The irony of the missed calls in Game 7 was that they were made by home plate umpire Dave Phillips and first base umpire Lee Weyer, two of the more respected men in blue. The same holds true for Don Denkinger, who missed a crucial play at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 Series. These were accidents, and they don't happen all that often.
If baseball wanted to improve the quality of umpiring in its showcase events, it would do away with the rotation system now in effect for the All-Star Game, the League Championship Series and the World Series. As things stand, every umpire must work one of those events at least once every three years. The leagues should select their best each year for their most important games.
THE LOWDOWN ON A HIGH-STICKING
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia flyers were playing an exciting 2-2 hockey game in Madison Square Garden on Oct. 26 when, deep into the third period, Flyer right wing Dave Brown blindsided Ranger right wing Tomas Sandstrom with a vicious cross-check to the neck and jaw. Sandstrom lay semiconscious on the ice for a frightening minute before he was helped from the arena and taken to a hospital for X-rays, which showed no fractures. Brown was given a match penalty, and on Monday the NHL suspended him for a total of 15 games.
Nearly as reprehensible as Brown's act of violence were the reactions of Flyer partisans. Here, for instance, is a partial transcript of the call of the play on Philadelphia TV station WGBS by Bob Taylor and Gene Hart:
Hart—"He [ Sandstrom] is now going to play dead and hopes that he gets another five-minute major as he did last year in the game in Philadelphia.
Taylor—"...He's going to go down there to make sure he doesn't get up [because] he might have to answer to it.... Acting school."
The announcers issued a mild apology the next night. In his story on the game in the Philadelphia Daily News, Jay Greenberg wrote: "Regular season hockey doesn't get any better than this, even though the finger-waggers and moralists were later heard claiming that the high stick...in the third period had spoiled everything."
The Flyers responded to the incident by signing free agent and noted enforcer Nick Fotiu—no doubt in anticipation of the suspension of Brown.
The reaction that counts is the one from the league, and although it ranks as one of the stiffest suspensions ever handed down, it still is not strong enough to quiet us finger-waggers and moralists. Brown should have been banished for at least 20 games, and the Flyers should not have been allowed to replace Brown on their roster.