review of balls going over the fence. We've come a long, long way from Bill Klem's days: remember "Son, when you throw a strike, Mr. Hornsby will let you know about it" or "They ain't anything until I calls them"?

Reggie Jackson materialized to say that McClelland was a good ump. And I guess he is. So now it is accepted that umpires making mistakes is just another part of the game. Heck, they always did make them. Now they admit it. Soon we'll have a 12-step program for them. (They needed one after a moron who was their lawyer self-destroyed their union and their jobs a few years ago.) I do agree, however, with the side that says the best umps should be rewarded by being assigned post-season play and the accompanying extra pay.

The last time I lost my cool over an umpire's call was when Richie Garcia permitted that little punk Maier to steal a catch from Tony Tarasco of the O's in the "old" Yankee Stadium. I would have sent that kid on the first New York Central flyer to Elmira Reformatory (I know, wrong railroad--and there was no stop at the Stadium in those days.). I also sincerely believe that the new Curse of Coogan's Bluff that afflicted the Mets for ignoring their (my) Giant heritage in favor of the Dodgers turned around and probably bit this year's Dodgers too. Don't ever underestimate jinxes.

It's also time to remember that as written by Douglas Wallop, whose The Year The Yankees Lost the Pennant became the musical Damn Yankees, the Devil--Mr. Applegate portrayed on stage and in film by the inimitable Ray Walston--turned out to be, naturally, a Yankee fan. He tries to win back his departed Faustian ballplayer by urging him--this was 1954--to return to the now-lustreless Senators because otherwise the Dodgers would be favored in the Series. And in 1954, he could still truthfully say, "Those Dodgers have never won a World Series!"

The Yankees came back to almost close down the Angels last night but now after that great finish, all remains up for grabs. That's the best thing about baseball. Don't take anything for granted. And of course it turns out that the Phils want to play the Yanks--last year's win over Tampa Bay didn't elevate them to the heights of baseball renown. However you feel about the Yanks--while not a Yankee fan, I don't feel too strongly either way about them because I grew up a National League fan--that ancient cry hurled at any promising club: "When do you play the Yankees?" remains extant.

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