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Response to David Kindred


 

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    I wrote this piece in response to a column by David Kindred, sportswriter for www.sportingnews.com. The setting was the labor strife between MLB umpires and MLB management (and among the factions of MLB umpires) during July of 1999. I have friends on both sides of the MLB umpire union conflict, and was writing to defend the profession on the whole. It was published on the Sporting News website a few days after the Kindred column to which it was responding. It is a good example of my ability to persuade, and to go directly and aggressively to the point.

    Mr. Kindred,

    I have no idea who you are. And you have no idea who and what the umpires are.

    You have fallen for every misconception that I can think of. I heard someone the other day call someone a lone wolf, a man-eater. Misconceptions. Wolves always run in packs and rarely approach humans.

    Umpires make too much money. They are all fat and confrontational. Their strike zones vary, one for each of them. They are responsible for some perceived "foul atmosphere." They are getting rich from the game. Officials in every other sport avoid controversy.

    Congratulations. You have proven to anyone who knows these honorable men and their profession that you know nothing of them or what they do, or have done.

    You throw the old $250,000 per year bomb. Can you tell me how many make this much, and after how many years in the big leagues? Can you tell me what the umpires that were working in 1976 made per year? Do you have any clue how long they worked in the minor leagues to earn their job, or what they made per year there?

    Do you know the percentage of umpires that have body fat over the normal amount for men their age? How old are you? What is your ideal weight? Are you over or under it? The few umpires that have ballooned, just like the few sportswriters who have ballooned, are the exception. There are exceptions for every profession. You only put your mug shot on the web. Umpires have to walk out in public every day, in full view. That is the only difference in their weight and the weight of any other men in any other walk of life.

    Their strike zones are to be ridiculed. The leagues have different strike zones. Have you ever gone behind the plate to try this thing? You can do nothing more than your best on every pitch. You try to keep the game moving by calling as many strikes as they "allow" you to, so you keep the pitchers and fans happy, and hopefully the hitters don't think you've gone too far. You don't make everyone happy back there every night. The only unfair thing about it, really, is that sportswriters all think they know something about calling balls and strikes. How many umpires have told you how to write?

    The NFL tells its men to respond to something offensive with, "What was that?" If your kid calls you a m------f------, are you going to say, "What was that?" If you do, and he says, "Nothing," then it's okay, right? If your kid challenges your authority to maintain control and do the right thing, you should just turn and walk away, right? How many umpires have you seen run into the dugout, screaming at the manager putting in a relief pitcher that gave up five runs? How many fans spitting and throwing things have been confronted by an umpire? Have you ever seen an umpire initiate a heated, screaming argument? How many arguments take place at the very spot where the umpire was when the confrontation started? Who always has to move to them to initiate the trouble? What is the percentage of games that never even has an argument? Way below the other sports you mentioned, Mr. Kindred. Way below.

    Do you have any concept of how important the long list of major league umpires has been to the history of the game? The significance of the fact that not one has ever been even accused of compromising his vital role for personal benefit? Does everyone forget Pete Rose, the Black Sox, etc? What if these things were done by umpires? Who ever states that it has never occurred relevant to them? Never?

    I know and love many of the big league umpires. I have never met a more interesting, fun-loving group. They know the game better than anyone else, and do you know why? Because they are the ones responsible for keeping it on the even keel that has maintained it for over a century. For them it is a life study. They don't sit around thinking of how they can beat someone else. They think about how they can step out there and be better than they were the night before. For the game. Upholding the one thing that changes slower than anything else: the rules. That's the core of the game, Mr. Kindred. Wait until you see what happens without them. You obviously weren't paying attention to previous strikes.

    Some of us out here who are fair, who only talk with conviction about things we know, might like to see an article or editorial about a subject like "Using Impartiality to Judge the Major League Umpires," or something like that. Something different than the repeating of age-old misconceptions. Wolf stories.

    Have you ever met a major league umpire?

    Copyright © 1999 by Richard J. Roder. All Rights Reserved.

 

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