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THEY'RE OUT!
E. M. Swift
April 16, 1979
As the umps beat the pavement to get higher pay, the majors brought in the likes of forklift salesmen to make the calls
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April 16, 1979

They're Out!

As the umps beat the pavement to get higher pay, the majors brought in the likes of forklift salesmen to make the calls

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Jimmy Dunne, another ECAC umpire and a salesman of forklift trucks in real life, was one of the Yankee Stadium crew for New York's opening series with Milwaukee. The ruddy-faced, snow-white-haired Dunne, 58, was acutely aware of how the amateurs' presence was being viewed. "Everyone's looking at us with a jaundiced eye," he said. "Ordinarily it's just the players who are against you, but now it's the fans and the umpires, too. Everyone's hoping we fall right on our faces."

Some of the replacement umps did just that, and with increasing frequency as the week wore on. In Boston and Cincinnati, for example, second-base umpires had to be repeatedly asked to move out of the batter's field of vision. In Kansas City, where Toronto was playing. Rick Bosetti hit a grounder to Royal First Baseman John Wathan in the second inning Thursday. Wathan bobbled the ball as the runner crossed the bag, but Bosetti was called out by Umpire Harold Easley, who makes his living working for a chain of drugstores. Bosetti threw his helmet in anger, which immediately brought K.C. Manager Whitey Herzog from the bench, demanding Bosetti be ejected for helmet slinging, as the American League rules stipulate. Crew Chief John Shulock, an ump from the American Association, said he had never heard of the rule. Replied Herzog, "I wouldn't bull you about this. If you don't believe me, just ask our third-base coach, Chuck Hiller." Bosetti got the thumb.

Reminded that Easley was an "amateur" umpire, Bosetti said after the game, "The guy was getting paid, wasn't he? [He was: $108.02 a game, the same as the other temporary umpires.] That makes him a professional. Here's a man just off the sandlot. It must have been a real trip for him tonight."

Although the going got similarly rough for many of the other major league novices, one stand-in ump who went on a joyride was Murray Strey, a meter supervisor who worked the plate Saturday night in Houston, where Astro Ken Forsch pitched a no-hitter. Not surprisingly, Forsch thought Strey had done a terrific job.

No-hitters aside, the longer the regular umpires stay out, the more instances of ineptness will take place. And there will be more name-calling. And more damage to baseball's reputation. By week's end, some of the owners were growing restless. In light of the players' huge salaries, few begrudge the umpires their modest demands, if meeting them will restore some order. It is said that the best-officiated game is the one in which the umpires are least noticed. That is hardly possible when every umpire on the field is wearing a different color suit—black, gray, navy—and spectators and players alike are scrutinizing their every move.

Because the league presidents have backed themselves into a corner, it will likely take a third party to get negotiations started. Perhaps the commissioner will descend from his throne. If he does, the umpires are likely to be winners, not because they have crippled baseball with their absence or because their replacements have performed all that unsatisfactorily. They'll win because this whole business has been a terrible—and embarrassing—nuisance.

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