A memorial to the classic manager-umpire battle
By SEAN REDMILES
There are still some issues that will need to be resolved, namely what can and cannot be reviewed, but by every indication instant replay is here to stay in major league baseball.
Though there are some baseball traditionalists who continue to resist replay with their arguments over length of play and the mysterious “human element,” though I do not consider myself one of them. Replay is good for baseball, if for no other reason than that controversial plays will give way to accurate calls and allow the players to continue play with trust in their umpires.
But I lament the presence of replay for one very important reason: the death of the manager-umpire shout off. These moments are distinctly unique to baseball.
The manager rushes out of the dugout; face flushed and arms gesticulating widely. The umpire stands stout and resolute, prepared to defend his call. Somewhere in the middle of the infield the two men meet and the pageant begins.
Fans shout screams of support or defiance at the manager as he gets in the umpires face and delivers a tirade of curses, accusations and implorations.
The umpire either silently takes the abuse or gives back as good as he gets. With the crowd driven into a froth by the show, and the manger having expended his arsenal of obscenities, the umpire throws him out of the game.
Generally ejection is followed with a renewed offensive against the umpire until at last the manager stomps off the field and disappears into the clubhouse.
With the advent of instant replay, a manger can simply challenge a bad call and leave the rest to officials miles away in a replay war room.
While there will be occasional moments when a manager will run out to protect a player from ejection, argue an unreviewable play or simply attempt to inspire a lifeless team, the umpire-manger fight as we know it will fade. Therefore, as a memorial to this great baseball tradition, I give you the top four fighting managers (in this authors opinion).
Number four: Lou Piniella
Lou Piniella towered over umpires with his six-foot height and large girth. If looks could kill, Lou would be spending his retirement in federal prison for serial murder.
As soon as he stepped onto the field, glowering at his target, every umpire knew that “Sweet Lou” was about to erupt into fiery red-faced destruction.
His signature move was to toss his hat into the dirt and kick it across the infield. While his 63-career ejection total is not as high as other greats, Lou did it with a flair few could match.
Number three: Billy Martin
Billy Martin’s temper is as legendary as his managerial career with the New York Yankees (he managed them on and off through 70s and 80s). Despite a winning record as manager, two A.L. pennants and a World Series title, the Yankees fired Billy no fewer than four times.
He fought players, coaches and owners whenever his blood pressure rose, no matter whose team and good luck to an umpire who incited his anger with a bad call. Billy’s best-known move was to furiously kick dirt on the umpire’s shoes, a move as petty as it was hilarious.
Number two: John McGraw
In an era of hard-scrabble, dirty and downright vicious players, John McGraw was king. As manager of the Baltimore Orioles (1899, 1901-1902) and the New York Giants (1902-1932) McGraw gained a reputation for “umpire baiting” in which he would ridicule, insult and threaten umpires during games in order to gain an edge for calls.
In one notable instance, he caused an umpire to leave the game permanently with his constant hard-edged insults. Before Bobby Cox, he held the record for the most ejections with 118 and is considered one of the dirtiest, nastiest, most acidic tongued but also best managers in baseball history.
Number one: Earl Weaver
Size did not matter for the Hall of Fame Orioles manager of the 60s and 70s. Earl Weaver would use every inch of his 5’7” height to berate and belittle an umpire.
His rants are legendary for their physicality, animation and abuse. They were as much theatrical performances as they were heated debates.
His signature move was to flip his hat around so he could get as close as possible to the umpires face as he screamed at him. Earl did not believe in brief encounters either, often following umpires across the diamond as they walked away from his tirades. Among the great baseball ranters, Earl Weaver stands on top.