The Foul-Mouthed Umpire Redeemed

Yesterday’s paper carried a column by the sportswriter Bill Plaschke about Bruce Froemming, an MLB umpire closing in on the all-time record for most games officiated. Plaschke’s gimmick is to write one sentence paragraphs, as though he were being paid by the inch.

Not the word.

He’s also well known for essaying sentimental stories that highlight the humanity in sports and leaves one feeling sticky, as though he just embraced cotton candy.

Plaschke is usually the counterbalancing sweetness to the far more talented T.J. Simers, who specializes in acidic humor and clear-eyed cynicism.

The umpire column was in many ways the usual Plaschke dreck: fawning anecdotes from old timers like Tommy Lasorda, fawning anecdotes from other sportswriters, and fawning descriptions that sound like a Hemingway parody. What was different about this particular column is that the object of Plaschke’s hagiography was a man who is probably most famous in baseball circles for a recorded outburst of vicious anti-semitism toward a female MLB executive. (The ump thought the phone was hung up, Plaschke explains.) But never mind all that. The faux pas was years ago, ancient history. We’ve all moved on, etc. The writer’s final paragraph suggests that it’s time to let the ump call another World Series. A fitting tribute to a long career, and so forth.

It’s a good thing that Froemming wasn’t caught denigrating blacks or Latinos, who make up the majority of Major League Baseball’s rosters. He would likely be out of a job, let alone out of the World Series. Thankfully, there aren’t many Jews playing in the big leagues; they’re too busy owning and administering the big leagues. Froemming’s prejudices, we can assume, don’t affect his eyesight and judgment. And if they do, there aren’t that many unfortunate Hebrews to be victimized.

The integrity of the game aside, surely we can find sports heroes more worthy of celebration — and editorial blowjobs — than proven bigots. Luckily for Froemming, no matter how slim the pickings, writers like Bill Plaschke will find a way to redeem mean-spiritedness that has no place in sports or society.

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