George Will’s column in yesterday’s Washington Post is about MLB umpire Bruce Froemming. There are several good stories told in this short column, but this one is my favorite:
A story for Froemming: Rogers Hornsby, who averaged.400 over five years, was facing a rookie pitcher who threw three pitches that he thought were strikes but that the umpire called balls. The rookie shouted a complaint to the umpire, who replied: “Young man, when you throw a strike, Mr. Hornsby will let you know.”
Baseball is a lot different than most other sports in that there isn’t really any subjectivity to the rules. Sure, umpires have to make judgements, but the rules are clearly defined. You never hear commentators say, “wow, they’re calling it really tight tonight” the way they do in football or basketball.
Then there is this:
Consider Sept. 2, 1972, when Froemming was behind the plate and the Cubs’ Milt Pappas was one strike from doing what only 15 pitchers have done — pitch a perfect game, 27 up, 27 down. With two outs in the ninth, Pappas got an 0-2 count on the 27th batter. Froemming called the next three pitches balls. An agitated Pappas started walking toward Froemming, who said to the Cubs’ catcher: “Tell him if he gets here, just keep walking” — to the showers.
Pappas’s next pitch was low and outside. Although he did get his no-hitter, the greater glory — a perfect game — was lost. Another kind of glory — the integrity of rules — was achieved.
This couldn’t happen (and rightly so) in football or basketball where officials are very hesitant to call things like pass interference or ticky-tack fouls in the closing seconds of a game. I think this is due to the nature of the sports. Baseball has a finite numer of situations and possible actions. It lends itself to a strict enforcement of the rules that other team sports usually aren’t afforded.
When I read articles like this, I’m reminded of how much I love(d) baseball–the sport, not MLB. It’s such a simple, complicated, and smart game.
It’s really sad that it has been pretty much ruined in the US.