Bill Hohn Should be Suspended Immediately


Being a baseball addict, a guy who falls asleep every summer night to the sound of an exhausted ESPN highlight reel repeatedly slapping against the floor, who watches VHS tapes of old games just for fun, whose sum total of missed televised Braves games since 1989 isn’t even in double digits, I thought I had seen all there is to see on the diamond.  Sadly, I was wrong.  What transpired at the conclusion of tonight’s game at Landshark Stadium was unnerving in a way I couldn’t have anticipated.

After Nate McClouth struck out to end the game, Marlins catcher John Baker jubilantly turned to home plate umpire Bill Hohn–who, in keeping with his temperamental performance in Boston, had already depleted the Braves of its manager and all star catcher–and gave him a fist bump.  Yes, the same wayward salutation that landed President Obama in hot water with Republicans for evincing frat boy cool was on display, except it wasn’t over a beer.

It was over home plate of a major league baseball game.

Trouble started brewing in the 8th inning, with Chipper Jones at first and Brian McCann at the plate , when Hohn called a pitch that Baker caught a foot off the outside part of the plate a strike.  The Braves catcher, usually a model of zen like calm, impulsively belched “Oh my God!”  Hohn took a couple steps toward McCann, baiting him much the way he did Eric O’Flaherty in Boston, but Brian simmered down and survived long enough to hit into a double play.

Hohn wasn’t finished; he had brandished his weapon and would be damned if he wasn’t going to get to use it.  In response to the inevitable cat calls emanating from the Braves dugout during the next half inning, the bewhiskered umpire, doing his best impersonation of Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral, strolled over to Bobby Cox’s gang looking for a fight.  The Braves manager, who actually looked more mystified than angry, was history.  Hahn would toss McCann minutes later for good measure, call a few more strikes, and then finish the show by taking a bow with Baker.

To be clear, no one is going to accuse Bill Hohn of anything as sinister as betting on a game, accepting a bribe, or even harboring prejudices towards a particular team, but complying with Baker’s “Thanks, bro!” was a grave misstep that must be looked at by the powers that be.  Umpires, like judges in a courtroom, are official arbiters, who, when garbed in black, must be resolutely devoid of humanity.  They aren’t meant to be colorful, or mysterious or affable; they are meant to be as impersonal as the chalk lines that determine fair and foul balls–the integrity of the game demands it.  For an umpire to display even the slightest lodge type conviviality is wrong, plain and simple.

Whether the Braves would have had a better chance of winning the game had another umpire called balls and strikes, we can never know.  I’d be willing to bet no other umpire in baseball would have called the controversial pitch to McCann a strike (even the Marlins announcers said the Braves had a legitimate beef),  but there’s nothing that can be done about that.  That the Braves lost is an irreversible fact.

So is the fist bump.  It’s on tape.  And Major League Baseball can do something about that.

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  • http://danieldorris.blogspot.com Daniel D

    AMEN! This as an unbelievable case of “Let me show you how powerful I am”. Bill Hahn let his enormous ego get in the way of calling the rest of the game. Of course, umpires are going to miss calls here and there…that’s fine. When you know good and well you made a bad call, though (and if he didn’t realize it was a bad call, then I question his ability to umpire, period), and the team is barking about it, the LAST thing you need to do is go over and actively look for a fight. He had decided he was going to eject somebody before he walked to the dugout. He just didn’t know who yet.

  • Idea

    So when are you going to start demanding a computer to call strikes from a uniform strike zone?

    That’s as dehumanized and impersonal as it gets.

  • brandon

    I still want to know what was going on at the Braves’s dugout. What were Hahn and BobbyC talking about and why on earth did Hahn pull out his lineup cards? Bobby Cox didn’t look angry at all when he was ejected.

    I would really like to hear the rest of the story.

  • Michael
  • raykelsey

    Idea,

    Of course we don’t live in a vacuum; at the end of the day, baseball–like our justice system–is man made, susceptible to human error. The malleability of the strike zone is part of the game and what makes it enjoyable. I am not endorsing computers–I think the Hawk-eye computer technology used in tennis has actually taken something away from the purity of the game. Mistakes–although at times utterly baffling–are acceptable, but umpires cannot allow their egos to influence the rhythm of a game, nor can they ever, under any circumstances, show the slightest signs of favoritism. In those respects, we demand they be as stoic as royal guardsmen.

  • bigyaZ

    “They aren’t meant to be colorful, or mysterious or affable; they are meant to be as impersonal as the chalk lines that determine fair and foul balls”

    Really, don’t you think you’re going a bit far? They can’t be affable, maybe even talk about the weather, without you thinking they’re hopelessly biased?

    Another ridiculous homer with an idiotic blog.

  • Trevyn Riley

    Why is nobody making a big deal of this? i didn’t see it on SportCenter or ESPN all day. When an official is acting like a cop that is out to get somebody something should be done. All I heard all day was about Manny Rameirez and David Ortiz, when someone is sabotaging games and teams and players someone should be fired.

  • Tim Brown

    I am a High School Umpire and I miss balls and strikes sometimes quite often. Every umpire I have ever talked to is quite aware when they miss a pitch. We tend to allow a little more chatter about the strike zone after we blow a call at least for a short time. Compounding the situation by an ejection then demanding another ejection is not what quality or classy umpires would ever do. This guy needs to at least privately apologize to the Braves in general and Bobby and Brian in particular. That being said these guys normally do an outstanding job that is greatly under appreciated.

  • MarkA

    The game is not supposed to be about the umpires. When an ump forgets that, HE should be ejected.

  • sean

    he umpired a blue jays game against the red sox and im telling you it was the worst umpiring job i have ever seen. i was watching the red sox announcers cover the game and even they were saying that the jays were getting squeezed. he is horrible, he has favorites and he should be fired immediately. and i felt this way b4 this braves thing ever happened