Friday, July 15, 2011

Former MLB Umpire Pallone: This is the Time of Year When Tempers Run Hot Between Umps and Those in Uniform

Tigers manager Jim Leyland made some news last week when he voiced concern over the deteriorating relationship between players/managers and umpires, in the wake of being terrorized by Joe West's crew in Anaheim. Leyland made the remarks after being ejected for the third time in less than a month.

What a perfect excuse to dial up former big league umpire Dave Pallone.

My partner on the sports podcast "The Knee Jerks," Big Al Beaton, and I chatted with Pallone on Monday's show. Dave first appeared on our show last summer, so I asked him to call in to address Leyland's concerns.

Specifically, as a former umpire, how does he see the relationship today?

Surprisingly, Pallone blamed the weather---sort of.

"This is the time of year when people---and I mean players, managers and umpires---start to get tired," said Pallone, who umpired in the National League from 1979-88.

"I know when I umpired, and it got to be August, I was happy because that meant September was coming and so was the end of the season," Pallone added.

Pallone told us that he has immense respect for Leyland, who he worked with when Leyland managed the Pirates late in Pallone's umpiring career.

"Jim always treated me well, and I think he knows the game well, too," Pallone said.

Pallone said that under Joe Torre, who now is heavily involved in the performance of the umpires and their relationships with players and managers, Major League Baseball is probably in good hands when it comes to the sometimes volatile dynamic between arbiters and those in uniform.

"As a former player and manager, I think Joe has a good handle on how (that relationship) should be."

I asked Pallone if he'd ever seen a play like that which occurred on June 27 between Toronto and Detroit, when the Tigers' Andy Dirks was called safe, then out at first base by umpire Ed Rapuano, who consulted with the home plate umpire after making his safe call.

Pallone chuckled. "No, I've never seen that. I don't know what Ed was thinking."

I pointed out that Leyland had never seen it, either, and that was a big reason why Rapuano ejected him after Leyland's very animated outburst.

Pallone laughed again. "I probably would have been thrown out, too!"

Regarding West's crew, Pallone agreed that "Country Joe" sometimes makes the show about him and not the game. Pallone and West were both NL umpires for several years before Pallone retired.

"Joe can go overboard sometimes," Pallone said, after prefacing his comments that he felt West is one of the best umpires in baseball. "You have to know when to walk away. Sometimes I didn't always walk away, either."

Pallone continued, "The ultimate responsibility for the control of the game is with the umpires. They're the bosses out there. Again, you have to know when to walk away."

So, in the eyes of Pallone, who has a unique perspective as a former big league umpire who is now a baseball fan, is the relationship better or worse than when he was one of the "boys in blue"?

"I think it's better," he said. "You have to remember that today, EVERY game is on TV. Plus, there's the Internet. EVERYONE will see the mistakes, the arguments. There's YouTube and what have you.

"I think it's better because there's better, swifter communication between the league and the umpires. Everyone is watching. But I think everyone is tired. This is that time of the year."

For fun, Al asked Pallone who gave the umpire fits, back in the day.

"I never saw eye-to-eye with (former Braves manager) Dave Bristol," Pallone said. "We never could get on the same page.

"And Dave Concepcion was never on my Christmas list because he spit in my face one time at Wrigley Field," Pallone added.

To listen to the 20-minute interview, which occurs about 45 minutes into the show, click here.


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