October 20, 2005

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if there were no umpires? That's sort of like asking if we could do without police officers, judges and attorneys. (Sorry no lawyer jokes here). I'm not saying that referees are as key to the success of our society as these valuable public servants. I simply use the analogy because all have similar rolls, making important calls on issues between two or more opposing parties.

It's probably safe to say that Don Denkinger's missed call in the 1985 World Series had more of an impact on many local folks than any decision made in the United States Supreme Court that year. It sure did for the Waterloo, IA native who received loads of hate mail and even a few death threats over his mistake.

I'm sure there will be similar sentiments being tossed around the water cooler Monday morning after the beloved St. Louis baseball team lost 2-1 to Houston Sunday night in a game marred by two ejections.

Lost will be the fact that the Astros turned an incredible double-play to end the game as the typical Cardinal backers will be blaming the home plate umpire for ejecting manager Tony Larussa and Jim Edmonds. The loss will have more to do with a perceived umpire mistake than the fact that Houston hit, pitched and fielded the ball better once again.

But I'm not just picking on Cardinal fans, although it's tempting considering all the flack I receive from them as a confessed Cub fan.

I hope I'm the not the only person tired of seeing the replays of the Los Angeles versus Chicago game in the American League where the home plate umpire made the wrong call, allowing the eventual game-winning run to wrongly reach base.

It's one thing for the fans to latch on to an excuse, but when the media grabs on and rides the issue into the ground, it makes me wonder why we as a society are so infatuated by pointing the finger of blame.

Is it just me, or are their way too many folks out there who are happier losing a game and having something to be mad about, than they would be if their team simply had won?

While I'm on the soapbox, I'm going to point my finger of blame. I think the umpire's strike zone was a bit controversial, but the rules state players and managers are not allowed to argue balls and strikes. So the umpire had every right to toss the Cardinals skipper when he began ranting and raving on a call the umpire appeared to have made correctly.

Edmonds appeared to have a basis for his argument, when the umpire called what appeared to be a ball a strike. You can express your displeasure, but what do you expect the ump to do when you get in his face and curse him?

I wonder how Mr. Edmonds would react if the umpire ran out and got nose to nose with him and called him a four-letter word or two after the center fielder had made an error?

I guess I'm biased, because I've umpired and refereed and know how tough the job is. I'm also biased because my kids are watching the game and I don't want to have to explain to them that when they become players that they will have their hide tanned if they ever argue with an official.

Sorry for all you folks that aren't baseball fans who are asking why I'm talking about sports in this editorial. I'm a sports guy. Besides I figured you're tired of hearing about high gas prices and would rather read this than go cut another load of firewood so you don't have to run the furnace yet. Yeah, and it was the only way I could think of to sneak in the news that the Cardinals are nearly out of the playoffs. Go Cubs in 2006, or 2007, or 2008Ö

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