In other words, the umpire is always right – even when he (or she) is wrong.
Of course, my dad has been to very few games, let alone coached a sport. I, on the other hand, have seem hundreds of games as a writer or photographer, played in hundreds more, officiated a few hundred more and, finally, coached a bunch beyond all that. Suffice it to say, I know officials make mistakes – some bigger than others, and some more obvious than others.
I dreaded seeing Jimmy show up at the ball park, because I knew he was one of the weaker links in the system. But I nonetheless got along with him, even after the phantom putout incident.
I was much more irked (actually infuriated) by another incident that resulted in my being ejected for the only time in 17 years of high school coaching. I didn’t even use a swear word, kick dirt or shout.
Harold (we’ll call him) had so many issues that his games were frequently marked by unnecessary controversies. This eventually led to him becoming overly sensitive. On this particular day, the opposing coach was raising some pointed questions at Harold.
About midway through the game, one of my players took a funny step rounding first when a ball got through the outfielder. She made it to third and was standing in front of me when Harold called her out. He thought she had missed first. Aside from the fact that she actually had touched first, I told Harold that the missed base hadn’t even been appealed by the other team. Whereas a year earlier, umpires could make the call automatically (without appeal) the rule was changed and had been covered at all the coaches and umpire meetings. Either he didn’t go or forgot.
I reminded him about the rule change and asked him to check the book when he went home that night. At least that way, he could avoid recurrences of the issue.
I ended up being ejected. Later, when I was talking to the team in center field after the game, he came up and apologized to me, telling me that he had made a mistake and would not be submitting my name to the state as an ejection. I finished my talk with the team and walked to the bus with the opposing coach on the way out.
One week later, my AD calls me in and reads a report from the state high school association in which Harold told them I followed him to his car and continued to berate him/cuss him out.
Among the things that would make me mad, few approach when there is not a misunderstanding; somebody is lying and he/she knows they are lying! I was hot!! Really hot!!
The best my AD could do was send a reply back to the state in which we noted how I left with an entire team and the opposing coach, all of whom could witness that I never had any contact with the umpire after he apologized to me in my postgame talk with the team. I had to miss two games, but I was most upset about an official knowingly lying about something like that. It’s really hard to look at a person later when you know they are capable of complete fabrications.
Despite that and so many bad calls over the years, I respect the position officials are often in, especially with the speed of the game and athletes playing those games. There are definitely some bad apples along in the bunch – but they are generally trying to do their best. Most are well-trained and professional, especially as you progress to high school varsity and college.
For that and generally human decency, I found a recent incident in Texas high school sports to be beyond disturbing. Two football players appear to have targeted an official with intentional, vicious hits. To me, this is symptomatic of some other disturbing things going on in our country. People get frustrated and lash out with violence.
Turning around a culture that increasingly employs violence for frustrations -- great and small --would seem to be a monumental task. Nonetheless, it must nonetheless be undertaken by all.
I hope the official presses charges, not only for his own sake, but for others, as well. It’s one thing to be young and bad decisions. It’s another to make decisions to harm other people.
The frequent use of replays nowadays has put my dad’s stance about officials on shaky ground. However, the replay of targeting an official with violence is something upon which we should ALL be able to agree.