Here’s two experiences that I had with two of the games best.
Whenever we had an umpire that we called “big Jerry” we knew that down-and- in were sure fire strikes, 100% of the time with certain batters. Why. Because when they had a down-and-in pitch to deal with, they would always bend their back leg down to the point where their back knee would bow right into the pitch’s downward arch. STRIKE! In other words, these guys would literally strike themselves out. Then, like clockwork, they’d
snap a dirty look back at “big Jerry”, with that a not so nice remark. 20% of the time… ,”yerrrrr out of here, “ would come next. But that tossing didn’t work in our favor, cause it took a 99% strike out away from us next time around the horn with the same batter. Our two catchers would act like shop stewards trying to smooth things over. In fact, that earned them (catchers) a lot of respect around the league that we were in. The truth
be know, looking out for number one, was the real deal.
So, you got a batter that bends his back knee all the way down on a down-and-in pitch, and your plate ump calls STRIKE, go for it. BUT, don’t repeat that pitch too often to the same batter, pitch after pitch while still at bat. Let’em fester for a while so he’ll come back and go down again for ya!
Also, very few plate umpires will explain the rules of the game to a batter. Oh, mentioning down and away, or just away if a batter asks … Strike, is not all that unusual. A lot of plate umps feel that it’s their job to make calls – not conduct a briefing session on the rules of baseball.
It’s true that personalities are not suppose to enter into calling balls and strikes, fair and foul. We had a catcher that was married to the niece of an umpire. We made an effort not to put this backstop in the same game that his relative was scheduled to attend. As things would have it, the marriage didn’t go well and they separated. Wouldn’t you know it, our catcher scheduled for a game that this plate ump was calling got hurt, and really badly, during the fifth inning, so guess who slotted in his place. The strain at the plate was really evident. At first things went like any other game, but as batter after batter came in and out of the box, one word or another was said or assumed and our pitcher couldn’t hit the strike zone if he fell on it. Now it’s easy for me to sit here and point fingers… but then I didn’t have to that night, with our catcher turning and passing the bird right in the man’s face.
So, if you have a relative or a good friend of yours that has had, or is having, relationship problems with an individual or individuals with common ground with an umpire, think twice before mixing that cocktail – shaken not stirred.