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April 26, 2012

Wezen-Ball

Baiting an Umpire - with Glue!

by Larry Granillo

From the September 1965 issue of "Baseball Digest", comes this story of umpires making mistakes and the consequences when players can't get over it:

The umpires on the eve of the All-Star Game were happily arguing over the quickest thumbings on record. The stopper involved Al Lopez during his playing days.

The Senor was once chased by Bill Klem before a game even started. The night before this particular incident, Catcher Lopez hotly protested a close call at the plate. The morning paper published a picture of the play proving Klem was wrong, Lopez right.

When the game was about to begin the next day, Klem noticed the plate was covered with dirt. He took out his own whisk broom and went to work.

And as he brushed, he quickly discovered a copy of the newspaper photo glued to home plate. Good-bye, Lopez.

I did a little bit of digging, but there isn't much to go on here. Lopez was a catcher in the major leagues for 20 years, so the event could have happened any time during those years. However, there is one hint: on August 20, 1933, the AP says this about the previous day's game:

Manager Max Carey, of the Dodgers, and Catcher Al Lopez were absent, being under suspension as the result of an altercation with an umpire. Coach Casey Stengel directed the team

Klem is listed as an umpire in this game. Of course, that missed game could be for any old argument Lopez might have got in, not one where he glued a sports page to home plate, so take it with a grain of salt.

Lopez's biography claims the game happened in 1931 (and that Van Mungo did the gluing, not Lopez), while other re-tellings of the story say 1934. Looking at Lopez's game logs at Baseball Reference, we can find two games (May 30, 1935, and August 3, 1938) where Lopez started the game, had zero plate appearances, and had Bill Klem as an umpire. In each game, however, Lopez recorded at least one put-out, meaning he did not get ejected before the game started. Perhaps this is a weakness of Baseball Reference—maybe, since Lopez never appeared in the game (though he presumably appeared in the lineup), it doesn't appear as a game on his game log.

In any case, the story is great and shouldn't be lost to history. I can't wait until Joe Mauer or A.J. Pierzynski try the same trick with Joe West or Angel Hernandez this year (only with an iPad instead of a newspaper clipping).

3 comments have been left for this article.

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