Dear Mr. Manfred and Mr. Miller:
For at least the better part of a century, my family has been MLB fans and supported the League whenever possible.
Raised just 35 or so miles east of Houston, my father often regaled and regales us with stories surrounding his youth and getting to go to games to see the Houston Buffs and Buffaloes play. Stories of how his Little League team’s sponsor, the owner of the local car dealership, would take them to games and “slip” them dollar bills to buy concessions and souvenirs. Stories of being able to see the game’s greats that came through the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system of the day.
My uncle “blew out” his arm one day while pitching for Sam Houston State University with St. Louis scouts in the stands. It has been said that, had he not suffered his injury, he would have been offered a contract with the Cardinals and become a top Major League pitcher.
Playing baseball from my early years through high school, I realized that I was not “cut out” to be an MLB player and entered the field of umpiring. Early in my “career,” I was encouraged by many to attend a school to try to get a position as an MLB Umpire. I even met with umpiring greats as Rich Garcia, Steve Palermo, Larry Barnett, Darryl Cousins, and Joe Brinkman in exploring how to become an MLB Umpire.
Regrettably, I never acted upon what I had learned from meeting with these men and never took the opportunity to become a Major League Umpire. I continued the profession, though, for a total of 22 years before stepping away from the field. I was so proud of my profession and supportive of MLB that went so far as to purchase a gold-toned MLB cap for League’s 150th anniversary and wore it whenever possible, even on the field.
Through the years afterward, I became slightly annoyed by rule changes that had been implemented that seemed to make no sense to me. I have always been a traditionalist and even used wooden bats during my playing days even though composite and metal bats were available to me. As the trend became to wear the pants down to the ankles, I continued to wear mine at the knee.
I accepted that nationalities that make up the modern MLB need to be acknowledged. Having teams wear uniforms with Spanish wording and making other changes to recognize the new heritage are appropriate.
I grudgingly obliged the growing commercialization of the League and teams. I find it disgraceful, for example, to allow advertising on the back of the pitching mound and along the infield, but accept that each blade of grass or spec of dirt is now a money-making opportunity for the teams.
I lost all faith in MLB as a sport, though, when MLB took the unprecedented step of punishing a team for the way that its state’s citizens democratically and legally voted on a societal and political issue that has no effect on MLB whatsoever. This took MLB from being a tradition to being a political movement that will disregard what is good for its teams to promote “woke” attitudes.
To expand on my thoughts on that is another matter, though, and should be the subject of another article.
As a result, I had no interest in watching MLB games this year. Using the excuse of having to work, I often would have other programs playing in the background for me instead of watching or listening to games. That is until both of my wife’s favorite teams made it to the World Series.
Cautiously I began to watch Game 1 from Houston and almost immediately felt faint and sick to my stomach. As the camera focused in for the first pitch of the game, I saw that even the very last vestige of tradition and baseball culture had been tarnished.
When I had entered the umpiring profession and throughout my career, I had been taught – and later when on to teach – that we, as umpires, worked best if, at the end of the game, the fact that there were umpires on the field went unnoticed. This meant that we would do our job in applying the rules of the game in such a manner that we did not make a difference in the game.
I’m guessing from what I saw that shocked me so that MLB has taken the premise that umpires are part of the field to a whole new level.
I saw that the umpires are wearing multiple patches advertising one of MLB’s major sponsors. The umpires now, as the field and the pitcher’s mound, have become billboards. The one aspect of the game that is supposed to be the purest of the sport has now been soiled for the purpose of money.
Whether the umpires receive a cut of the advertising revenue from wearing the patches is irrelevant. The fact that they are being used to generate revenue outside of their duties to administer the rules of the game is shameful and further evidence that the sport is no longer a game, and will never be again.