A New York State appeals court last week dismissed a defamation of character lawsuit brought by former American League umpire Dallas Parks against George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees. Five years ago Parks made some controversial calls against the Yankees, and Steinbrenner lashed out at him in a press statement. In the unanimous decision, Justice Betty Weinberg Ellerin wrote, "The baseball umpire has come to expect not only verbal abuse, but in many cases physical attack as well." She also wrote, "General Douglas MacArthur is reported to have said he was proud to protect American freedoms, like the freedom to boo the umpire."
The decision, as reported in newspapers, left the impression that the court considered umpires to be semi-comic figures without the same rights as other people. What the judges did not seem to take into account is that Steinbrenner is no common fan, but rather a powerful owner who used his club's publicity machinery to mark a man as an incompetent. Unlike MacArthur, Parks did not return—he quit umpiring after the '82 season.
THE WOMAN IN BLUE
It's tough enough being an umpire, so imagine what life is like for the only female umpire in organized baseball, Pam Postema. Now working in the American Association, her fifth year in Triple A, Postema has heard her share of criticisms even though she is—by most accounts—a solid umpire.
Worse than the spoken attacks, though, are the rationalizations offered for why she will never umpire in the majors. "I don't think anybody thinks she'd fit in," Bill Cutler, her former boss as the president of the Pacific Coast League, has said. "They [umpires] run around after games. They dress together." And Dick Butler, AL president Bobby Brown's special assistant, says, "She's got to be better because she's a girl. I'm not saying it's fair. It's just the situation."
Postema wants to be judged only as an ump. Earlier this season Louisville pitcher Joe Magrane asked for a ball from Postema by calling, "Oh, Miss? Miss?" Postema replied, "Call me Blue. Nothing more. Nothing less."
'GOD, HOW HE ENJOYED PITCHING'
Don McMahon died a pitcher's death last Wednesday evening. With two minutes left in his 15-minute stint of throwing batting practice at Dodger Stadium, the 57-year-old McMahon, a special-assignments scout for the Dodgers, became dizzy, walked off the mound and knelt on the grass. Trainers Bill Buhler and Charlie Strasser helped him to the dugout step, and manager Tommy Lasorda rushed over and said, "How you doin', Mac?" McMahon replied, "I feel dizzy, Tommy. But I'm doin' all right." Then he suffered cardiac arrest, and as Lasorda held his hand and shouted, "C'mon, Mac, breathe!" the trainers administered CPR. Paramedics soon arrived and took McMahon to Queen of Angels Hospital, where he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later. Said Lasorda, "He was a tough guy, a great guy. God, how he enjoyed pitching."
McMahon, who is survived by his wife, Darlene, and their six children, was a remarkable man. He was certainly a fine relief pitcher: His 874 appearances during an 18-year career place him ninth on the alltime list. At 6'2", 215 pounds, he was a fastball-curveball pitcher who challenged hitters even when he was 44 years old. Beyond that, he was devoted to his family and to sports. Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven, a close friend who lives near the McMahons' home in Garden Grove, Calif., had him as a pitching coach in both Minnesota and Cleveland. "He was kind of like a father to me," says Blyleven. "Not only did we talk baseball during the season, we also worked out together during the winter. He loved the competition—baseball, football, basketball."
McMahon grew up in Brooklyn, and even when he was living in Ohio, he would think nothing of driving 500 miles for a touch football game in his old neighborhood. One of his teammates on the Erasmus Hall High baseball team was Al Davis, now owner of the Los Angeles Raiders. They remained close, and in later years McMahon scouted for Davis. Three and a half years ago, McMahon had a quintuple-bypass operation, but he refused to slow down. Two years ago, after McMahon was fired by the Indians, Davis suggested to Lasorda that the Dodgers, the team of McMahon's boyhood, hire him.