Thursday, January 17, 2019

Retro Teachable - McClelland & Brett's Pine Tar Game

Today's Retro Teachable handles a sticky situation. The "pine tar" game was the confrontation heard around baseball: George Howard Brett was ejected seven times in his career in 2747 games as a player and Tim McClelland 76 as an umpire in 4,236 regular season games, but none sent shock waves around the sports world like McClelland's ejection of Brett on July 24, 1983. That date is better known as the Pine Tar Incident. If you're a fan of Seinfeld you'll know incidents aren't a good thing.

Having only called 72 games over two big league seasons before the '83 campaign, George Brett was Tim McClelland's first career big league ejection. How's that for a how-do-you-do? Read on to see how it went down.
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By now, the story is lore: Royals slugger Brett in the top of the ninth against the Yankees turns a one run deficit into a one-run lead with a two-run homer off Hall of Famer Goose Gossage. Brett, a HOFer himself, rounds the bases, but even before he's touched home, Bronx Bombers skipper Billy Martin is pointing to Brett's bat, which is now in the hands of home plate umpire McClelland.

Brinkman's crew discusses Brett's pine tar bat.
McClelland looks like he knows that the pine tar rule has been violated, but calls in his crew mates for a consult. The Crew Chief—2B Umpire Joe Brinkman—1B Umpire Drew Coble, and 3B Umpire Nick Bremigan get together, which in the early 80s was virtually UNHEARD OF (McClelland later recounted that Bremigan was the crew's "rules guy" and thus an invaluable resource for this sticky situation). Brinkman takes total control, rids the crew of players and managers and gets in a discussion with his partners. At this point, it's hard to believe he was only in his 11th year in the American League, for he already had a World Series and two ALCS under his belt.

When you huddle like this, it's best to go over all things possible and when you eventually make your decision, it's important that people know their post huddle responsibilities. Before the crew breaks up, all four umpires should know exactly where and what they will do next.

McClelland lays Brett's bat along home plate.
In this case, we go down the golden road to home plate to measure the bat. Why is that? Home plate is 17 inches wide. At the time Rule 1.10(c) of the Major League Baseball rule book, stated, "a bat may not be covered by such a substance more than 18 inches from the tip of the handle" (OBR 3.02(c) currently states, "The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance that extends past the 18- inch limitation shall cause the bat to be removed from the game").

Thus, if home plate is 17 inches, most people should be able to add an inch with relative ease.

Chaos breaks out after the pine tar out call.
Based on McClelland's measurement, he correctly (per 1983 rules) calls Brett out, the Royals eventually protest and the ruckus ensues, as McClelland adds to his ejection slate with Rocky Colavito, Dick Howser, and Gaylord Perry (after the umpires confiscated Brett's bat, Perry attempted to steal it away).

The ruling was summarily flipped by American League President Lee MacPhail (Pronounced Mac-Fail), who cited past precedent as his reason for allowing the protest to stand...and that's where Tim Welke comes in.

Wait, What? Welke and his crew led by Davey Phillips signaled "safe" when the game resumed on August 18, 1983, when Martin appealed that Brett missed every base. Back on July 24, Brinkman's crew had signed an affidavit attesting to the observation that all bases were touched—And you thought it couldn't get any more crazy that a guy charging at an umpire from the dugout!

The Playing Rules Committee subsequently, and hastily, added a provision into then-Rule 1.10(c)/now-Rule 3.02(c) stating, "If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to (c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game."

Naturally, this regulation did not exist in 1983—the procedure back then, prior to the rules change, was to declare the offender out and to confiscate the bat! The George Brett-Tim McClelland pine tar game (and McPhail's protest ruling that contradicted the rule on the books at the time) singlehandedly forced MLB to change this rule. Otherwise, McPhail's decision would have truly been anarchist.

McPhail's affirmation of Kansas City's protest angered Yankees manager Billy Martin so much that when a slew of legal challenges by New York didn't prove successful in the court system, Martin turned the resumption-of-play portion of the game into a mockery, assigning pitcher Ron Guidry to center field and placing left-handed first baseman Don Mattingly at second base.

