NEW YORK -- Richie Phillips, head of the umpires union, held a news conference before yesterday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.
The topic? What else?
Still angry over what they perceive as lenient punishment given to Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar, the umpires didn't want to wait until a Nov. 14 summit meeting in Phoenix for definitive statements from the league presidents on codes of player conduct, Phillips said. The meeting was scheduled by acting commissioner Bud Selig.
Alomar was suspended for the first five games of next season after spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck on Sept. 27. Umpires had threatened to strike last week until baseball received an injunction from a U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, nine members of the umpires union executive board accompanied Phillips to a four-hour meeting with major-league officials, including American League president Gene Budig and NL president Len Coleman, to voice their concerns over what they say is a lack of support from baseball officials.
Yesterday, Major League Baseball and the umpires association issued a joint statement that read: "Major League Baseball fully understands and appreciates the concerns that were expressed [Tuesday] by the board of directors of the Major League Baseball Umpires Association and pledges that any physical acts directed against umpires will be dealt with swiftly and severely. This policy will be communicated to all teams engaged in the League Championship Series and will be restated to the World Series participants.
"The umpires maintain the order and structure that is necessary for the game. They are entitled to enormous respect from all of baseball. These officials are the finest in the world and should be treated with the dignity they deserve and should never be belittled, embarrassed or threatened with bodily harm. Such behavior cannot and will not be tolerated."
Said Phillips: "Most right-thinking people know Mr. Alomar should not be participating in this postseason, and I don't think I have to beat on that any further. What concerns the umpires now is moving forward. Will the leagues rigidly adhere to some sort of a concept that players shouldn't be suspended during the postseason? The leagues have told us they will not adhere to that concept."
Phillips said the umpires association also is unhappy that players who appeal a suspension have "an automatic stay" from the imposition of the penalty.
"We made it clear that there's nothing in the collective bargaining agreement that mandates an automatic stay."
On whether umpires have become more confrontational, Phillips said: "When people talk about the umpires being overaggressive, consider John Hirschbeck's response when Roberto Alomar spit in his face. He stood there, and he took it."
Pub Date: 10/10/96