Bob Davidson (umpire)

Bob Davidson (umpire)

Robert Allan Davidson (born August 3 1952 in Chicago, Illinois) is a professional umpire.

Major League Baseball career

He was on the full-time umpiring staff for Major League Baseball in the National League from 1982 to 1999. He resigned in 1999 as part of a labor negotiation strategy. However, Davidson has returned to professional umpiring and now is again part of the MLB staff. Davidson, who has been nicknamed "Balkin' Bob" or "Balk-a-day-Bob" due to his frequent balk calls, currently wears number 61, but wore number 31 during his career in the NL. When the AL and NL merged their umpiring staffs in 2000, number 31 was assigned to Mike Reilly, who wore the number in the AL.

He officiated in the 1992 World Series, as well as the National League Championship Series in 1988, 1991 and 1996. He also worked in the National League Division Series in 1995 and 1998, and in the 1987 and 1993 All-Star Games.

Resignation and return

Davidson resigned from the NL staff in by|1999 as part of a (failed) mass resignation during labour negotiations. He was out of professional baseball until 2003, when he resumed umpiring in minor league baseball, including the A-level Midwest League. During the 2004 season, upon seeing the umpires' dressing room facilities (a tiny construction-site trailer outside the leftfield fence) at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek, Mich., he told the team's general manager: "This place is a shithole." And then, noticing the GM had pen and paper in hand, spelled it out: "S-H-I-T-H-O-L-E." The GM didn't disagree, and left, and laughed when re-telling the tale to staff and others in the baseball community. In December 2004, he and fellow resignees Tom Hallion and Ed Hickox were guaranteed three of the next five positions on the Major League umpire staff, with Davidson reportedly guaranteed the first vacancy [] . Since then, Davidson has worked as a fill-in at the Major League level. However, when Terry Craft retired in July 2006 to create the first vacancy since 2004, it was filled by International League umpire Lance Barksdale. Davidson did, however, finally receive his full-time job back, effective January 1, 2007, taking the place of retiring crew chief Joe Brinkman, whose retirement was effective December 31, 2006.

On April 10, 2007, Davidson jokingly motioned for Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory to be ejected after he threw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and missed home plate. Davidson fielded the ball and made the ejection gesture.

Davidson recently became internationally infamous for his work as an umpire during the 2006 World Baseball Classic, when he incorrectly ruled on a pair of critical calls, both in favor of the United States team. Thus, he was nicknamed the "Patriotic Ump" by the media from other countries.

World Baseball Classic umpiring controversy

Japan vs. the United States

In the top of the eighth inning of a second-round game, with score tied at 3-3, Japan national baseball team Japan had Tsuyoshi Nishioka at third base and Akinori Iwamura at the plate against American pitcher Joe Nathan, seemingly in good position to take the lead. Iwamura hit a pop fly to left field, which was easily fielded by American fielder Randy Winn. As soon as Winn caught the ball, Nishioka started from third base, attempting to score on a routine sacrifice fly. Winn threw home but did not catch Nishioka, seemingly giving Japan a 4-3 lead. Prior to the next at-bat, the American team executed an appeal play, arguing that Nishioka had not properly tagged up at third base. Third base umpire Neil Poulton had been in correct position as on the previous play he had to go out to left field to get a proper angle on the catch/no catch made by the left fielder. This then became Davidson's call as he was the home plate umpire and had to watch the tag of 3rd base. Second-base umpire Brian Knight ruled that Nishioka was safe.

American manager Buck Martinez then argued, not just his view that Nishioka had left third base too early, but that the wrong umpire had made the call on the appeal play; it was not second-base umpire Knight's decision to rule Nishioka safe or out, but home plate umpire Davidson's. Davidson met with the other umpires and, after deliberation, ruled Nishioka out.

Davidson was not overstepping his bounds in overturning Knight's call, because Martinez was technically correct in that it was never Knight's call to make. However video replay showed that Nishioka had indeed properly tagged up at third base and not left the bag too early.

