Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Watching Donnell get tossed

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.


Anonymous said...

Well it is quite an experience to be tossed out, not out of a game, that I would have no idea about. I can barely hit a Tee-ball. But tossed out a stadium is easy when your 22 and drink a lot of beer. That’s when the beer guys used to come around, God I loved that. What a concept, we would get are own personal beer guy: tip them and they will come. Anyhow, it was a double header against Pittsburgh in July 1985. And we (my brother and friend) were feeling really good. There was a Vietnam Veterans group of about 50 guys sitting a few rows from us, in the same section. Now believe it or not, they were feeling a bit better than us (possibly partaking in other chemical substances). But we were all cool. Until someone, somewhere, in the Vets crowd lost it. I don’t know if it was a flashback, post traumatic stress or whatever. But this guy went berserk!!! That’s when the genus security “forces” cleared the whole section (including those of us not wearing camouflage). Let’s just say it’s an easy mistake for the Shea security when they have a collective IQ of Koko the gorilla, I’m sorry; that was a low blow. I promise I won’t go there again Koko. But I have to say the one thing that your story reminded me of, besides that great night in a Queens Jail cell (don’t get any ideas, I sat the whole time). Is that basic human need to taunt. I remember vividly the organ guy/gal, back in the 70”s, used to taunt the other team and I thought it was so cool. For instance, if the opposing coach came out to talk to the pitcher on the mound, they would play “You talk to Much” by Joe Jones and Reginald Hall. That’s what’s missing from today’s game; it’s not only steroids, gigantic salaries, and egos bigger than Jupiter(the planet not the city in Florida); It’s your own personal beer guy and the taunting organists, good times….good times….

TW, Granite Bay, CA

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Great story, Tim!

Sadly, the organist at Tiger Stadium was never that original - unless you count hearing "Mexican Hat Dance" a dozen times a game as creativity.

But old jane Jarvis at Shea! And Nancy Faust at Comiskey was fantastic. She might even still be there.

We were able to get into the Comiskey Press box one night and Faust was playing something that just got one of the sports writers -- a crusty old guy -- all worked up. "She's just ridiculous!" he was yelling. Sportswriters gripe about a lot of things, but when they turn on the organist, you know it's trouble.