Former major league umpire Ken Kaiser, a colorful figure between the lines who briefly moonlighted as a professional wrestler to make ends meet while working in the minor leagues, has died. The World Umpires Association said Thursday he died in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., on Tuesday. Kaiser had diabetes for years. The 6-foot-3 Kaiser, who wrote in his book, "Planet of the Umps: A Baseball Life from behind the Plate," that when he graduated from high school in 1964 his "long-range plan was lunch." He weighed just under 300 pounds and often was criticized for that portly physique during the more than 3,000 big-league games he umpired.
Two umpires in the Mexican Baseball League were suspended on Wednesday after working together on a call that will go down as one of the worst in the history of professional baseball. During Tuesday's battle between the Diablos Rojos and the visiting Algodoneros de Unión Laguna in Mexico City, umpire Ulises Domínguez inexplicably called a ball after hitter Jonathan Jones swing through a pitch from Reinier Roibal. Baffled, Roibal asked the home-plate ump to check with his colleague at first base. Domínguez dutifully pointed down the first-base line, where Rodolfo Pastrana also signaled that the pitch was a ball. Check out the video above.
Former big league umpire Steve Palermo, whose accomplished career ended when he was shot trying to break up a robbery in 1991, has died. Major League Baseball announced Sunday that Palermo had died, without providing details. Palermo, who lived in the Kansas City area, had been in poor health. Palermo broke into the majors late in the 1976 season and joined the American League staff the next year. He worked the 1983 World Series, several playoff series and the All-Star Game.
I, for one, will welcome our robot umpire overlords, at least when it comes to calling balls and strikes. The automated strike zone is coming, probably within the next three seasons, and I am here for it. If you've spent any time on Twitter during baseball season, especially the postseason the last few years, you've probably stumbled on fans arguing for #RobotUmpsNow against those who argue for "the human element," two sides of the ongoing debate over whether baseball should move to automated calling of balls and strikes. It came up yet again in the 2019 World Series, when umpire Lance Barksdale missed two obvious calls in Game 5, one of which he openly blamed on Washington catcher Yan Gomes, which led Nationals manager Davey Martinez to yell at Barksdale to "wake up," and another so egregious that the victim, Victor Robles, jumped in anger and tossed his batting gloves after Barksdale called him out on a pitch that never even saw the strike zone. Both calls were bad, and in both cases there was at least the appearance that Barksdale was punishing the Nationals--punishing Gomes for assuming the strike call before it happened, then punishing the whole team later for questioning him in the first place.
A walk-off hit in baseball is a coiled spring kind of play. There's tension, stillness, and then a sudden crack that releases a burst of emotion as the winning runner heads home. A walk-off balk, on the other hand, is victory via clerical error. There's confusion, some consultation, and then the bemused joy of being ushered along by the umpires. That's how the Seattle Mariners beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 10th inning on Saturday.