As for McClelland, though, he got the call right per the rule as written at the time.

Hey if you want to learn how to handle situations like this and more check out the banner above and see if the Professional Umpire Camp (PUC) is for you. Until next time Happy Umpiring everyone!!

Video as follows:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Jorge Teran Repeats as Venezuelan Umpire of the Year

For the second year in a row, Jorge Teran captured the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League's Gualberto Acosta Award for Umpire of the Year. Teran, who previously served up an Atlantic League ejection in Somerset this September, following a Jim Evans Academy graduation and Minor League career up to Double-A's Eastern League (through 2016), has officiated in his home country's winter league for 15 years.
RelatedJorge Teran Ejection (Kevin Baez) (9/22/18).

Teran said he was surprised to win the LVBP's Umpire of the Year Award this season because nobody has ever won the award twice since its 2013 inception. LVBP umpire boss Miguel Hernandez credited Teran's game management and situation handling, complimenting his "tranquilidad y sangre fría," or calmness & cool blood.

David Arrieta and Emil Jimenez rounded out the top three umpires in the 2018-19 LVBP.

Previous winners of the league's Gualberto Acosta Award for top umpire include Carlos Torres (2013-14, MLB #37), Robert Moreno (2014-15, formerly MiLB-AAA [2017 International League]), Jairo Martinez (2015-16), Jose Navas (2016-17, MiLB-AA [2018 Southern League]), and, now, Teran (2017-18 and 18-19).

The top umpire award is named for Gualberto Acosta (1924-2008), who played catcher for the Navegantes del Magallanes from 1949 to 1956, later served as a Venezuelan umpire, and helped establish umpire schools in the country. He was posthumously inducted into Venezuela's Hall of Fame (Salón de la Fama) in 2008.

Monday, January 14, 2019

ABL Ejections - Stewart Howe (Bite-Aces x4)

Saturday's Adelaide-Melbourne game in the Australian Baseball League produced four ejections of Bite and Aces personnel as HP Umpire Stewart Howe ejected Adelaide RF Michael Gettys and Pitching Coach Luke Prokopec in the 5th inning (both balls/strikes); Bite Manager Chris Adamson (HBP no-call) and Aces catcher Jake Romanski (Unsportsmanlike/NEC toward opposing dugout) in the 7th—all on separate incidents.

With one out and one on (R2) in the top of the 5th, Gettys took a 2-1 pitch from Aces pitcher Dushan Ruzic for a called second strike before subsequently flying out on a subsequent pitch; Gettys was ejected after returning from first base following the fly-out. Replays indicate the pitch was located near the outer edge of home plate (QOCU). At the time of Gettys' ejection, Adelaide was leading, 3-1.

With two out in the bottom of the 5th, Prokopec was ejected during a mound visit with pitcher Michael Gahan following a single by Aces batter Allan de San Miguel. At the time of Prokopec's ejection, Adelaide was leading, 3-1.

With none out and none on in the top of the 7th, Bite batter Stefan Welch took a 0-0 pitch from Aces pitcher Harrison Cooney for a called ball, having initially shown bunt. Replays indicate batter Welch did not attempt to strike the pitch, but do not conclusively indicate whether the batter was struck by the pitch; Manager Adamson was ejected arguing for a HBP call. At the time of Adamson's ejection, the game was tied, 4-4.

With one out and one on (R2), Bite batter Landon Hernandez hit a fly ball to Aces right fielder Garrison Schwartz, who caught the batted ball and threw to third base as Bite baserunner R2 Curtis Mead attempted to tag-up and advance from second, Schwartz's throw bouncing out of play and awarding Mead home plate. During the ensuing dead ball, Aces catcher Romanski became engaged with the Bite's third base dugout, after which Romanski was ejected. At the time of Romanski's ejection, Adelaide was leading, 5-4. Melbourne ultimately won the contest, 6-5.

Wrap: Adelaide Bite vs. Melbourne Aces (ABL, Gm 2), 1/12/19 | Video as follows:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Plate Meeting Podcast Episode 8 - Jerry Crawford

In this eighth episode of The Plate Meeting, a LF Umpire Podcast from, we interview 35-year MLB veteran crew chief Jerry Crawford about his career, father Shag & brother Joe, a few on-field fights and ejections, and ask him some of your questions.

