Baseball has always been a unique game. Even with the simplicity of three strikes for a strikeout, three outs to end an inning, and nine innings in a game – you routinely hear baseball fans talk about odd plays, interesting situations, or something you see just once in a blue moon.
Well, when Tink Larson said he had never experienced what happened last night in a non-league game that featured Waseca vs. St. Peter at Tink Larson Field, you know it was truly an extraordinary event. So here goes…
The game was a pitchers’ duel throughout – St. Peter’s Andy Regner struck out eight batters before giving up Waseca’s first hit with two outs in the fifth, which resulted in the game’s first run, while Braves starter Bryce Bellin went seven scoreless frames. Taking little away from those pitching performances were a number of questionable strike and ball calls by the umpire. Both teams had made it known when they disagreed with a call, but it never got past the common disputes of, “C’mon!,” or “Where was that one?”
The visiting Saints tied the game in the eighth inning after Bellin left the mound, but the Braves got out of a jam by throwing out the go-ahead run at home plate to end the inning. Neither team was able to score in the ninth, sending the game into extras. During this time, more questionable calls were made and audible groans were heard, but again, the ump stood his ground and kept his focus on the field instead of the responding to the brief chirps from the dugouts.
On to the 10th… St. Peter’s leadoff batter stands in the box and the first two pitches are called balls – no argument from either side. The third pitch comes hard inside, forcing the batter to jump backwards. “Strike,” is the ump’s call. The St. Peter dugout makes it clear they disagree with the call, but again, no swearing, just your typical “C’mon!” and “Really!?”
And without any previous warnings to either side the ump grabs all the balls from his hip bag, tosses them onto the field and says, “That’s it, I’m done,” and proceeds to walk toward the gate adjacent to the Waseca dugout. The 50-some fans in attendance are speechless and the park goes deafly quiet for a moment. As the ump continues toward the gate, the St. Peter bench reacts. “Are you serious!?”
To which the ump replies, “You guys ump the game!”
Now the entire park is in complete disbelief as the ump makes his way out of the gate and up the steps to the street. His final parting words, “No wonder why nobody wants to ump amateur games.”
Players and fans alike still in disbelief, not knowing what to do, the players eventually laugh it off, meet at home plate, and walk through the line to shake hands after a 1-1 tie. I made a point to ask Tink while shaking his hand if that was a first for him. Tink laughed, and said, “Yup! And I’m only 75 years old!” At that moment, I knew this was a truly extraordinary event, and one I hope to never see again. I feel for the umpire, but having been in his shoes, sometimes you need thick skin. His unexpected departure from the game may have been justified had he given a warning to the dugouts, but that never happened.
And now you know that when you think you’ve seen it all, the game of baseball can always surprise you. Even for a 75-year old manager who has been a part of Minnesota town ball since 1962.