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March 18, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Two Probably Unrelated Baseball Highlights

by Sam Miller

Highlight no. 1: An umpire does something unusual

Last week I wrote about the evolution of on-field celebrations. I missed a very important detail in one of them, but Richard Loescher caught it. See if you can catch it! Focus on the second-base umpire.

It's not easy to make out—this is a year before the Zapruder Film was shot, after all—but the second baseman runs toward the umpire, right arm out, makes some sort of contact with the umpire's outstretched hands, and then joins the scrum. The umpire looks down, does something with his hands, and then walks away. So what's going on? 

The answer is in a Tyler Kepner piece in the New York Times from six years ago. He quotes Richardson: 

“The thing I remember when McCovey came up, I was down in my position, ready, and the N.L. ump said, ‘Hey, Rich, can I have your cap for my little cousin?’”

Yup. In the middle of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series, with two outs and the tying and winning runs in scoring position, with Willie McCovey at the plate, an umpire walked over to a player and asked for some schwag. An umpire, asking a player, for a souvenir, in the middle of play. So Richardson gave him the cap.

Richardson has told the story many times, and the details are a bit different in different tellings. You saw that he told Kepner it was a gift for the umpire's little cousin. In 1986, Richardson said "he asked for my hat for his nephew. I was thinking about that when Terry threw the pitch." And in a book called 500 Home Run Club, authors Bob Allen and Bob Gilbert say the hat was for the umpire's son. They quote Richardson in the piece, though it's not clear whether they actually spoke to him, and thus that's the least reliable account of the three. (Richardson also remembers that he "flipped the hat to him," which is a small detail but not quite right.)

In multiple accounts, Richardson says the request distracted him. "I was thinking about that, and wasn't really concentrating totally when McCovey hit the ball," he says in Allen and Gilbert's book. Which might have made all the difference. McCovey, in an interview that lives on MLB.com, recounts being surprised that a second baseman would stand there against him. "I thought he was going to play me to pull. But heck he was standing right there where I hit it. I wonder how can the second baseman be standing there against me, who's a pull hitter?"

The umpire was Al Barlick, who was in his 22nd year as a major-league umpire. He would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989. "Harry Walker, who managed several NL clubs, once described Barlick as a 'dictator,'" wrote Jerome Holtzman at the time of Barlick's induction. "There was some truth to this. Barlick never took any guff. Judge and jury, his decision was law. But because he always bore down (his concentration and determination to get the play right was always the same, if the score was 2-1 or 10-1), the managers and players respected Barlick as they respected no other umpire. More important, he was a daily inspiration to his fellow umpires. Working on Barlick`s crew was an education, an honor." In The Sporting News' poll of managers and coaches in 1961, Barlick was voted most respected, best called of balls and strikes, best on the bases, best knowledge of the rules, best at being in the right position, and most serious minded.  

He was well known for his feud with Leo Durocher, the manager for the Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs. In his first six and a half years in the league, according to Barlick's SABR bio, he ejected Durocher at least six times, and once ejected him before a game began. And yet, Barlick would say later, "Leo's all right. I'll bet if I was having some problems, if I needed money, he`d send me $500 or $1,000." Shoot, for all we know about Barlick, maybe he did ask. Maybe right in the middle of a game, even.

Highlight no. 2: A human is caught falling over, or is he

Watch the baseball get murdered

and then watch the man in black 

I've always wondered what's worse: not doing something embarrassing, but having people think that you did? Or doing something really embarrassing, but doing it anonymously? In other words, do we draw self-worth from the opinions of others or from our own opinion and knowledge of ourselves? In the former case—say, being blamed for a fart in second grade but really it was Adam—you suffer the derision, but you can still love and respect yourself. In the latter case, there is no derision. But you know. And God knows. And the lady in the green tank top knows. 


Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Bobby Richardson,  Al Barlick,  Willie McCovey

2 comments have been left for this article.

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Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (03/15)
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BP Unfiltered: A Bad F... (03/15)
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