Between Jerry & Shag, the big leagues featured a Crawford on the field for 55 years, from 1956 to 2010—that's seven Commissioners from Ford Frick to Bud Selig.

Click the below "play" button to listen to Episode 8 - Jerry Crawford, An Officiating Benchmark, or visit the show online at The Plate Meeting is also available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and several other podcast apps.

Alternate Link: Episode 8 - Jerry Crawford, an Officiating Benchmark.

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The following section contains relevant links, notes, and additional material that correlate with conversations during the show. Click the following related video/article links to be taken to that relevant item.

The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship Is Paramount.

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Related Video #3 (14:00): Benches clear after Shag tries calling strikes with no batter in box.
Related Video #4 (18:00): Jerry & AJ Hinch have a go on August 7, 2009 during D'Backs-Nats.
Related Video #5 (24:30): Don Zimmer and Jerry Crawford have a balls/strikes dispute in 1989.
Related Video #6 (27:30): Lou Piniella argues with Doug Harvey over Jerry Crawford HBP call.
Related LinkTmac's Teachable Moments - Feisty Ejections, Jerry Crawford Style (12/12/18).
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Related Video #7 (56:00): 1980 NLCS catch/trap call turns a triple play into a double play.
Related Link (56:00): Retro Teachable - Reversed Double-Triple Play [1980 NLCS].
Related Video #8 (1:15:00): White Sox and Tigers brawl on April 22, 2000.
Related Video #9 (1:24:00): Highlights of NBA referee Joe Crawford.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Retro Teachable - Reversed Double-Triple Play

Hi all, we have several Retro Teachable Moments lined up, but since we're releasing the Jerry Crawford podcast later this week, why not take a look back to Game 4 of the 1980 NLCS and a reversed double-to-triple catch/trap play involving an all-time great crew with HP Umpire Doug Harvey, Ed Vargo at first base, Jerry at second, Bob Engel at third, Terry Tata in left field, and Bruce Froemming in right?

We'll talk about this play with Jerry during the show, and let's just say it was a mess that was cleaned up quite nicely. Here's the situation: With no score, the Phillies have runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out in the top of the 4th inning and there's a soft liner back to the pitcher who appears to trap the ball. Plate umpire Harvey initially signals no catch (he'll get help in a moment). The pitcher then throws to first to retire the batter and then, despite being a ruckus on the field R2 was off the bag and he was also retired, but there isn't any video to back that up. And then the fun begins.

As we'll learn on the podcast, Doug Harvey worked for a lot of years with Crawford, and his father Shag. The Hall of Fame Umpire legitimately didn't see the play—the batter blocked him—so he does the right thing and gets help.
This offseason's Tmac's Teachable Moments are brought to you by Pro Umpire Camp.
Unfortunately, Crawford, working his first LCS was low man on the totem pole and didn't seem to have much of a say. Under the circumstances when you watch the camera from behind the plate, it's nearly impossible to tell whether the ball was caught or trapped. There were no HD cameras nor super slow mo replays at the time. When you look at the opposite angle, it appears the ball hit the ground. I think if there was replay (and if this was a reviewable play), this would have been overturned, but despite Crawford never officially calling an out the umpires get together and rule that because there was an erroneous initial call on the catch/trap that R2 should return to his base with two outs.

For what it's worth, here's Official Baseball Rule 8.02(c) regarding the reversal of an umpire's call:
If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call, disregarding interference or obstruction that may have occurred on the play; failures of runners to tag up based upon the initial call on the field; runners passing other runners or missing bases; etc., all in the discretion of the umpires.
In most of the leagues we work there isn't replay. And we certainly don't have Doug Harvey with us on the field. It's important to handle the aftermath as best we can and Harvey most certainly does that. Both teams ended up protesting the game and the NL President, Chub Feeney, had the back of his umpires—what a novel concept!

Even broadcaster Howard Cosell explained, "Umpires are only human, too."

