Yorvit Torrealba Punches Umpire: Punishment Forecast with Babe Ruth as Our Guide

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIDecember 24, 2011

Yorvit Torrealba Punches Umpire: Punishment Forecast with Babe Ruth as Our Guide

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    Though Kill the Umpire was a comedy film from 1950, its themes—one of which is violence towards umpires—are all too real.

    On Friday, Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba joined an infamous list of players who have punched, struck, spat on or otherwise battered or assaulted umpires during or immediately following a professional baseball game.

    Torrealba joins a list of All-Stars and ne'er-do-wells who have committed the cardinal sin of displaying violent conduct against a sports official.

    Unfortunately, the list of guilty MLB players and coaches is a lengthy one. From Babe Ruth to Roberto Alomar, Jose Offerman and beyond, many professional baseball players have abhorrently used unjustifiable physical force against an umpire. If the list was expanded to include all sports at all levels, it regrettably might take years to finish reading.

    First off, let's be very clear. What Torrealba did when he struck home plate umpire Dario Rivero Jr. during the eighth inning of the Caribes de Anzoategui vs. Leones del Caracas game is a crime.

    Admittedly, Torrealba took just one swipe at the arbiter with an open hand, but in the United States, that would be considered battery and Torrealba would be subject to arrest and prosecution—not to mention the fact that using a fist to strike an umpire's face mask is slightly less stupid than striking the umpire to begin with.

    Speaking of the United States, 21 states currently augment their battery and/or assault laws with enhanced penalties for committing the crime against a sports official engaged in his or her duties.

    Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware (second or subsequent offense only), California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho*, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia and the Rangers' home state of Texas.

    However, as professional baseball history indicates, Torrealba will be forgiven for his disgraceful offense.

    You may have noticed the words "assault" and "battery" have been paired together above, yet treated as separate offenses. This is because assault and battery often refer to two separate offenses.

    As defined by Barron's Law Dictionary, assault is "an attempt or threat, with unlawful force, to inflict bodily injury upon another, accompanied by the apparent present ability to give effect to the attempt if not prevented."

    An aggravated assault may occur when a dangerous or deadly weapon is used in conjunction with an attempt or threat to unlawfully strike or harm another. 

    Barron's Law Dictionary defines battery as "the unlawful application of force to the person of another."

    In other words, an assault may occur in the absence of physical contact when only a threat or attempt to inflict harm exists, whereas the element of unwanted touching caused by another person must be present for battery to exist.

    The following is a brief record of MLB or MiLB players who have assaulted or battered umpires in the past and the lengths of their MLB- or MiLB-imposed suspensions. This list is not all-inclusive.

    *Idaho's assault and battery on sports officials punitive measures derives from Concurrent Resolution No. 32 in March 2011, which states, "local authorities [should] hand out more severe penalties. That would ensure that the fans, especially young children, realize that it is not acceptable to attack an official."

1907: Tim Flood, Kicked Umpire, Expelled from League

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    Criminal Equivalent: Aggravated Assault (Charges Filed, Toronto, Canada)

    On June 25, 1907, Toronto Maple Leafs player Tim Flood kicked umpire John Conway after Flood had been ejected in the seventh inning.

    As a result of the fracas, a local magistrate declared, "That's not part of the game. This sort of thing must be discouraged," before sentencing Flood to 15 days, which was a long jail sentence back in 1907.

    Just days later, Eastern League president Pat Powers expelled Flood from the league, declaring, "He is not fit to play in civilized ball."

1917: Babe Ruth, Punched Umpire, 10 Games

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    Criminal Equivalent: Simple Assault and Battery (Massachusetts)

    Back in 1917, Massachusetts did not have a statute regarding assault or battery against a sports official.

    In 2011, Massachusetts still does not have a statute regarding assault or battery against a sports official.

    After the very first batter in the very first inning of the June 23, 1917 game between the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators, George Herman "Babe" Ruth was ejected for arguing balls and strikes with umpire Clarence Bernard "Brick" Owens after threatening to punch the umpire.

    Incensed by his ejection—and making good on his despicable threat—Ruth charged Owens and punched him on the jaw, drawing a 10-game suspension.

    Sox pitcher Ernie Shore—called in to relieve Ruth—threw a complete game, facing 26 men and retiring all 26 of them, good enough for a perfect game—at the time.

    In the mid-1990s, MLB historians subsequently declared the game imperfect, creating a combined no-hitter for Ruth and Shore.

    In a way, baseball had decided to reward Ruth for his inexcusable action of battering an umpire.

