Is it me, or does it seem like umpires are tossing people out of games more frequently?
It appears that people are getting ejected for calling balls and strikes several times a week, either one of the Mets or a player on the losing team.
I got to see an ejection — and all that goes with it — when I watched a game from the photo bin at Silver Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. in 1990. It’s the same game where I helped the Famous Chicken his act.
The bin was just a section of the dugout, the closest I’ve been to a game in progress. It was the best baseball education I’ve ever had.
One thing I didn’t realize until that experience was that players ride the umpires the entire game. Endlessly. Everything the men in blue did, from running up the first base line to get a better view of a play to sweeping off home plate, was met with catcalls. I’m sure they are used to it, and probably shut it all out.
This particular incident involved Donnell Nixon, who might have been a little cocky because he had already spent some time in the majors. Or he wasn’t particularly bright. It was probably a factor of the two.
Donnell took a called third strike and didn’t like it.
"I want you to swing at that ball, Donnell," the umpire said after Nixon beefed.
Donnell was still steaming as he walked back to the dugout, and yelled "Wake the f--- up!"
"What did you say?" the ump responded, taking off his mask and taking a few steps toward the player. Now, I have no doubt that the umpire heard every word the first time. So did everyone sitting in the box seats between the dugout and home plate.
Maybe it was a test to see how dumb Nixon was. If so, he failed because it repeated the line, possibly louder than the first time.
The ump then said, "You’re out of here!" and made that pointing to the seats gesture.
At this point everyone in the dugout was standing and yelling, along with the boos cascading from the stands. I got the impression it was token outrage from the players. Everyone knew he was going to get tossed as soon as he repeated the F-bomb.
The tunnel to the clubhouse was next to the photo bin, where I spent the game, reveling in the proximity. An inning or two after the ejected, I was startled by a voice coming from behind me.
"Thanks a lot!"
It was Nixon, standing in the entrance to the tunnel. Banned from the bench after the ejection, it was as close to the field he was allowed to get.
Nixon had to say it a couple times to get the umpire’s attention. I moved as far to the side of the bin as I could to make sure people knew it wasn’t me doing the yelling. I didn’t want to get tossed, too. After the inning was over, the umpire took a couple steps toward the dugout.
"No Donnell, that you for the paperwork. Like I needed that."
It was pretty cool to see up close — and almost as entertaining as the the Famous Chicken.
I got the impression that the incident wasn’t the first time Nixon showed poor judgment. And the Orioles apparently tired of his act pretty quickly.
Nixon played parts of four seasons in the majors, one with Seattle and two with San Francisco. But he lasted just eight games with the Orioles, hitting .250 with 2 rbi in 20 at-bats.
If you’re curious, legendary Giants manager John McGraw holds the record for career ejections with 131, and in a season, with 13 in 1905.