The late umpire/raconteur Ron Luciano considered Ken Kaiser, who died today after a long battle with diabetes, a friend and protege who came up and did things the hard way. Unfortunately, Kaiser’s career ended the same way, when he tied his dinghy to the leaky ship of the old Major League Umpires Association, and its executive director Richie Phillips sank it.
In 1999, umpire Tom Hallion got himself a three-day suspension when he bumped inadvertently into Rockies catcher Jeff Reed during a beef with pitcher Mike DeJean. The Major League Umpires Association, a month before the infamous mass resignation that torpedoed it, was outraged, but “[n]ot as outraged as they’d be,” the Society for American Baseball Research’s Doug Pappas wrote, “if a player wasn’t suspended for bumping an ump.”
One of the umps among the mass resigners (he was reinstated in due course in a 2004 settlement), Hallion swore he wasn’t trying to bump Reed. Players who inadvertently bump the umps swear likewise and still pony up fines and serve suspensions.