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Umpires take a beating

Jun 4, 2013, 3:07 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies v Cincinnati Reds Getty Images

Umpire Kerwin Danley had to leave last night’s Reds-Rockies game after being hit in the mask with a pitch. He says he’s OK, but the story about it reveals just how much abuse umpires take:

Danley has suffered several head injuries during his 16-year career.

In 2008, he was knocked unconscious when Dodgers catcher Russell Martin missed a pitch by Brad Penny, allowing the ball to hit Danley on the jaw. He missed more than a month.

A year later, he was taken off the field in Toronto on a stretcher after the barrel of Hank Blalock’s broken bat hit him flush on the mask. He was released from a hospital the next day.

While you don’t see a stretcher take an umpire out very often, I bet Danley is not some anomaly when it comes to getting beat up behind the plate. You have to figure those guys have more bruises, sore spots and old knots than anyone besides catchers.

  1. Ralph - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Well, head injuries to umpires would explain some of the calls we’ve seen this year…

    • skids003 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:43 PM

      I bet you couldn’t umpire a checker match Ralph. Ever tried it?

    • TestSubjekt - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:44 PM

      A simple thumbs up wasn’t enough. I had to let you know that you made me LOL literally.

    • MyNameIsWilliamBillForShort - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:53 PM

      If you saw the absolutely terrible call made by Bob Davidson in the Phillies game tonight, your words would be proven so true. Of all the terrible calls made, this one is at least as bad as ANY of them. He ruled that Revere grabbed the legs of the 2nd baseman when he was literally 5 feet in front of the play and the camera clearly shows he didn’t. It was Bob being Bob. Best part was for 2 innings, the CBP crowd booed and yelled “Bob You Suck”.

  2. pestiesti - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I read somewhere about how umpires and catchers have a kind of mutual respect as guys who get hit by the ball a lot. You’ll see it while watching a game, if one gets hit by the ball the other will often find a way to give him a bit of time to walk it off. Umpires will suddenly notice how dust the plate has gotten and leisurely sweep it off. Catchers will jog halfway out to the mound to talk to the pitcher.

    • skids003 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      I umpire and that’s exactly what we do. We may not always agree on calls but we do respect the fact we get beat up a lot.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:05 PM

        Hey, if people could agree on calls there would be no need for umpires in the first place.

  3. jm91rs - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    It seems like improved equipment would prevent some of these head injuries.

    • paperlions - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      That’s a tall order. The equipment would have to either to have enough mass to absorb the impact of the ball or 2) have enough volume and flexibility to absorb the energy. Otherwise, the head is still going to jerk violently, causing the brain to bang against the inside of the skull. It isn’t the impact of the ball, it is the sudden start and stop or the head that causes the brain to bang against the skull.

      That is why any helmet developed for the NFL is going to be hard pressed to reduce concussions. It is the quick change of direction of the head that and the fact that the brain is surrounded by a thin layer of fluid…when the skull stops suddenly, the brain keeps going until it hits the meninges, causing tissue damage.

      • jm91rs - Jun 4, 2013 at 4:54 PM

        In baseball, an ump might take one or two shots off the head per day in a really rough game. A helmet could made that could crack or flex enough to absorb the energy, eliminating the head jerk. Think of the giant bubble helmets a few NFL players wear, they have enough padding to absorb a lot of the impact (in some cases an extra shell with padding on top of the regular shell and padding), to minimize the whiplash in the brain. And if he’s taking a ball off the jaw then it either missed the mask or the energy from the pitch was not dissipated through the helmet the way it should have been. Both of those things can be corrected with better equipment.

        I’m certainly not saying that all concussions and bruises can be prevented with new equipment, but he’s had too many concussions in his lifetime, and would be preventable if MLB made head protection a priority. Fixing NFL concussions is a whole different discussion as the forces are far greater and come from every direction.

      • esracerx46 - Jun 5, 2013 at 12:26 AM

        I have read this before regarding concussions, mainly football related. Someone did a study using old leather helmets and ones of today. Using high school football type impacts, the result was negligible when it comes to concussions. Bigger better helmets is not the answer. A helmet doesn’t protect against that whiplash action. A doctor in Canada had this idea to think out of the box. If you constrict blood flow ever so slightly, by wearing a band around your neck, you have more blood in your skull and that extra blood cushions your brain. Whether or not it works… who knows. But something different than helmets is the only way to reduce concussions.

    • bob christy - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:47 PM

      I was an umpire for 35 years and the head shots take their toll. The equipment that the umpires are using today is designed to absorb and deflect the energy that is generated by impact with a baseball. The mask with the strap is designed to be quick release. You get popped, the mask compresses and flips from your face. The hockey style mask which is gaining favor is designed so that is compresses and transfers the energy from the face to the back of the mask.The one made my Wilson is used by many of the pros.

      Even with the advances, it still hurts like the dickens to eat one. If the ball catches you flush on the button, there isn’t much you can do except take the standing 8 count and try to continue. The problem is that concussive blows are cumulative and they take there toll over the years.

      Let’s hope that the guy gets back in the saddle soon and there’s no permanent damage done.

  4. yankeepunk3000 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    I used to umpire for years little league to highschool teams and I got the crap beat out of me at the time…I remember when I started I never wore a cup. Until I got a foul right in the balls and Jesus I could not get up. Now I have no children but live and learn. Best time I had at the park though!

    • dondada10 - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      The best time you had at the park was when you caught a foul tip in the balls?

      • historiophiliac - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:49 PM

        Don’t judge. :)

      • yankeepunk3000 - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:18 PM

        yes it was sir. both managers came to check on me. Fans were nice as hell. Any call I did was not questioned. the last 7 innings, even though I had unbelievable pain. Was quite peaceful. Even got”great game called today Blue” its a really sad life to be an umpire. . .

  5. auminer96 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    I umpired fast pitch softball when I was in high school and college. Obviously, those pitches were not nearly as fast as MLB pitches, but I still walked away from every game with bruises. I remember one time when my sister was umpiring the plate (I was in the field) and a foul tip hit her in the top of the head, right on the mechanism thingy used to adjust the straps on the face mask. It took her awhile to recover enough to continue the game. I can’t imagine what the MLB umps go through.

  6. cur68 - Jun 4, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Jeez, Blue, that musta hurt. Get well soon.

  7. brentsalish - Jun 4, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    I’m usually black and blue in multiple spots from being behind the plate… despite steel-toed shoes, a cup, a hard-shell chest protector with shoulder guards, shin guards, etc. This week I have ball-hide scrapings on my watch and a huge bruise on the back of my right hand, both from inside pitches where the catcher set up outside. (For the latter, my hands were tucked behind the catcher, but a fastball glanced off the batter and slammed into me at an angle.) Despite the bruising, I encourage everyone who complains about umpiring to try it for a season, not only because the local leagues need umps but because it will give you a better understanding of the complex ballet that we dance to try to get in the right position for all sorts of calls… and the fact that there is no one position that is always right.

  8. andreweac - Jun 4, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Just another reason for robot umps now!

  9. beefytrout - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Ahhh yes…. Hank Blalock. The heir apparent to Dean Palmer at 3B for the Rangers. Oh, how we dreamed of a glorious career for him.

  10. randygnyc - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:34 PM


    • spudchukar - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:10 PM

      Man, am I ever glad I don’t live in your sorry assed head.

  11. spudchukar - Jun 4, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    No matter how egregiously awful the collective umpire decision making record becomes, sympathy is still in order for the danger they endure. Hope you heal quickly and have no lingering effects.

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