Umpires communicate with the press box throughout the game and having a contentious relationship with the box can be especially detrimental to its administration.
A minor league umpire's ejection of an intern deejay for the Daytona Cubs for playing a sound clip of the nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice" Wednesday has given added credence to the classic George Santayana statement, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
The odd scene unfolded in the visitor's eighth inning, after Fort Myers Miracle batter Andy Leer was ruled safe at first base by field umpire Ramon Hernandez, who ruled that Cubs first baseman Taylor Davis bobbled a low throw from shortstop Tim Saunders.
Cubs manager Brian Harper then exited the dugout to argue the call as our next two actors inadvertently prepared to repeat history.
As home plate umpire Mario Seneca stood at the dish waiting for Harper and Hernandez to conclude their discussion, Daytona intern deejay Derek Dye attempted to entertain the crowd while poking fun at the umpires, selecting a ballpark organ rendition of "Three Blind Mice" to play over the public address system at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
If only Dye had recalled the fates of baseball organists and stadium entertainment personnel who played the tune in the past, he would have known what was coming next for upon hearing the first few bars of the familiar refrain, umpire-in-chief Seneca turned his attention to the press box, identified his offender and vocalized, "You're gone!" while displaying a prominent ejection mechanic.
Not only was Dye ejected, Seneca upped the ante even further: "Do not play, 'Three Blind Mice.' Turn the sound off for the rest of the night."
In turn, Dye was puzzled: "I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think the umpire had that sort of jurisdiction. I haven’t seen the flow chart of who has what power."
As Santayana's statement implies, those who are unwilling or unable to learn from the past, by definition, "cannot remember the past."
So, does an umpire have the authority to eject a spectator or entertainment staff member? You bet he does.
- Rule 4.06(a): "No manager, player, substitute, coach, trainer or bat-boy shall at any time, whether from the bench, the coach's box or on the playing field, or elsewhere incite, or try to incite, by word or sign a demonstration by spectators."
- Rule 9.01(b): "Each umpire is the representative of the league and of professional baseball and is authorized and required to enforce all of these rules. Each umpire has the authority to order a player, coach, manager or club officer or employee to do or refrain from doing anything which affects the administering of these rules, and to enforce the prescribed penalties."
- Rule 9.01(c): "Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules."
A law school graduate and juris doctor recipient, Seneca is extremely familiar with the concept of "precedent" and possesses both the professional expertise and perspective to rule on this peculiar situation. In ejecting Dye, Seneca's actions were consistent with:
- Umpiring legend Bruce Froemming, who onced completely cleared the press box in Duluth after the minor league journalists responded to a reversed call by initiating a sequence of catcalls directed at the umpires.
- Umpire Keith O'Connor, who in 1985 and also in the Florida State League, ejected Clearwater Phillies organist Wilbur Snapp after Snapp played—you guessed it—"Three Blind Mice" after a controversial call against the Phillies.
- Umpire and crew chief Tony Maners, who in 1988 ejected Omaha Royals organist Lambert Bartak for playing what he deemed "derogatory music" in the form of the "Mickey Mouse Club" theme song following a call at the plate made by umpire Angel Hernandez. In a postgame interview, Maners cited his actions during a previous affair in the International League, stating he had ejected public address personnel before.
- Umpire Mel Chettum, who in 1995 ejected public address announcer Dave Andrews after inadvertently choosing a contentious argument during which Abilene manager Charley Kerfeld removed his eyeglasses and waved them at the umpire as the time to announce over the P.A., "We'd like to thank [the eyeglass manufacturer] for providing the sunglasses for tonight's promotion."
- Umpire Angel Hernandez—the same one from the 1988 ejection—who in 2001 ejected a visibly intoxicated Steve McMichael after the former Chicago Bears player took advantage of his seventh inning stretch microphone time at Wrigley Field to incite the crowd: "I'll have some speak with that home plate umpire after the game...Boo!"
Still, such an objective analysis for a very subjective sequence does not rest well with the sports world's popular culture of belittling and blaming umpires, referees and other officials, and in today's world of Twitter, Facebook and now-now-now, taking the time to research past practice is in very low demand whereas instant results and knee-jerk reactions are the norm.
Quantitatively, here's the difference.
In similar polls asking respondents to choose a side—intern Dye's or umpire Seneca's—the poll associated with an article targeted at fans overwhelmingly produced results in Dye's favor—88 to 12 percent.
Meanwhile, the poll associated with "objective tracking and analysis of umpire ejections and their corresponding calls, with great regard for the rules and spirit of the game," produced a 73 to 27 split in favor of umpire Seneca.
As for his actions Thursday evening, Dye was resilient: "He’s umpiring the game tonight and I’m going to be right back in my music seat. I don’t plan on ‘Three Blind Mice,’ but maybe some sort of song like it."
And, because history has an odd way of repeating itself, Dye may very well be ejected again if he chooses to incite the crowd by making fun of the umpire, though Dye is right—"Three Blind Mice" would be a poor choice.
After all, at his level, games often feature just two umpires.
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.