You’re the Ref/Ump Challenges (and More)


Here’s a sports quiz in which you are presented with a scenario from real plays and you have to make the correct call. The items are from my books, You’re the Umpire, You’re the Ref, and You’re the Basketball Ref.


Q: Paul Richards managed the Chicago White Sox from 1951 through most of the 1954 season.  He was a man with a mind as sharp as the literal definition of his highly unusual middle name, Rapier.  

Richards had starting pitcher Billy Pierce, a lefty, on the mound when the opposition sent a right-handed hitter to the plate.  Richards wanted to bring in a righty reliever to face the batter, given the righty-on-righty advantage in that scenario.  However, Richards also wanted his starter to remain in the game.  Is there any way he can have it both ways?  

A: He simply didn’t remove his pitcher from the game–he made a move other managers have since done.  He had Pierce replace his starting first baseman, but only for the one out his relief pitcher, Harry Dorish, managed to record.  Then, the cagey manager simply moved Pierce from his spot at first, reinserted him now as a “reliever,” replacing Dorish.  Of course he did lose his starting first baseman, but was willing to do so in this situation. 

Q: On the 19th of September in 2009, Texas took on Texas Tech in Austin.  Longhorns’ quarterback, the man with an ideal name for a Texas QB, Colt McCoy, hit his favorite target, Jordan Shipley, with a pass.  Shipley, a receiver with hands like flypaper, then churned forward a bit before he was pushed back and jostled out of bounds by the defender.  Should the clock be stopped or kept running after Shipley was forced out of bounds?  

A: The key to this play is if Shipley went out of bounds while going forward or, as in this question, backwards.  A college ref said that if he was still heading forward, “then the clock stops.  If he comes to a certain [spot] and the defender hits him and drives him out of bounds and he’s still fighting, but he goes out of bounds behind his forward progress, then the play was over when his forward progress stopped—so his going out of bounds didn’t make any difference and the clock keeps going.  

“If you read the rule, the play is over and the ball is declared dead when a player’s momentum is such that his forward progress is stopped.  So if he’s going backwards, his forward progress is stopped.”

Q: A basketball player is leaning out of bounds while in possession of the ball. He’s got nowhere to go but out, and he has nobody open to pass the ball to. Off balance, he decides his only recourse is to shoot the ball, even though his position on the baseline means he has to arch the ball up over the rear of the backboard at just the precise, seemingly impossible angle to make it drop softly into the hoop. If the shot should fall, would it count?

A: No, and this actually happened in an NBA game. Larry Bird took and made the shot, which the refs waved off as illegal.


There was a time when an umpire told big league teams that the league had actually approved the calling of a strike on a pitch which was the width of three baseballs out of the strike zone! Don Zimmer revealed this in his book, The Zen of Zim. I’m thinking, “Why do you think that area (and not anything OUTSIDE of that area) is called the STRIKE zone? Zimmer agreed, saying if they want to do that, why not simply make home plate wider!?

Perhaps worse to me was how many umpires after calling a pitch outside the strike zone a strike, would say, “Well, that’s MY strike zone.” NO IT’S NOT! It’s (or should be) the league’s strike zone, the one the RULEBOOK says to enforce.

The worst case of an umpire insisting he had the right to create HIS zone came during Game 5 of the NLCS when Livan Hernandez of the Marlins whiffed 15 Braves. Zimmer wrote that most of the strikeouts came on pitches a foot outside the strike zone. His book added that home plate Eric Gregg later explained his calls by saying word to the effect of, “They all know my strike zone,”–again the egotistical use of the word MY. And: “This is how I always call that pitch.” If that’s the case, then you’ve always been horrible at balls and strikes.


Long ago, Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez hit Braves slugger Joe Adcock with a pitch on the wrist. The two men exchanged bitter words before Adcock decided to charge the mound. Gomez threw at the fast-approaching 6′ 4″ Adcock again (it reminds me of the time during a skirmish that had, at first, been broken up, Larry Bird picked up the basketball and fired it at Bill Laimbeer causing more mayhem). At that point Gomez, no longer armed with a ball, fled–sprinting away from his pursuer, and toward his clubhouse. In the book The Zen of Zim, Don Zimmer wrote that after Gomez had made his escape, he reappeared brandishing an ice pick he had obtained. Zimmer also wrote of the time O’s pitcher Dennis Martinez knocked George Scott to the dirt then took off, running into the outfield.



2 thoughts on “You’re the Ref/Ump Challenges (and More)”

  1. only one comment……Eric Gregg was never rehired for MLB umpiring slots in post season games……he also was one of those umps who resigned in the late 90’s over compensation issue….and he was not one of the ones who was rehired …..worked a lot for chickie and pete’s in and around philly…..i umpired for 15 years,was qualified up thru community/junior college (which wasn’t much different than 6A …and I would run into the arrogance of some umps making the “Its my zone” statement……absolute b.s…..players and managers AND umps are all supposed to follow the rules,not rewrite them for personal pleasure


    1. As usual, Pat, you are right on the money with your baseball expertise. I hate that umpire arrogance also, so thanks for adding your information. Fans do not pay to see umpires make rulings, especially on what they determined to be “their” strike zone.


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