Big League Bullying: The Conspiracy To Humiliate MLB Umpire Steve Fields
August 7, 2018 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Big League Bullying: The Conspiracy To Humiliate MLB Umpire Steve Fields (SLDeadspin) — Baseball consensus holds that umpires only get noticed when they make a bad call. Steve Fields’ career as a major league ump was bookended by two calls that put him in the spotlight. But he went to his grave insisting both were right.
posted by tonycpsu (28 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dallas Green wasn’t known as a hothead? The Wrigley Field press corps from his managing days in Chicago may beg to differ.
posted by Buy Sockpuppet Bonds! at 8:30 PM on August 7


Good reminder not to cross a picket line.
posted by edeezy at 8:40 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


From the article: “It’s a shame. I get it, but it’s a shame.”

Great, tragic, story. I can’t help but empathize with Fields for so many reasons.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:05 PM on August 7


Fields did not deserve any of that crap. All he was doing was his job. A job he dreamed of almost all his life. Unions have done some amazing things for the American worker, but this is not their finest hour. Closer to their worst hour.
posted by AugustWest at 9:45 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Scabs are trash. The only injustice here is that he was allowed to keep the job after the strike was over. Expect to see more of this kind of reactionary union-busting shit-stirring as the labor movement continues its resurgence. You'll see articles about union corruption, "both-sides"ism... ask yourself what the material impact of this kind of discourse is on the movement. Do you want to signal boost speech acts that show solidarity with workers or that weaken their support?
Which side are you on?
posted by Krawczak at 10:41 PM on August 7 [25 favorites]


Fields did not deserve any of that crap. All he was doing was his job

He was doing someone else's job.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:16 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


I was 5 years old when my dad refused to join the picket at the packing plant. Now, my dad wasn’t known for tact and he was a lifelong Republican, so I know he asked for some of the shit he got. But it was a small town, he had 8 kids at home, and the factory paid decent money.

Say what you want, but the anonymous phone calls, telling us kids that they’d run him off the road and we’d be getting a call from the sheriff to identify the body or the calls threatening to rape my sisters left quite an impression on me. I don’t know how anyone justifies that.

My dad worked for over a year before the factory closed and he couldn’t find a job for 2 years.

Man, the early 80s sucked.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 12:12 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Fields was a scab. He deserved to be ostracized. And all this pissing and moaning about how he didn't get paid enough in the minors, maybe they should organize.
posted by CCBC at 12:56 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Shame on Deadspin for running this, though it's good to see that some in the commentariat there aren't having it any more than we are here.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:45 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


midmarch snowman: From the article: “It’s a shame. I get it, but it’s a shame.”

Great, tragic, story. I can’t help but empathize with Fields for so many reasons.


This jumped out at me too. This guy took a Faustian bargain for his only shot at a dream job in the majors. On some level, he must have known that once the strike was over, the other umps would never accept or support him.
posted by dr_dank at 5:03 AM on August 8


Why didn’t the umpires’ union include minor league umpires?
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:06 AM on August 8


Steve Fields’ career as a major league ump was bookended by two calls that put him in the spotlight. But he went to his grave insisting both were right.

Both were wrong. His failure to call the out at second under the unwritten "neighborhood" rule was ridiculous. The SS's foot was so close to the bag you couldn't even tell on the linked footage if he touched it or not. In those days that was an unquestioned out.
posted by rocket88 at 6:13 AM on August 8


Why didn’t the umpires’ union include minor league umpires?

Same reason the MLBPA doesn't include minor league players: the owners will never admit that the minor leagues are part of their "company", because then they'd have to pay everyone involved a living wage instead of dangling the prospect of millions of dollars if you make it to the bigs, and that might take, like, five or six figures out of their billionaire pockets. And the players have gone along with it, because it might take, like, four figures out of theirs.
posted by Etrigan at 6:43 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


"After God finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab … When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the Devil shuts the gates of Hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with." (Certified non-libelous by the Supreme Court.)
posted by enn at 6:47 AM on August 8


Fields got served a shit sandwich with extra sand. On the one hand, as someone who was brought up singing along with my parents' Pete Seeger recording of "Which Side Are You On?", I don't have a lot of sympathy for a scab. On the other hand, he was effectively told by MLB management that he had to cross the picket line or he would never be able to make a living in the profession to which he had dedicated his working life. So he was set up to be ostracized by his would-be colleagues if he crossed the line or blacklisted by MLB management if he didn't.
posted by slkinsey at 6:49 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting that even in Deadspin, they don't name any owners. They name as many rock stars who went to Fields' high school as they name MLB administrative staff (and none of them appear to be who allegedly told Fields that he would never make the bigs if he didn't cross the picket line).

Fields was a scab, but he's a henchman in this piece, not the supervillain.
posted by Etrigan at 7:07 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


They keep mentioning his minor league salary, 1600 a month. That's 77k a year today, adjusted for inflation. I sports league salaries can be ridiculous, but c'mon.
posted by notsnot at 9:18 AM on August 8


They keep mentioning his minor league salary, 1600 a month. That's 77k a year today, adjusted for inflation.

You don't get paid that rate for the whole year obviously, the minor league season is what, five months or so. You're not living high on the hog on that salary.
posted by e1c at 9:30 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]




I like to read stories that humanize people even if they did bad things.
posted by josher71 at 10:18 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


> ...the owners will never admit that the minor leagues are part of their "company", because then they'd have to pay everyone involved a living wage instead of dangling the prospect of millions of dollars if you make it to the bigs, and that might take, like, five or six figures out of their billionaire pockets.