It's amazing how well a game can run when we allow the umpires to run the game. The baseball Gods were with Harvey and company as the Phillies came back to win in what was Crawford's first postseason series ever.

This is the kind of play that can most definitely happen to us. When you get screened and you don't see a catch, don't call one. Let the players tell you what happened. Take your time. Much like it's tough to reverse a call foul to fair, but not as hard the other way around, it can be troubling to reverse a catch to a no catch. It's not fun to try to unring the bell.

We hope you enjoy our Crawford interview, it's jammed packed with stories as he reminisced about his father, his time with Harvey and much more. That episode of The Plate Meeting is coming up later in the week right here at

Until next time, Happy Umpiring Everyone!!

NOTE: We promised another "Sticky Situation" this week. That will be dropped next week. Video as follows:

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Tmac's Teachable - Ump School Rules in the Real World

This time of year, I always think back fondly of my time at umpire school and cherish the moments with the great people I met. Before we get underway, let me dedicate this Teachable to the memory of Chris Kelley. I didn't know Chris, but when I heard about his suicide that rocked the umpire world, it made me think a little.

I think the new year is a good time to reflect.  Be kind, reach out to your friends.  If you need help seek it out. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Whether it's a suicide prevention hotline/online LifeChat or a more informal and intermediate place to talk with our friends at the OSIP Foundation, there are people that specialize in mental health and even officiating health and can get you to a better place. You might also want to take a look at the following article from World Mental Health Day 2017, following John Tumpane's bridge intervention in Pittsburgh earlier that season.
Related PostLet's Talk - Mental Health in an Abusive Environment (10/10/17).
This offseason's Tmac's Teachable Moments are brought to you by Pro Umpire Camp.
I mentioned umpire school above, and this moment involves the man who ran one of umpire schools for quite some time, Harry Wendelstedt.

The Play: It's Game 3 of the 1988 NLCS, we're in the bottom of the 8th inning with the New York Mets at bat and trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in a series tied at one game apiece. Joe West is our plate umpire and he gets a visit from Mets manager Davey Johnson, who wants him to check Dodgers pitcher Jay Howell for a foreign substance. West immediately calls the crew chief, Wendelstedt, in from the left field corner (see what i did there?).

The Call: The result is pine tar in the glove and an ejection of the pitcher.

Harry chucks Howell as the crowd looks on.
Analysis: What I love about this situation is the way it's handled. First off, you don't have a pitcher who pretends he wasn't cheating; Howell doesn't put up a fight. You also have a manager, Tommy Lasorda, who knows the umpire is right. At the 3:05-mark in the video, you can clearly read Wendelstedt's lips, "I know I'm right."

Joe West is Speechless: But what I really want to point out is West's silence: He doesn't say a word.  He knew his place and it wasn't his time to speak. Yes, he's the plate umpire—the UIC—but Harry's the crew chief. So Joe watches, listens and flies away. I'm sure if he was asked, he would have had his opinion, but he wasn't and let a master at his craft handle a delicate situation with ease. One of the things you learn at the umpiring schools that can punch your ticket to affiliated baseball is silence can't be quoted (or, alternately, silence can't be misquoted). I tell young umpires that there are times you need to speak, like when a manager asks you a legitimate question. Finding the right time to talk can be befuddling in life and on the baseball field and most get better over time.

Harry confiscates the glove for league brass.
The Rules: This rule (OBR 6.02(c)(7): "The pitcher shall not—Have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance" [Penalty = Ejection & Suspension]) is fairly simple, but not all of them are. As our baseball seasons are just a few weeks or months away, it's important for us to get into the rule book. Refresh your memory. It's not a bad read and you look like a million bucks if you handle a tricky rule situation perfectly. And speaking of sticky situations, we'll have another one next week.

Also please give our sponsors some love. Check out Ump-Attire and the clickable link in the upper right of our home page and remember that if you don't make it out of umpire school to MiLB proper, there are other ways to improve your craft. Visit Pro Umpire Camp to learn more by clicking on the banner above. Happy New Year everyone!!

Video as follows: