Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Leaving Early - Ump Heads Out to Catch a Flight

Sunday's American Athletic Conference game started with three umpires and ended with two not due to injury or illness, but because an umpire had to catch a flight out of town.

Bob Emslie left a game early to catch a train.
Moments earlier, 3B Umpire Matthew Hensel had ejected Tulane Green Wave coach Travis Jewett for arguing an out call at third base, only to find himself also leaving the ballgame due to a Sunday night time crunch.

Sunday's fun actually began Saturday, when inclement weather forced host Tulane to postpone the second game of its series against Houston, opting for a doubleheader on Sunday.

Additional weather concerns prompted the delay of Game 1 Sunday morning, which pushed back the second game into a conflict with Hensel's scheduled flight out of New Orleans.

According to the American Athletic Conference, which in 2018 assigns three-person crews for league games, an umpire may leave early in order to catch a flight out of the city on the last day of a series, referred to as absenteeism. In such case, the game will finish with two umpires. An AAC spokesperson said the conference will begin assigning four-person crews in 2019.

Tulane, which generally hires four umpires for all non-conference games, reportedly offered to provide Hensel with an additional night of lodging and meal per diem, but the deal did not work out.

NCAA Rule 3-6-h states, "No umpire may be replaced in a game unless the individual becomes ill or injured" (the equivalent OBR citation is 8.02(d), but unlike NCAA Baseball, the professional book hasn't yet adapted "the individual" and still uses the gendered pronoun, "he").

There is no rules restriction in place for an umpire leaving early, and Hensel's departure is hardly the first time a delayed game has interfered with an umpire's postgame travel plans. Rather, Hensel's exit simply follows a nearly 150-year baseball history of umpires leaving games early to catch a train or plane.

This three-person crew grew to four.
For instance, the first date of an umpire change recorded in Retrosheet's database indicates that home plate umpire Mays left the August 11, 1871 matchup between Forest Cities and Kekiongas for the reason, "Catch train." Mays was replaced by Mort Dawson.

Between 1903 and 1906, four umpires left early to catch trains, including Jack Sheridan, Bob Emslie, Tim Hurst, and Billy Evans. On August 26, 1913, Tommy Connolly left the Senators-White Sox game in the 8th inning in order to catch a train east toward his next assignment at Fenway Park.

The most recent umpire to leave a game early in order to catch a train, Al Barlick, made it to the 11th inning of September 28, 1952's Braves-Dodgers game before he left for home following that final game of the season; he was replaced behind home plate by Tom Gorman.

On the other side of the equation, umpires' late arrivals have delayed the start of games—see April 10, 2013 in Washington—since 1891; the most recent umpire to enter a game after it had already started is Joe West, who joined the April 20, 2017 Tigers-Rays game in the first inning as an emergency replacement for Larry Vanover.
Related PostTrain Delay: Umpires Stuck in Traffic, Game Stalled 16 Min (4/10/13).
Related PostInjury Scout - Larry Vanover Out, Joe West In for DET-TB (4/20/17).

Traffic around Dodger Stadium.
A late arrival and delayed start time perhaps contributed to Hunter Wendelstedt's 2011 ejection of Rockies Manager Jim Tracy for arguing a balk call at Dodger Stadium. Wendelstedt's crew, including chief Jerry Layne, Bob Davidson, and Brian Knight, had gotten stuck in notoriously gridlocked Friday night Los Angeles freeway traffic.

According to a Dodgers spokesperson, "they were delayed by a fatal accident on the freeway that didn’t involve the umpires."
Related PostEjections: Hunter Wendelstedt (7) (8/26/11)


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