For whatever it's worth, I agree that all the players (and officials, and groundsworkers) should be unionized. But minor league teams are mostly independently owned. The Durham Bulls of North Carolina, for example, are AAA affiliates of the Tampa Bay Rays but owned by a local North Carolina broadcaster, not Stu Sternberg. Unionizing them means dealing not with the plutocrats that can afford major league teams, but with an entirely different set of owners.
posted by ardgedee at 11:25 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


They keep mentioning his minor league salary, 1600 a month. That's 77k a year today, adjusted for inflation.
You don't get paid that rate for the whole year obviously, the minor league season is what, five months or so. You're not living high on the hog on that salary.


I'm not sure where the $77k figure comes from. That would be $6,416 per month if 12 months is assumed, which is higher than any measure of inflation of which I'm aware. The website Measuring Worth is always useful for this kind of thing, and suggests that an income of $1,600 in 1979 dollars is about the same as an income of $6,210 in 2017 dollars using the Production Worker Compensation scale. That would project out to a full-time annual wage of $74.5k assuming 12 months of employment. But if, as e1c implies, this was effectively seasonal employment of around 5 or 6 months, it works out to more like $31k to $37k. One can assume that the umpires sought additional employment during these "off months," but I'm guessing that it wasn't particularly remunerative considering that it, too, would effectively be seasonal employment. I would not be at all surprised to hear that someone like Fields could expect an annual income from these various sources of no more than $45k in 2017 dollars.
posted by slkinsey at 11:34 AM on August 8


Unionizing them means dealing not with the plutocrats that can afford major league teams, but with an entirely different set of owners.

They manage to deal with promoting and demoting people at will. They manage to deal with coordinating scouting, evaluation, marketing (to a certain extent), and all manner of other logistics, because it accrues to their advantage, so they find the time.

The Minor League owners would certainly incur relatively large additional costs from unionization (especially if it meant that the minor-league players etc. earned living wages), which is why they would naturally demand that a significant portion of the additional costs be borne by the people who most benefit from a robust minor-league system: the MLB owners.

And that's why it hasn't happened yet. Mark Walter (owner of the Dodgers, net worth $1.7B) and the Ilitch family (Tigers, $1.6B) and Hal Steinbrenner (Yankees, $3.2B) don't want to part with that money. Why should they? The NFL and the NBA don't pay for their entirely unaffiliated and even less-unionized minor-league systems.
posted by Etrigan at 12:23 PM on August 8


> I like to read stories that humanize people even if they did bad things.

This is where I'm at. Scabs are the result of a collective action problem that is itself the result of a failure of the collective bargaining process. We can all wish that people were pro-labor enough and comfortable enough with their current employment situation to resist the temptation to cross the picket line, but that's not the world we live in, and no amount of dialogue or bullying is going to stop people from taking jobs that they feel they need. At the margins, you might pressure one or two scabs to go do something else, but there are always going to be more people who want the work than you can convince or intimidate.

Absent stronger labor law that protects union members and takes away or limits an employer's ability to fill positions with scabs, scabs gonna scab. Conflict with them during the job action is expected, and, I think, healthy. But when the strike is over and both sides agree to terms, I think it's incumbent on everyone involved to treat their coworkers as professionals. If allowing scabs to stay on was part of the deal, you don't have to love it, but taking your animosity toward a decision made by ownership and directing that toward a coworker undermines solidarity by pitting employee against employee instead of all employees against management.

You don't have to go get beers after the game with the scabs if you don't like them. You don't have to send them a card for the holidays. But forcing them to work a game while they're bleeding all over crosses a line into unproductive cruelty that does nothing to strengthen unions in the long run.

The people eroding union labor in this country are the policymakers who are weakening labor laws, pushing for so-called "right to work", etc. This one guy who took a job that he felt he needed was a pawn. Just because he's an easier target than the billionaire owners doesn't justify what was done to him, nor did it do anything significant to protect the umpires' interests.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:23 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


After the strike was over, the scabs were rewarded with permanent jobs that some argue should have gone to more qualified umps from the minors, so the injustice didn't just end with the strike.
posted by JackFlash at 12:49 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


> so the injustice didn't just end with the strike.

Nope, it didn't, and it never does. But it's the truce that was agreed to -- by a process heavily tilted in favor of the employers, as it always is. That doesn't justify tormenting those who benefited -- it just made some relatively powerless people attacking other relatively powerless people feel a bit better about a bad result.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:56 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


I didn't say it was justified, but I sure understand it. I don't know if you have ever participated in a strike but it is one of the most stressful events in your life. You never forget it.

When you go on strike you don't know if you will ever work again. You don't know if some scab will take over your job permanently. As the strike stretches on and the rent comes due and your kids need groceries and some guy comes along and crosses the line, it feels like he's just stolen from your kids. You don't easily forget that.

You wonder why unions don't have more power? It's because it is damn scary to put your home and your family on the line for a very uncertain outcome. It's like going to war and finding that your neighbors are enemy collaborators. It takes a long time to heal those wounds.
posted by JackFlash at 1:09 PM on August 8 [8 favorites]


All fair points. Now imagine you’re a 5 year old kid and your dad is the scab. Think about the time it takes to heal those wounds.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:24 AM on August 9


That's the scab's fault, though, not the strikers. With the continual erosion of labor law, one of the few true weapons left for labor to protect unions is ostracizing strikebreakers; despite tonycpsu's assertion above, the higher the long term cost of being a scab, fewer the number of people want to do it.

As someone in the Deadspin comments put it, he didn't have their back during the strike, but expected them to have *his* back after it. That's not the way it works.
posted by tavella at 8:18 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


« Older "If Russia is real, show me it on this map, news...   |   “This is the stuff childhood dreams are made of.” Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments