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Old Wed May 12, 2004, 01:09pm
DownTownTonyBrown DownTownTonyBrown is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Idaho
Posts: 1,474

I just posted this on the softball forum (I work both) but thought it might generate some interesting conversation here also.

High School district tournament games yesterday, NFHS.

I had two calls at home plate yesterday that have got me thinking a little. Maybe some of you have some words of wisdom or suggestions...

Unexpectedly close game (I thought one team was going to dominate but it didn't happen) of 1-0 in the top of the 5th. Pitch bounces and gets past the catcher. It hits me in the gut and drops straight down. Catcher turns to the left searching for the passed ball. I step back to my right and see the ball where my feet were. Catcher has not found it yet. Runner is coming from 3rd. Catcher finds ball and straddles baseline with the plate a foot behind her. I'm now realizing I need to get closer to perpendicular and to 3rd to see this play... too late. I'm at about a 45 degree angle behind the catcher as runner slides. Catcher has ball in plenty of time and is in great position to make an out. Slide is head first, very flat to the ground, with one arm extended at home between the catcher's legs. I see tag on forehead of runner (not on the arm) and hand extended touching home. I call the unexpected call and rule SAFE. Coach (of what I thought would be the dominating team) of course complains so I explain what I saw.

Now it is top of 6th and the score is now 3-4 two outs... still very close. Tag play coming at home - same teams are running and tagging. Throw is coming slightly late runner should be safe. Runner, as is typical, comes in standing up... no, no, tries to slide about 2-3 feet before the plate. Lead foot catches in the dirt and bounces up and over the plate - 6 to 8 inches in the air. Throw is caught and tag is made. Again, I make the unexpected call and rule OUT. Coach is livid; fans go nuts - of course they always have been and always will be nuts, but it is an emotional moment.

Later, the better team scores 1 in the bottom of the sixth and the game ends with 3-5 score. Actually had a fan come to me after the game as I and my partner are walking away... "Hey Blue!" And I'm thinking, Oh great here comes a disgruntled parent... but he says "You made the right call." "THANKS." Okay one out of 75 bystanders think it was the right call.

So here is the question. I've seen umpires that I know make the EXPECTED calls... either because they want to make the fans and coaches and possibly the players happy or because they don't make the effort to really see what happens (generally they are lazy umpires). I look back at both of these calls and know I could have just as well made the expected call, probably not effected the overall outcome of the game (maybe), and not taken any heat from either coach or any of the fans.

Nobody would have come to me after the game and said that I made the right call. Coaches would have been happy and I would likely get a call for state tournament assignments. Now??? maybe not.

But I wouldn't have felt good about intentionally making a wrong call, or intentionally being lazy and not seeing the correct call.

What is the umpire's job? Which is the right call, the one that leads to the less controversy and pleases the most people, or the right call according to what the umpire sees - which can obviously be influenced by the amount of effort the umpire puts into getting the correct call?

Surely some of you have had similar experiences - these were not my first controversial calls. But, what say you about your experiences and the umpire's responsibility?
"There are no superstar calls. We don't root for certain teams. We don't cheat. But sometimes we just miss calls." - Joe Crawford
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