This is Part III in a series endeavoring to cover one oddball event, occurrence, statistic, story, or some other piece of information or minutiae from the game's history that is fun and possibly obscure.
The Oddity: An Ejection I've Never Seen Before
One of the biggest drags in taking an internship with the Mariners this summer was that the Baseball Oddities segment I began doing in May never really got off the ground. I only did a couple, but they were among the more fun pieces I ever researched and wrote. I'm glad to have the chance to get back to them, and for today's, I thought I'd share one of the more amusing moments from my time in Everett.
It all starts with a little Baseball Bingo. During every Wednesday home game, the Aquasox held Baseball Bingo Night, a little promotion where each fan gets to place various baseball events -- runner scores from second on single, player steps on warning track, etc. -- on their bingo card, and the first spectator to get a bingo or a blackout wins a prize. It's a classic minor league promotion.
The PA announcer, Tom Lafferty, is nominally in charge of reminding fans when each event happens so they can mark their cards, but he's a little too overwhelmed to manage bingo night fluidly. He's already busy reading player names, reciting dozens of advertisements, and reminding the operators of the manual scoreboard to add up the runs and hits properly to catch every bingo event in real time. The result is a lot of moments where Lafferty gets on the megaphone in the fourth to say something like "catching up on your baseball bingo card, mark down 'pop up caught in foul territory,' pop up caught in foul territory" when the play happened way back in the second. It's A-ball stuff all the way, and if you don't enjoy something like this, the minor leagues probably aren't for you.
Anyways, on Wednesday the 24th, Everett hosted the Tri-Cities in a close ball game, and with two outs in the fifth, Everett was down a run. Speedy Michael Faulkner came to bat, and he hit a sharp ground ball back at pitcher Ryan Warner. The ball deflected off the right-hander's glove and caromed towards second base. Cesar Galvez fielded cleanly and tossed it over to first base, where it appeared that, A: Faulkner had beat the throw, and B: that first basemen Patrick Hutcheson had pulled his foot off the base by a good eighteen inches. Naturally, he was called out by the first base umpire, Patrick Gorman.
Faulkner couldn't believe it, and if my memory serves, manager Rob Mummau went over to argue with Gorman. Many on Everett's bench protested as well, including trainer Spyder Webb*, who stood on the top rail and lifted his hands a foot and a half apart to remind Gorman just how far off the base Hutcheson was when he caught the ball.
*- (A quick note about Spyder: the 60-year-old is a legend in the Northwest League. Well respected in town and throughout the Mariner organization, Spyder just completed his 35th year as a trainer in the Mariner organization and became just the second man to have a number retired in his honor in Everett, joining the late Greg Halman. For sake of a reference point, by the time Ken Griffey Jr. arrived in Bellingham, Spyder was a veteran with more than a decade of service under his belt. It's fair to say he's been around awhile.)
I don't know what was on Gorman's mind that night, but a common affliction among minor league umpires is a short fuse. Like everyone else, the umpires don't really want to be riding the buses in A-ball, and oftentimes, some perceive that confidence, aggressiveness, and a bit of assholery will be their ticket to a higher level. As a whole they're a feisty bunch, and they have no problem running players and coaches from games. On this night, Gorman was particularly confrontational. He saw Spyder's spread mitts, and yelled from across the field "You, in the dugout! Put your hands down!"
Spyder didn't hear him.
"HEY! PUT YOUR HANDS DOWN!"
This time Spyder heard Gorman and, unwilling to be bossed around by a rabbit-eared hack half his age, lifted his arms above his head, hands still spread eighteen inches, as if to signal a touchdown. He was immediately ejected.
Never one to take a punch lying down, Spyder bolted out of the dugout and onto the field. He didn't run all the way out to first, choosing instead to stop at the foul line and give the umpire an earful from a distance. I couldn't hear everything he said, but it's safe to say that no newspaper will be printing a verbatim transcript of of it. The gist was about how horseshit umpires can become less horseshit if they mind their own damn business.
Spyder said his piece and started to leave the field. As he approached the dugout, Lafferty took to the mic, deadpanning: "ladies and gentlemen, 'trainer gets ejected' is not on your baseball bingo card." He's lucky he wasn't tossed as well.
So, the oddity is that yes, a trainer can ejected too, even without saying a word. Actually, it wasn't such an oddity for Spyder. Talking to him the next day, I found out that he'd been kicked out of six or seven other games -- which seems like a high total for someone with his job -- and that this was the most benign of the group. We talked for a minute, and as I turned to leave he stopped me:
"Now, Brendan, are you busy right now?"
I was not.
"Steve, the video guy, sent me a video copy of me gettin' ejected. Do you think you can help me upload this to my Facebook?"
I could. Actually, I did one better. I put it on Youtube too.
Which Mariner has the most career plate appearances without hitting a home run in a Mariner uniform?