SI Vault
Robert Creamer
June 11, 1956
Baseball is mainly about bats, balls and base hits but another old and honorable facet of the game is the rhubarb
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June 11, 1956

The Rhubarb

Baseball is mainly about bats, balls and base hits but another old and honorable facet of the game is the rhubarb

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"You know what it means?" Goetz went on. "It means I got a job to do tomorrow. I have to set those guys straight. Instead of having a nice quiet afternoon behind the plate, I'm going to have a tough job of work."

The next afternoon, with Goetz behind the plate, Wally Moon again took exception to a strike call. Again he lifted his face to the sky in mock despair and turned toward the umpire.

"Don't look at me!" Goetz snapped. "Turn around!"

Moon looked at him in amazement.

"Turn around!" Goetz seethed. "Don't look back at me!"

Moon backed out of the batter's box, angry now himself. In from third raced Stanky. Goetz watched, alert. Again Moon was quieted down, and again Stanky walked around the umpire on his way back to third. As he passed Goetz he murmured the derogatory comment Goetz expected.

Goetz said nothing and did nothing, save to move his left thumb in the general direction of the St. Louis shower room. Stanky walked to the coaching box, turned and faced the plate. Goetz, impassive, looked at him and moved his thumb again. Stanky grinned sheepishly, and walked off the field without a word. Goetz had reestablished command.

Goetz's attitude is undoubtedly the correct one. Rhubarb run wild will choke baseball, and it is best to prune it drastically on occasion with a Goetzian thumb. This may serve to justify Goetz's actions in Cincinnati the other night when Rookie Robinson backed out of the box and started to argue.

Now, there is nothing more galling to an umpire with 20 seasons in the major leagues behind him than having a 20-year-old rookie tell him he is wrong. What the umpire might tolerate in the veteran ballplayer he cannot abide in the neophyte. Goetz told Robinson flatly that the pitch was a strike and that that was that. When Robinson continued to argue, Goetz signaled the pitcher to resume pitching, and when the ball came to the plate he called it strike three. Robinson was out, the inning was over and the 18,909 fans in Crosley Field were ready to throw fellow Cincinnatian Goetz into the Ohio River.

Goetz, however, undoubtedly felt that he was entirely justified. The game, a tense one, had to be controlled; this was almost certainly the reason why he threw Westrum out so quickly in the following inning.

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