In this particular case, Nishioka began moving his upper body in preparation of his sprint to home plate before lifting his foot off the bag, which may have confused Davidson.

Japan ended up losing the game by one run on an Alex Rodriguez double in the bottom of the ninth inning. It's possible that Japan would have lost anyway, as Rodríguez's double would likely have scored two runs (had the 2nd run mattered), while others countered that had Japan scored that run by Nishioka, they would have deployed their closer Akinori Otsuka to pitch the ninth inning. Regardless, Davidson's blown call and the unusual circumstances around it created a minor international incident. Although the loss - whether Davidson's fault or not - put Japan's hopes of advancing to the next round in serious jeopardy, they ended up moving on anyway, ironically, at the expense of the United States.

Mexico vs. the United States

In the bottom of the third inning of a second-round game between Mexico and the United States, Mexican outfielder Mario Valenzuela hit what appeared to be a home run off of American pitcher Roger Clemens, off the foul pole in right field. In the rules of baseball, a ball hit off the foul pole is a home run, and the ball appeared to strike about two metres up the pole. Moreover, it hit the pole hard enough that some of the pole's yellow paint was visible on the ball.

However, Davidson, this time serving as first base umpire, ruled that the ball had remained in play and that Valenzuela had only hit a double. This call would be correct if the ball bounced off the wall rather than the foul pole, but the ball hit far enough up the pole that many fans thought there should be no doubt. Moreover, incredulous Mexican pitcher Esteban Loaiza attempted to show Johnson the ball with the yellow paint of the foul pole on it, although this did not succeed in getting the call overturned. []

The call, once again, had little impact on the tournament. Jorge Cantu singled Valenzuela home later that inning anyway, meaning that the only impact the call had was on Valenzuela's individual statistics. Mexico won the game 2-1, eliminating the United States from the tournament.

Other controversial calls

Game 3 of the 1992 World Series

On October 20, by|1992, in the 3rd game of the 1992 World Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, Davidson was the official who ruled that Deion Sanders was not tagged out on the controversial triple play which occurred in the 4th inning. After a David Justice blast to center field was snagged in a sensational catch by Devon White, baserunners Terry Pendleton and Sanders crossed each other on the basepath, resulting in an automatic out. With two outs now on the play, John Olerud delivered the ball to third-baseman Kelly Gruber. Gruber and shortstop Manuel Lee now had Sanders engaged in a rundown, and as Gruber closed in on Sanders, feigning a throw to second, Sanders dove headfirst back to second. Gruber dove as well, dragging his glove across Sanders right foot before his hand reached the base. Davidson, however, immediately called Sanders safe and refuted arguments from both Gruber and manager Cito Gaston, despite television replays clearly showing contact between shoe and glove did in fact occur. Had Sanders been correctly called out, it would have marked the second ever triple play in World Series history. The first came in 1920 when Bill Wambsganss turned an unassisted triple play on Oct. 10 for the winning Cleveland Indians. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, it proved irrelevant in the end as they won the game and the series.

Other Calls

*On September 20, by|1998, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire hit what appeared to be his 66th home run of the season, extending the record he had set earlier in that game. However, Davidson ruled the would-be homer a double due to fan interference after a fan reached over a yellow rail and caught the ball. The fenced-off area at Milwaukee County Stadium had been involved in other debatable home run calls, and had a reputation of being a difficult area for umpires to spot fan interference.

*On May 8, by|2008, New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado hit a three-run home run down the left-field line, touching the bottom of the foul pole. It was ruled a home run by third-base umpire Mike Reilly. But after Yankees captain Derek Jeter argued, home plate umpire Bob Davidson overruled Reilly and called the ball foul. Davidson admitted his mistake after the game, saying, "I fucked it up. I'm the one who thought it was a fucking foul ball. I saw it on the replay. I'm the one who fucked it up so you can put that in your paper. Bolts and nuts, I fucked up. You've just got to move on. No one feels worse about it than I do."

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