Friday, June 4, 2010

Of Umpires and This Old World

by Scott Hall

This Old World: 3.5 to 4 Billion Years and Counting

Had a good conversation with Richard Ojakangas (right) last night. He taught Geology at the University of MN-Duluth for 38 years, and, in 1982, co-authored with his colleague at UMD, Dr. Charles Matsch, "Minnesota's Geology", a widely used text on the geological history of Minnesota. Richard was born in Warba, graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1950, and got undergraduate and graduate degrees in Geology at UMD, the University of Missouri, and Stanford. He's done geological research all over the world and, at age 78, is still doing research and writing. In July he's off to India. Last year he published "Roadside Geology of Minnesota". Hear our interview this Thursday morning at 8:10. By the way, major geologic events that formed Minnesota rocks occurred about 3.5 billion years ago in the Minnesota River Valley, but "only" 1.1 billion years ago in the Lake Superior Region. As Doug MacRostie says, "Minnesota rocks!".

A Bad Week For Umpires

The Twins lost a game in Seattle Wednesday night when the 2nd base umpire appeared to miss a close call of a force out at second base in the bottom of the 10th inning. If the runner had been called out, the inning would have been over and we'd be heading into the 11th inning. But Seattle scored the winning run on the play and the Twins lost, 2-1.

Earlier that same day, the first base umpire in a game between Detroit and Cleveland blew a call at first base and denied Armando Gallarraga a perfect game. The umpire, Jim Joyce, admitted after the game he blew the call and felt horrible about it. For his part, Gallarraga was very gracious and said missed calls were part of the game. Joyce is a highly regarded ump by players and managers and doesn't need this incident to define his legacy (but it probably will). In the picture at right, Joyce and Gallarraga shake hands the day after the bad call.

If only the national media had been as gracious as Joyce and Gallarraga, but grace doesn't sell beer. So we've got a heated debate going on now about whether replays should allow umpires calls to be over-ruled. Even though I'm an old Cardinal fan who who remembers umpire Don Denkinker's blown call on a play at first base that probably cost the Cardinals the 1985 World Series, I don't think replays should be used in baseball. Having said that, it would be all right with me if the Commissioner did over-rule a call in very unusual circumstance like this perfect game. Reversing that call would not have changed the outcome of the game in any way (the next batter grounded out, game over). And Gallarraga would become only the 21st pitcher to throw a perfect game (27 batters up and out without a hit, walk, or error) in over 120 years of baseball history.

Gallarraga's perfecto was the 3rd over the last two seasons. Now people who sell tickets (owners) and sell beer (TV) are beginning to worry that pitchers are starting to dominate the game too much. They believe fans prefer offense (see hockey and soccer), and enough won't pay to see close, well-pitched games. While the Commissioner won't over-rule one umpire's decision, he and the rulers of the professional game won't hesitate to make changes if they think it will cost them at the cash register. They lowered the pitching mound 5 inches after the 1968 season when pitchers dominated and may have juiced the balls a bit from time to time too. Wednesday night Mariner pitcher Cliff Lee and Twins pitcher, Kevin Slowey, pitched so well that by the 7th inning you knew the outcome of the whole game rested on every pitch or one little mistake. Hard to imagine a better game to hold my attention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ojakangas was one of my favorite professors, and inspired me to take quite a few geology courses while I was at UMD.