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Published reports and repeated rumors to the contrary, the Major League Umpires Association doesn't fine its members for fraternizing with baseball's five non-union umps, who crossed picket lines to go to work during the 1979 MLUA strike. Such talk arose when acrimony between the two groups, which had hit a peak during the strike and slowly abated thereafter, intensified this season. The cause: the firing in December of Bill Emslie, who, according to an evaluation of general managers, managers, coaches and players, had been the best umpire in the International League over the past four years.
MLUA members and their leader, lawyer Richie Phillips, are convinced that Emslie never made it to the bigs and lost his minor league job because he was so outspoken in support of his major league brethren during the strike. At a union meeting before spring training, Phillips rallied his umpires. "Fines for fraternizing with non-union umpires were discussed," says Phillips. "I don't deny that. But such fines would be against our constitution and bylaws. We decided that our members would have nothing to do with the other umpires until Emslie's case was settled to our satisfaction. We also decided to take a cold and distant posture toward both league offices and not to work interleague games [in-season exhibitions]."
As a result, MLUA umpires don't travel with non-union umpires and rarely speak to them. Nowhere has the enmity been more obvious than on one four-man American League crew. During the national anthem, MLUA members Drew Coble and Don Denkinger stand along the leftfield line, while non-union umps John Shulock and Derryl Cousins remain behind home plate.
Recently, the union filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board on Emslie's behalf. Part of Phillips' ammunition was a letter written by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to American League President Lee MacPhail and all league owners. "I'm writing to beseech you to give Bill Emslie a chance," wrote Steinbrenner. "If you don't, you'll be letting yourself open to an unfair-labor charge."
Last week came the first break in the dispute: Major league officials agreed to reinstate Emslie in the International League. "They also said they would discuss other things I feel must be done," said Phillips. "It's an extremely positive step, and it signals the start of a wind-down of hostilities."
Last week Bill Travers of the Angels made his first appearance since injuring his shoulder in May 1981. His first official pitch in 735 days was a strike to Boston's Jerry Remy. During Travers' five-plus innings, he gave up seven hits and three earned runs as California won 6-5. Travers, however, didn't get the decision. "My velocity was even better than in '78 and '79," said Travers, who during those years put together a 26-19 record for the Brewers.
O.K., how do you score this one? Bottom of the 13th, Texas and Baltimore tied 2-2, two down, Orioles on first and third. On a pitch to Aurelio Rodriguez, Rich Dauer scoots from first to second without drawing a throw from Catcher Jim Sundberg, who wanted to make sure the runner at third wouldn't come home. Is that a steal for Dauer? No, said official scorer Neal Eskridge, who ruled it a fielder's choice. Rule 10.08G says in part that there's "no stolen base when runner advances solely because of defensive team's indifference to his advance."
One day last winter, Detroit Outfielder Kirk Gibson walked his girl friend out to centerfield in Tiger Stadium and said, "Wouldn't it be great to stand here with 55,000 people around you every day? I love the crowd when I hit a home run to win the game."
Alas, as of Sunday the crowds had been sparse—the Tigers had drawn an average of 15,367 fans in 12 home dates—Gibson, 25, a heralded rookie in 1980, hadn't hit a homer this season, and a 3-for-36 slump had cut his average to .177. Disenchanted with his performance, Detroit fans boo each time Gibson swings and misses and cheer sarcastically when he catches fly balls.
"He's supposed to carry the barge," says California's Reggie Jackson. "He's got to do it in the next two years if his ball club is ever going to do it. This club is tailored for him. He's the lefthanded power to complement [Lance] Parrish."