Bob Davidson thought he had made the correct call. In his mind, it wasn’t even debatable.
Nevertheless, after the umpire declared a runner safe on a swipe of second base during a contest at Dodger Stadium in 1984, Los Angeles skipper Tommy Lasorda stormed out of the dugout.
Davidson, then in just his third big league season, prepared for the worst. He got something different.
“All he talked about was an Italian restaurant he ate at and how the wine was bad,” Davidson said. “He said, ‘Hey, you have to throw me out, because I have 48,000 people in the ballpark.’ I remember the ‘argument’ was heated.”
A shouting match between a manager and umpire doesn’t always contain the dialogue fans envision. Umpires must wear an assortment of hats. Aside from delivering the proper calls, they often moonlight as therapists when a skipper voices his frustration about his team’s play or, in Lasorda’s case, vents about lousy Italian fare. The masked men must also perfect the art of acting, because the slightest hint of a grin or laughter can reveal the true immaterial content of the supposedly tempestuous talk.
“There have been times when I thought it was quite hysterical the way a manager was going about it and what he was doing,” said umpire Tom Hallion, who has 22 years of big league experience. “Obviously, being a professional, you can’t show those emotions out on the field. You have to stand there and argue back at them, or take it like it’s a serious matter.”
As Lasorda spouted off about tortellini and vermicelli, crew chief John Kibler joined the huddle to listen to the skipper’s gripe.
“Kibler had to put his hand over his mouth, because he started laughing and that would give it away,” Davidson said.