Bill White, National League president, angered major league umpires Wednesday by issuing a statement criticizing umpire Joe West’s recent handling of an ejection while revealing that West has been ordered not to touch a player, even when breaking up a fight.
“I’m absolutely stunned,” said Richie Phillips, umpires’ union general counsel, of the statement. “This lack of support has never, ever happened before. It sends a signal to the players that it’s open season on umpires.”
White’s statement was in response to West’s comments after a meeting here Tuesday between the umpire and the NL president.
The meeting dealt with the way West slammed Philadelphia pitcher Dennis Cook to the ground during the Phillies’ recent brawl with the New York Mets. It also dealt with how West recently ejected Phillie outfielder Von Hayes.
After the meeting, West said: “As of today, the umpires are not to become involved in any more fights. If (players) want to fight, let them go kill each other. If it gets that out of hand, we’ll call the National Guard.”
White’s statement purported to clarify that meeting.
“In my meeting with Joe West yesterday, I told him that since he has been involved in a number of on-field incidents with players, he is no longer to physically touch a player,” the statement said. “All other umpires are to continue acting as they have in the past.”
White added: “I also told Joe that I did not agree with his handling of the Von Hayes situation.”
West, 37, a regular National League umpire for 13 seasons, had ejected Hayes in an Aug. 21 game at Dodger Stadium after Hayes, upset with a balls and strikes call by Harry Wendelstedt, got to first base on a fielder’s choice and said something derogatory about Wendelstedt to first base coach John Vukovich. West overheard it, ejected him and White, apparently feeling that action inappropriate since no comment had been directed toward West, reprimanded West for the call.
Phillips said, “Yes, our umpires are aggressive, but they have to be aggressive. We don’t have the intermediate control that officials in other sports have. We can’t assess 15-yard penalties, or make a team play shorthanded, or issue a technical foul.”