It reached the words of the internet when the Angels‘ game notes left a mention umpire Bob Davidson (#61) was umpiring his final game in the majors. The 34-year veteran of MLB umpiring ran home plate in the game between the Angels and the Houston Astros. Bob Davidson is well known, not only for being a hothead when it comes to ejections, but for his trademark use of the balk call. Rule 8.05 talks about what constitutes a balk by a pitcher, and man is it confusing. MLB rules denote 13 forms of a balk:
- The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery
- The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to first or third base and fails to complete the throw;
- The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base;
- The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play;
- The pitcher makes an illegal pitch;
- The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter;
- The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher’s plate;
- The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game;
- The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher’s plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch;
- The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base;
- The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally has the ball slip or fall out of his hand or glove;
- The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher’s box;
- The pitcher delivers the pitch from Set Position without coming to a stop.
Yes, that’s every way in baseball to balk. Bob Davidson probably knows every single way listed. As a result, 17 of his 169 career ejections were over the balk calls he made, but mostly in the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1988, Davidson ejected Mike Krukow, Tommy Lasorda, Bob Welch, John Candelaria, Chuck Tanner, Herm Starrette, Hal Lanier, Jim Leyland, Russ Nixon, Dennis Martinez and Pascual Perez all for disputed balk calls. Since then, only six ejections were for a balk call he made: Roger Craig, Darren Daulton, Jim Fregosi, Joey Amalfitano, Bobby Cox, and Matt Treanor.
Robert Allan Davidson, a native of the city of Chicago, made his MLB debut on Monday, May 31, 1982 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The Pirates faced the Los Angeles Dodgers that game, in which three current or former MLB managers were involved in the game. On the Dodgers side, Dusty Baker played left field while Mike Scioscia caught Ted Power. Scioscia went deep that afternoon off Paul Moskau as well. A late defensive replacement put Tony Pena behind the plate for the Pirates. Davidson’s crew in that game included another Davidson, Satch Davidson, who had been in the league since April 1969; Lanny Harris and Terry Tata.
Davidson was one of the 22 umpires (along with Tata) whose resignations were accepted by MLB as part of the 1999 umpire union dispute. Like many of the umpires who had resigned, Davidson worked his way back into the majors, returning on April 4, 2005 at Tropicana Field as part of Ed Rapuano’s crew. Davidson will finish his career with 28 seasons and over 3900 games in the majors.
As much as he loved to call balks, he loved to eject players and coaches just as much. Entering this season, he and Joe West were in a tight match for most active ejections (a number now owned by West), beginning with 166. While Joe West ran himself up to 172 ejections, Davidson mellowed out and finished with only 168. So that said, it’s time to look at some real Bob Davidson moments to show why he sticks out so much:
August 23, 1989 – Mascot Ejection – During what would become a 22-inning game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium, the Expos’ famous mascot, Youppi!, was dancing in a nightgown with a pillow on the Dodgers dugout. Tommy Lasorda, famous for his hate of mascots, complained to Bob Davidson about the mascot’s behavior, and with the flick of a wrist, Youppi was tossed from the baseball game, leaving the field sulking. Davidson also had another controversial call that day, when Mike Fitzgerald hit a fly ball out that would have scored Larry Walker from third base, if he had not left the base early on the tag.
October 20, 1992 – The Skydome Triple Play – During the third game of the 1992 World Series, David Justice’s fly ball was caught on the run by Devon White, and in the process, Terry Pendleton overshot Deion Sanders and passed him on the base paths (an automatic out). However, when Kelly Gruber chased Sanders back to second on the rundown, he tagged Sanders on the right foot. Davidson, working second base, called Sanders safe and Gruber argued the call, but otherwise, the call stood. A triple play was taken away because of the bad call.
September 7, 2010 – Ejection Central – Bob Davidson meant business on September 7, 2010 at Miller Park in a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. Tim Timmons had already ejected Brewers manager Ken Macha for Craig Counsell’s failure to touch second base in a slide in the bottom of the second inning. The show soon turned into the Bob Davidson show. In the bottom of the third inning, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan was tossed by Davidson for arguing balls and strikes. Duncan made his opinion of the ejection well-known for tossing Davidson in response. Two innings later, with two on and two out, Chris Dickerson is called out on strike three, a call his disagreed with, and drops his bat and helmet. Dropping your helmet and bat on the plate is usually an automatic ejection, and Dickerson was no exception.
Because things could not apparently get worse with Davidson, in the bottom of the seventh inning he stood by the Cardinals dugout signaling for the ushers and security crew of Miller Park toward Section 116, where a fan was being disruptive toward Yadier Molina with homophobic slurs (or so what Davidson claimed). Davidson had the fan ejected from the ballpark to the surprise of everyone, even the Fox Sports Wisconsin booth. At the time it seemed like the craziest thing to occur. By the top of the ninth inning though, no one really cared as closer Trevor Hoffman ended the game for his 600th career save, the first player at the time to ever achieve the record. Wild and crazy game.
May 18, 2012 – Barkin’ Charlie – On a wild pitch strike 3 by Cliff Lee to batter Jason Castro of the Houston Astros, Bryan Schneider went to chase after it and on his way was blocked by Davidson. Castro ends up being safe, and the Phillies bench was barking at Davidson. Davidson wasted no time barking back “You think I really wanted to block his ass?!” You can rarely hear umpires on microphones, but Davidson was loud and clear. After more arguing between Charlie Manuel and Davidson, Manuel was ejected. Manuel came out of the dugout and went bill of the cap to bill of the cap with Davidson arguing over the call. Davidson ended up being suspended one game for that fight between the two because of his inability to keep the players and coaches in order.
August 6, 2016 – It Had to Happen Again – Davidson walked away from the home plate during the top of the sixth inning. Walking toward the Giants’ dugout, he made his point to a fan in Section 129 about his derogatory remarks toward Davidson. A Phillies fan was yelling “you suck” toward him, and eventually made a statement that would be considered derogatory:
“I own property on 69th Street. You could come over and suck!” That comment was enough to get Davidson to eject him. Security and the police escorted the fan out of the stadium. For a nice change, Philly fans applauded Davidson’s decision, which he noted was unusual.
Losing Bob Davidson cuts at the heart a bit. A lot of players, analysts and fans who hate Joe West, but picking on the grouchy Bob Davidson was a lot more fun. This author’s fantasy team was named after Bob Davidson, and while a lot of people will cheer that Balkin’ Bob is finally gone, there will be an opening that will be hard to replace.