Thursday, September 2, 1999
Report: Umps, baseball reach deal, but 22 jobs lost
PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- The Major League Umpires Association
apparently has struck out in its effort to save the jobs of 22
of its members.
ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball and the union have
reached a tentative agreement in their lingering dispute, but
that the settlement deals with the termination package for the
departing umpires -- and not the salvation of their jobs.
However, ESPN's report added that there is a possibility that
some of the 22 umpires -- whose resignations are scheduled to be
accepted after tonight's games -- could regain their jobs next
The cable network said that an announcement of the settlement
will be made shortly. Officials for the union and baseball were
not immediately available for comment.
The Umpires Association filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court
on Monday seeking an injunction that would prevent baseball from
accepting the resignations.
The umpires had hoped for a ruling by Tuesday, but none was
issued by Judge J. Curtis Joyner, who has pushed for
negotiations. Joyner supervised over seven hours of negotiations
Tuesday and more talks are taking place today.
ESPN is reporting that Joyner does not plan to issue an
injunction. As part of the settlement, the union will promise
not to plan any strikes in support of the departing umpires.
The umps are scheduled to receive up to $400,000 in severance
pay, depending on length of service.
While most of the umpires went about their assignments on
Tuesday, veteran American League umpire Richie Garcia did not
work his scheduled game at Detroit and instead was in the union
offices here as union officials plotted their strategy.
Union president Jerry Crawford and Eric Gregg also missed
assignments to be at the legal proceedings.
Most of the departing umpires working games this evening refused
comment on the situation, including veteran crew chief Frank
Pulli in St. Louis.
The lawsuit was filed Monday against the National and American
Leagues after the umpires union filed a demand for arbitration
Friday with the American Arbitration Association. The grievance
was submitted after the leagues rejected that request.
Citing the "irreparable harm" that would be done to the 22
umpires, the suit is the latest attempt by the union to save
face as well as the jobs of its members.
Thirteen NL and nine AL umpires stand to lose their jobs as the
result of the ill-advised ploy by the union to get baseball
officials to the negotiating table.
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire
December 31, union chief Richie Phillips urged the umpires to
submit their resignations, effective Thursday. The strategy
failed when many of the umpires refused to step down or
rescinded their resignations.
The lawsuit asks for an injunction that will preserve the
"status quo" of umpires pending a resolution. Baseball claims
that the umpires have not been fired but that resignations were
The umpires tried to backtrack on their resignations, claiming
it was only a "symbolic gesture." The current collective
bargaining agreement protects against strikes and work
stoppages, hence the idea of threatening mass resignations.
Phillips apparently overestimated the support from his members.
Just 42 umpires -- 33 from the NL and nine from the AL -- held
to their letters of resignation. All nine resignations from AL
umps were accepted.
Crew chiefs Pulli and Terry Tata, who have a combined 55 years
of major league experience, were among the umpires whose
resignations were accepted.
Jim Evans, Greg Kosc, Joe West and Gregg, all with at least two
decades of experience, also had their resignations accepted.
The departing umpires include highly rated umpires such as Pulli
and Garcia and lower-rated officials such as Gregg and West.
Drew Coble, a highly rated AL umpire, is losing his job while
his wife is dying of cancer.
Three of the umpires -- Tom Hallion, Bill Hohn and Terry Tata --
are scheduled to work tonight's game between Milwaukee and Los
Angeles at Dodger Stadium. Hallion was suspended for three games
earlier this year for bumping members of the Colorado Rockies
during an argument.
Two more, Gary Darling and Larry Poncino, are working a series
between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres that continues
The union also is awaiting word from the National Labor
Relations Board. Earlier this month, the union alleged a
nine-month pattern of repeated actions "with disregard for the
collective bargaining rights of their employees." The union
suggests that baseball is trying to break the union and that the
decision to accept the resignations was discriminatory and
A union spokesman, however, said today it was likely that the
NLRB would await any ruling from Joyner before deciding on the
The union filed a suit in U.S. District Court on July 26, citing
grievances against baseball and seeking the right to withdraw
the resignations. The suit was withdrawn before the leagues
filed a motion to dismiss.
Among the issues dividing the umpires and baseball's central
offices are the supervision of umpires and the strike zone.
The umpires have expressed frustration over the questioning of
their integrity and approach. Baseball unsuccessfully has tried
to centralize the duties of umpires, who have continued to
enforce arbitrary guidelines, such as the strike zone, to their
Before the season, baseball executive vice president Sandy
Alderson handed down an edict ordering umpires to call higher
strikes, but it has been widely ignored.