Hitters can also ask the umpire to look at a ball and throw it out if it's marked or scuffed. Theoretically every baseball could be rejected for some reason, so the umpire's decision usually depends on who is asking. Umpires didn't like the much-traveled Alex Johnson when he was playing because he was a chronic complainer, and so gave him nothing. If he asked me to look at a ball I'd glance at it. That ball could've been square and I wouldn't have taken it out of play. "Good ball," I'd decide, and toss it back to the pitcher. On the other hand, if Rod Carew asked me to check the ball, I didn't even have to glance at it. That ball was gone. If Rodney didn't like it, then I didn't like it. That's one of the reasons we were such a good hitter.
The hit-batsman call is one of the most difficult to make behind the plate. Only once did a man hit by a pitch refuse to take his base while I was umpiring. Don Mincher was with Oakland, and there was a runner on third with less than two out. All Mincher had to do was get good wood on the ball and he had himself another run batted in. But the ball clipped his uniform shirt, and I told him to take first base.
"No," he said, "it didn't hit me. It hit my bat."
"It hit you," I insisted.
"Say it hit my bat," he pleaded.
The catcher looked up at me. "What'd you call?" he asked, his way of telling me he wasn't going to argue if I let Mincher hit. Mincher struck out a lot, and the catcher would just as soon take his chances with Mincher as a hitter.
"Foul ball," I yelled. "Let's play."
There were occasions during my career when I made a mark to prevent the other team from arguing a hit-batsman call. If the catcher questioned it, I'd grab the player by the wrist or forearm and squeeze hard with my thumb, creating admissible evidence. Then I'd point the blemish out to the catcher, quickly ending the argument.
That got me into difficulty one afternoon. The batter was Tommy McCraw, a black first baseman then with the California Angels. I thought he was hit on the wrist by a close pitch so I pointed to first base, but White Sox Catcher Ed Herrmann protested. I didn't know for sure that McCraw had been hit, but once I made the call I had to justify it. I grabbed McCraw's arm and took a quick look. I couldn't find a mark, so I started squeezing his wrist with my thumb. I weighed nearly 300 pounds at the time and could squeeze a wrist.
But I couldn't produce a mark.