Thursday, February 28, 2002
Five umpires will return; back pay still pending
NEW YORK -- Five major league umpires regained their jobs
Thursday after a 2½-year struggle against the commissioner's
Gary Darling, Bill Hohn, Larry Poncino, Larry Vanover and Joe
West will start working spring training games Monday, the
commissioner's office said. The five have not officiated major
league games since Sept. 2, 1999, when 22 umpires were terminated
by baseball after their failed mass resignation.
As part of the agreement, which followed a lengthy arbitration
case and lawsuit, umpires Drew Coble, Greg Kosc, Frank Pulli and
Terry Tata will retire, and get their back pay no later than March
31 and be restored to the umpires' benefit plan.
The umpires who are returning, however, will not get their back
pay, for now. The status of their back money depends on the
lawsuit, which is before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Baseball is seeking to overturn a decision by U.S. District
Judge Harvey Bartle III, who ordered the rehiring of the nine
umpires covered by Thursday's agreement. The Major League Umpires
Association, the umpires' old union, is seeking to have the circuit
court order the other 13 umpires rehired.
If Bartle's decision is not overturned, the five rehired umpires
would get their back pay and benefits. If it is reversed, baseball
could terminate them and wouldn't be responsible.
In his Dec. 14 ruling, Bartle upheld a decision made last May by
arbitrator Alan Symonette. In addition, Bartle also ordered new
arbitration hearings for Paul Nauert, Bruce Dreckman and Sam
Holbrook, and upheld the termination of 10 umpires -- Bob Davidson,
Tom Hallion, Jim Evans, Dale Ford, Richie Garcia, Eric Gregg, Ed
Hickox, Mark Johnson, Ken Kaiser and Larry McCoy.
Many of the umpires not covered by Thursday's agreement have
sued baseball in a separate case that seeks their termination pay
and pensions. No date has been set for trial.
After the failed resignation plan, which began during the 1999
All-Star break, umpires replaced the MLUA with a new union, the
World Umpires Association, which is run by umpires who had opposed
Pulli agreed two years ago to become an umpiring supervisor and
will remain in that role.