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Sunday, July 9, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pendleton Wants Some Action Against Power-Trip Umpires

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

It was May 19 in Atlanta. Andre Dawson, batting in the fourth inning against Steve Avery of the Braves, reacts to a called strike by gesturing toward the outside of the plate. Umpire Angel Hernandez tells Dawson to get back in the box, cursing as he does so. When Dawson responds by saying as a veteran he is entitled to more respect than that - Dawson does not curse - Hernandez throws him out of the game.

"Ridiculous," Terry Pendleton said. "I don't care who's umpiring or where, that's wrong."

Terry Pendleton does not want to pick a fight with umpires. He has been a major-leaguer for 12 seasons, and has always been considered one of the game's model citizens.

But the Marlins' third baseman has decided he can no longer remain quiet about a problem he contends has escalated dramatically in recent years: Umpires, he says, are no longer content to enforce the rules of the game. Too often, he says, they upstage the game by instigating confrontations with players and punctuating their decisions in a hostile and arrogant manner.

There are times when umpires miss a ball-strike call, Pendleton said, not because of an error in judgment, but because they are deliberately trying to provoke a player.

"Certain days it's poor umpiring," Pendleton said. "Other days, it's let me see how far I can take you.

"I could be wrong, but I honestly believe that, and I'm not the only guy in this league who believes that. And the thing that kills me is they'll swear up and down every day of the week that none of this is happening."

And while players are punished for their actions - Pendleton recently was suspended four games for bumping umpire Bill Hohn - Pendleton charged that umpires are not held accountable for their conduct.

"I know that if I bump (an umpire), I'm suspended for four games," Pendleton said. "If they bump a guy you never hear about it. If we curse one of them, we get thrown out of a game and fined. If they curse a guy, they don't get thrown out."

Pendleton is not making a blanket indictment of all umpires. There are umpires, like Frank Pulli, who could have ejected Pendleton from a game when he reacted angrily to a strike call, but instead said, according to the player, "TP, I thought it was a good pitch. Maybe I missed it."

But Pulli is the exception, Pendleton said. There are other umpires who he describes as having that "red-ass attitude, like they want to run the whole show every day they're out there. It's always been that way."

In general, he said, umpires are vested with too much power, and until they learn to admit they occasionally make a mistake, their relationship with players will only worsen. The game was far better, Pendleton said, when umpires turned their back on an argument instead of ripping off their masks and inciting one.

"A lot of people are going to say I'm bitter about my suspension," Pendleton said, "but it has nothing to do with that. I'm not talking about Terry Pendleton. I'm talking about the game of baseball.

"You've got to take some power away. They should be judged like we're judged."

WHAT IS BEING DONE?

The leagues must take action against faulty umpiring, Pendleton said, like the NBA did when it prohibited referee Jake O'Donnell from working any more playoff games after he ejected Clyde Drexler. But so far, he said, baseball has shown a reluctance to discipline its men in blue. That includes National League President Leonard Coleman, according to Pendleton, who appealed his suspension directly to the president in New York.

"He's like the rest of them," Pendleton said. "He says, `I agree, yeah, yeah, yeah, we need to do this.' But what do you see being done? Nothing."

It's a risky business for a player to criticize umpires, who could make someone like Pendleton a marked man around the league. Pendleton is aware of that risk, but says he cares too strongly about the game to remain silent.

"I can handle that," he said. "I'll deal with it. I just don't want them to take it out on my teammates, I don't want them to take it out on the Florida Marlins. What is happening, he said, is that players are being deprived of playing with emotion, because umpires are reacting almost as if they are taking it personally.

There's a simple solution, Pendleton said, to diffusing many of the confrontations that take place today. All an umpire has to do is admit his humanity, which includes the capacity to err. And he should realize that since he wields the hammer of authority - that is, he has the power to eject a player - he should refrain from cursing a player.

"If an umpire says, `Maybe I missed a call,' what can we as players do?" Pendleton said. "We can't yell and scream anymore. The manager comes out, the umpire says, `I thought I made the right call,' the manager can only go back to the dugout.'

Pendleton says he accepts there will be times that umpires need to vent, too, but those times are far too frequent now. Does he believe that umpires are capable of acknowledging possible mistakes?

"They won't ever admit that," he said. "The young guys coming up, they're teaching them the same attitude."

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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