- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"That was you?" he says in amazement. "I came back into the dugout after that and looked at the list [of umpires]. I knew the other three guys, but they didn't have you on it. So I figured you were some Double A umpire they called up to replace somebody."
There's more trouble in the fifth, the same kind of trouble, like the undertow of the ocean, that mostly goes unseen. Baltimore's Corey Patterson whistles a line drive at Culbreth, the kind of missile that can put an umpire embarrassingly on his butt or whack him there.
Any hitter will tell you that late-breaking pitches are hardest to hit because it is impossible for the eyes to track a thrown ball and see it the last four or five feet. Culbreth is challenged by the same limitation. He can track the ball--it's heading right for his ankles--but because of its speed and proximity to his body he can't see it just as it hits the ground. He's got to make a call. Quickly.
Schilling pitches out of the jam, but only after he gets away with his covert balk. Stepping off the mound to get a new signal from Varitek, Schilling, a righthander, moved his left foot slightly back, which technically begins his delivery. Tschida sees something amiss, but in the moment he processes the information, he grants a request for time from Varitek. ("Oh, I balked," Schilling will say the next day.)
After the inning, Culbreth still is thinking about Patterson's line drive. "That one I don't feel great about," he tells me. (Amazingly, according to the MLB report, umpires missed a total of three fair-foul calls all of last season.) "I think I got it right, but sometimes you feel less than great about it."
"I thought you had it right," I tell him. "Was there chalk?"
"No, it didn't hit chalk," he says, "but here's the thing: If you ever have some doubt in your mind, you're better off calling it fair than foul. That's because, if another umpire had a better look and comes in and says, 'No, I had it foul,' then you can just return the base runner and the batter continues to hit. But once you call it foul, everybody stops; so if another umpire has it fair, what can you do? You can't just make up where everybody goes."
"You had it right," I tell him.
Says Schilling, "It was foul by three or four feet. Wasn't even close."