    Talk about the "Hall of Fame" treatment...

1921: Ty Cobb, Challenged and Fought with Umpire After Contest, 3 Games

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    Criminal Equivalent: None (Willing Participants, Michigan)

    When umpire Billy Evans ruled batter Rube Oldham out on a close 3-2 pitch, Cobb ran up to the umpire and vehemently argued the call, prompting his ejection.

    Before leaving the field, however, Cobb and Evans exchanged words and agreed to meet under the grandstands after the game for a fight.

    Former Detroit Tigers player Sammy Barnes later recounted the duel: "It was the bloodiest fight I ever saw in baseball...Ty eventually knocked Evans down, got on top of him and was banging his head on the hard surface."

    Even Cobb's 11-year-old son was there, shouting 'Come on, Daddy' as his father proceeded to beat Evans to a pulp.

    Cobb was eventually suspended for the rest of the season (three games) while Evans went back out on the field the next day, umpiring with bandages, plasters and wounds all over his face.

    Billy Evans and Ty Cobb are both in Cooperstown's National Baseball Hall of Fame.

1996: Roberto Alomar, Spit on Umpire, 5 Games

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    Criminal Equivalent: Common Assault (Ontario, Canada)

    During a Sept. 27, 1996, game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Alomar was called out on strikes by plate umpire John Hirschbeck in the first inning.

    By many accounts, Alomar overreacted and by some accounts, "Alomar went ballistic, firing a series of brutal insults before manager Davey Johnson could interfere."

    After being ejected, Alomar wound up and intentionally spit directly into Hirschbeck's face, prompting a lenient, paid five-game suspension, which was ultimately appealed and allowed Alomar to play in his team's final two regular-season games—ultimately rendering his suspension absolutely worthless.

    In response, the umpires' union contacted AL President Gene Budig, threatening to strike in protest of this non-suspension and prompting Budig to get a court order requiring the umpires to work.

    The Orioles made it to the playoffs and faced the New York Yankees in the League Championship Series.

    Karma—or some home cooking—eventually caught up with the Birds, as 1996 ALCS right field umpire Richie Garcia and 12-year-old Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier combined to give the Yankees a huge boost that ultimately resulted in Baltimore being booted from the playoffs.

    Since the ugly spitting incident, Alomar and Hirschbeck became good friends. As Hirschbeck had said in a 2000 interview with Sports Illustrated, "People make mistakes. You forgive, you forget and you move on...forgiveness is a very important thing in life."

    Hirschbeck recently commented on Alomar's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame: "I'm very, very happy for him...I think he should have gotten in the first time, but he's very deserving. I'm glad he's in."

2006: Delmon Young, Threw Bat at Minor League Umpire, 50 Games

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    Criminal Equivalent: Aggravated or Simple Assault (Rhode Island)

    Various courts have concluded a baseball bat may constitute a dangerous weapon—one key element for aggravated assault—while former Peoria Chiefs pitcher Julio Castillo was convicted of felony assault for intentionally throwing a baseball at full speed into the stands during a 2009 bench-clearing brawl, seriously injuring one fan.

    Bats and balls are dangerous when used for malicious purposes, as could have been the case with Delmon Young during a contest between his Durham Bulls and the Pawtucket Red Sox on April 26, 2006.

    When Tampa Bay Rays prospect Delmon Young lost his temper and threw his bat at the home plate umpire after being ejected following an argument over a called third strike, he could have seriously injured the man behind the mask.

    The incident occurred in Pawtucket, R.I., one of 29 states that does not have laws specifically protecting sports officials from assault or battery.

    Instead, the anonymous fill-in umpire who worked the contest and was the victim of the assault could have pressed criminal and/or civil charges.

    Young was suspended for 50 games by International League president Randy Mobley, a punishment that falls 315 days short of Rhode Island's maximum sentence for simple assault or battery.

    However, Young's suspension was without pay, meaning he forfeited approximately $145,000 in salary. This is $144,000 greater than the maximum sentence for simple assault or battery of just $1,000.

    Young was a repeat offender, having served a three-game suspension in 2005 for bumping AA plate umpire Jeff Latter.

2007, '10: Jose Offerman, Swung Bat at Players ('07), Punched Umpire ('10), Life

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    Criminal Equivalent: Simple Battery (Non-State Specific, International)

    During an early 2010 contest between the Licey Tigers and Cibao Giants, Tigers manager and former MLB All-Star Jose Offerman punched umpire D.J. Reyburn during an on-field argument.

