” ‘Kill him! Kill the umpire,’ someone shouted from the stand” – Ernest Thayer

August 3, 2010

Brian Vanderbeek, Facebook friend and Modesto Bee sports writer, called attention today to a report from Bloomberg that the Little League World Series — played each summer in South Williamsport, Pa. — has expanded the use of video replays to resolve disputed calls. When replays were introduced to the tournament in 2008, they affected only plays at the outfield fence — home runs, ground-rule doubles, and issues of fan interference. Last year, questions of fair and foul balls were added. Now replays can be used to review force outs, tags on the basepaths, hit batsmen, and missed bases.

In addition, the original rule was that only umpires could call for review of a replay. Under the new rubrics, a team manager is entitled to one unsuccessful challenge in the first six innings of a game and one in extra innings. The league’s complete explanation of the procedure is available by clicking HERE.

The league emphasized in its announcement that replay appeals have been rare so far and that no appeal has yet resulted in reversal of a call. From my point of view, that information means that if the league comes to its senses and stops monkeying with a game that is not broken, it won’t make much difference.

The introduction of instant replay appeals in baseball is the latest ill-advised, unnecessary change that alters the nature of the game. The designated hitter rule was one; it took away an exciting element of strategy in which the manager of a team frequently had to decide whether to stay with a pitcher who was doing well or yank him for a pinch hitter. The DH also eliminated those situations in which the pitcher batted in a crucial situation and tried to use his limited offensive skills to move baserunners along. What did baseball gain by getting rid of those elements? I also object to artificial turf, but there’s no point in belaboring that here.

It is an intrinsic part of baseball to rely on the judgment of the umpires and to suffer over their bad calls. That’s been going on for more than 160 years, and the Republic has endured. In that respect, it’s a lot like life in general. What exactly is the league trying to teach pre-teen children by taking that human side out of baseball — that it isn’t a game after all? Or is this more about self-important adults than it is about kids?

I have to share Brian’s comment: “(I) can’t wait for an overturned North Korean home run to spark nuclear war.”


4 Responses to “” ‘Kill him! Kill the umpire,’ someone shouted from the stand” – Ernest Thayer”

  1. Thanks for the credit, Chuck. I’m hoping that one or two of your readers might recall I covered Rutgers athletics during the glorious eras of Graber (football) and Wenzel (basketball.) But then again, why would they?

    I’ll be checking in with my take on the whole Little League replay thing in my baseball blog (listed here,) which I will post around 7 p.m. (Pacific) on Wednesday.

  2. Chris Says:

    Or is this more about self-important adults than it is about kids?

    I’d go with this. Left to their own devices, the kids would forget the bad call 30 seconds after the Sno-Cones were served.

    I had a friend Jeremy some years back who coached Little League. Jeremy had to tell at least one parent that if he wanted his son to play on the team, he was to drop him off, leave, and come back when the game was over because he just couldn’t control himself. He would constantly argue Jeremy’s decisions and berate the other kids.

  3. shoreacres Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this all day.

    We teach the kids to swing a bat and pitch a ball, but don’t teach them that making sound judgements requires practice? Maybe I don’t “get it”, but what’s so difficult about explaining that umpires have their position because they’re good at making judgement calls, but sometimes they “strike out”, too?

  4. bronxboy55 Says:

    I think there’s so much injustice in the world, and we’re so much more aware of it now, that we look for ways to balance the scales any way we can. In the scheme of things, it’s easier to fiddle around with something like Little League baseball, rather than focus on the big things that truly need fixing. Then we can fool ourselves into thinking we’ve accomplished something important. If we learned anything from the way pitcher Armando Galarraga handled the umpiring mistake that cost him a perfect game earlier this season, we’ve forgotten it.

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