Being out isn't just a call for depleted umps


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- During a season in which the disabled list in both leagues is overflowing, Marty Springstead has had more problems with injuries than any manager or general manager.

Springstead is the American League's supervisor of umpires and his charges have been dropping from a lot worse things than heat exhaustion, which felled NL ump John McSherry last week.

If there was a disabled list for umpires, Springstead would be over the limit -- with nobody on a rehabilitation assignment.

In the span of a few weeks, the American League lost Dave Phillips, Richie Garcia, Vic Voltaggio, Ken Kaiser and Steve Palermo, putting a severe dent in the umpiring staff. "That's a lot of people to lose, especially all at once," said Springstead, "and it's tough to make up.

"There's a lot of experience in that group. Two of those guys [Phillips and Garcia] are crew chiefs and the others are all solid veterans."

The five umpires who went down with an assortment of serious injuries have a combined total of 79 years in the major leagues. Phillips has been in the AL 21 years, Garcia 16 and the other three 14 apiece.

What has helped the American League survive the crunch is the eighth crew added this year at the suggestion of Springstead. In past years, the AL had a group of four minor-league umpires, who were not salaried by the American League, who were used to fill in for vacations and injuries.

This season the American League, unlike the National League, has four additional umpires on its staff. Still the rash of injuries has caused Springstead to dip into the minor leagues for umpires on the AL's option list.

"And when we go down there, we're messing up the Triple A leagues because we're taking their top guys -- their crew chiefs," said Springstead. "Something like this affects the whole system."

Because Garcia and Palermo were on the same crew and the others are all veterans, Springstead has had to make adjustment in many of his crews to balance the experience.

The most serious of Springstead's casualties is Palermo, who suffered a gunshot wound while trying to apprehend a suspect in a robbery outside a Dallas restaurant. He began rehabilitation for a spinal injury this week and faces a long road to recovery.

Palermo's injury hit the umpiring fraternity hard, bringing back eerie memories of the tragic death of Lou DiMuro, who was killed when hit by a car in Dallas several years ago.

* MARK THIS IN GOLD: The banner year Cal Ripken is having is likely to show that managers and coaches are as impressionable as the rest of us. They are the ones who annually vote for the Gold Glove awards.

Here's a prediction: Ripken will win his first Gold Glove this year, not because he's better defensively than before (he couldn't be any better than last year), but because his

name has been so visible it will serve as a reminder that he is a complete player.

And even managers and coaches are vulnerable to repetitious reminders.

* GROSS LOSSES: Kip Gross will not recall July 14, 1991, with fond memories. The rookie righthander was the losing pitcher in two different games that day.

He was the loser in Cincinnati's 10-6 loss to the Pirates and also got the defeat when the Triple A Nashville Sounds lost to the Denver Zephyrs. Gross had started a game in Denver that was suspended because of rain on May 15. When it was resumed on July 14, Gross picked up his second loss of the day -- even though he was two time zones and 1,164 miles away.

* THIS 'N THAT: When Kevin Morton beat Detroit 10-1 in his first start, he became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a complete-game victory in his major-league debut since ex-Oriole reliever Don Aase did it in 1977.

Texas has lost 17 of its last 24 games on the road. After collecting four pinch-hits in the first 18 years of his career, Brian Downing is 5-for-13 in that role with the Rangers this year.

When Dennis Eckersley walked two straight Orioles last Saturday, it was the first time he'd done it since 1986. The Yankees are 33-0 when leading after the eighth inning -- the only team in baseball that hasn't blown a lead in the ninth inning.

Dan Plesac is making it difficult for the Dodgers to get him from Milwaukee -- the lefthander has recorded the Brewers' last six saves.

* IMPERTINENT QUESTIONS: Is the new stadium still scheduled to be named this month?

Any word yet on ticket availability for Oct. 4-5-6?

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