    Home plate umpire Jason Bradley had ejected Tigers catcher Ronny Paulino for arguing balls and strikes, prompting Reyburn—the senior umpire—to step in and attempt to escort Offerman back to his dugout.

    Offerman turned his anger toward Reyburn, throwing a right hook toward Rayburn's head, ultimately resulting in the umpire falling to the ground.

    On Jan. 18, 2010, the Dominican Winter League announced their decision "to suspend indefinitely, which means for life, manager Jose Offerman due to what happened on Saturday at Quisqueya Stadium." 

    This was Offerman's second violent outburst on a baseball field in as many years.

    Criminal Equivalent: Aggravated Assault (Charges [Criminal and Civil] Filed, Connecticut)

    In late 2007, Offerman was charged with assault after charging the mound wielding a baseball bat after being hit with a pitch thrown by Bridgeport Bluefish pitcher Matt Beech. Offerman took a swing at Beech and a second hack at Bridgeport catcher Joe Nathans, striking both players.

    Beech suffered several a broken right finger, while Nathans suffered a career-ending series of injuries, prompting a $4.8 million lawsuit against Offerman.

    The independent Atlantic League indefinitely suspended Offerman "until his legal case is resolved." Though Offerman's criminal case concluded with a guilty verdict on Oct. 30, 2007, Nathans' lawsuit against Offerman is still active.

    As such, Offerman is still technically under suspension from the Atlantic League.

2008: Lin Chih-Sheng, Tackled Umpire, Less Than 30 Days

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    Criminal Equivalent: Simple Battery (Non-State Specific, International)

    After he and a teammate were declared out on separate plays by the first-base umpire, La New Bears infielder Lin Chih-Sheng ran out of his team's first base dugout and charged the umpire, hitting him to the ground.

    This led to a bench-clearing brawl and a fine of 100,000 New Taiwan Dollars—about $3,300 US.

    Lin had previously spent time with the Tampa Bay Rays organization and tried out for the Cleveland Indians in late 2010.

    He still plays for the La New Bears, having won the Chinese Professional Baseball League's Best Ten Award in 2006 and four medals—including two golds—in the Asian Games and Asian Baseball Championship.

2011: Yorvit Torrealba, Struck Umpire in Mask, Punishment to Be Determined

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    Criminal Equivalent: Simple Battery (Non-State Specific, International)

    All this brings us to what happened on Friday evening in Venezuela, when Leones del Caracas catcher Yorvit Torrealba struck plate umpire Dario Rivero, Jr., following an ejection for arguing balls and strikes.

    Torrealba's Leones were trailing the Caribes de Anzoategui in the bottom of the eighth inning of Friday's contest when the strikeout, ejection and physical incident occurred.

    The Rangers' catcher employed an open-handed shove—which would have been a punch had Rivero, Jr. not wisely kept his face mask on—to batter Rivero Jr. and set in motion a series of events that will ultimately result in a significant penalty from the Venezuelan Winter League, if not from MLB and/or the Rangers franchise.

    This is Torrealba's third violent offense and third high-profile incident with an umpire. He has a history.

    In June 2010 while on the San Diego Padres, Torrealba was suspended three games for making contact with umpire Larry Vanover after taking a called third strike.

    In August 2009 while on the Colorado Rockies, Torrealba was fined—but not suspended—for getting into a heated argument with umpire Bill Miller during a 14-inning Rockies victory.

    In June 2008, Torrealba was suspended three games for taking part in a fight with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

    Complicating matters are the facts that the Venezuelan Winter League is not a US-based professional league such as MLB or MiLB and that Rivero Jr. is not a fill-in or full-time MLB umpire, unlike Reyburn (Offerman, 2010).

    As such, Torrealba's punishment will likely be most severe locally, confined to Venezuela.

    The Rangers are under no obligation to suspend or otherwise discipline Torrealba and MLB might even be in violation of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players' union if they take action against a player for something that occurred in a non-domestic, non-MLB seasonal league.

    Per MLB's CBA, in regards to attacks on umpires, specifies the following (pages 43-44):

    The Parties recognize that a Player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just cause by his Club, the Vice President, On-Field Operations or the Commissioner.

    Written notice of discipline of a Player (a fine, or suspension, or both) imposed by the Commissioner of Baseball, the Vice President, On-Field Operations, or a Club (except for actions arising from participation in the Winter Leagues) and the reason therefore shall in every case be given to the Player and the Association.

    When asked if Torrealba could face discipline for actions occurring during a non-MLB game, Rangers GM Jon Daniels ambiguously stated, "Depends on circumstances."


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