Surely, you and your friends haven't able to stop talking about it: Umpires Bob Davidson, John Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, and Tim Welke are all retiring prior to the 2017 season. If you're currently trying to remember why any of those names sound familiar, it's probably for one the following slots of Phillies history into which each man wedged himself.
Bob Davidson: Ejected Phillies fan from game
"You think I wanted to block his ass?! What the hell are you yelling at?!"
--Umpire Bob Davidson to Charlie Manuel
The relationship between a manager and an umpire is a special, coarse, profanity-laced affair in which both parties are seen chuckling and having a good time together or absolutely having meltdowns basically on top of each other. Bob Davidson never seemed too angsty about cultivating the former in Philadelphia.
Here's a video of a May 18, 2012 confrontation between Bob Davidson and Charlie Manuel over Davidson not getting out of the way of a play that would end in both men being suspended for one game. It was a stunning reminder that apparently, when the right planets are in the right spots, umpires are held accountable for their actions. Davidson, for his poor reaction, was said to have committed "repeated violations of the Office of the Commissioner's standards for situation handling."
One night in umpire jail seems to have really calmed him down.
Through suspension-worthy antics, Bob Davidson, in addition to calling balks indiscriminately into the crowd (He was once part of a crew that called Cole Hamels for two in one game), was not afraid to go after coaches or players. And that was how we lived for a while; a disappointed eye roll hearing him announced before the game, and hoping that he didn't get in a mood and eject your favorite player.
But then one day, he went after the fans.
One of them, anyway. Who he said was screaming obscenities.
Living out a Phillies fan's ultimate purpose, to give the umpire such a hard time that he throws you out of the game, is a special experience. Not everyone gets to experience it, but when it happens, that fan is revered in his community for years. Neighbors utter his name over the fence and bus commuters smile as they pass his statues.
This time it was weird, though; the guy was just shamed and forgotten. Huh.
Bob Davidson stopped in the middle of an at-bat on August 2, 2016 to fulfill every umpire's ultimate purpose, to eject a fan and discover their true powers. Think about it: Umpires could eject the entire stadium before the first pitch and play the game in total silence. They would be our new gods. Our only defense is that they remain ignorant of the power they wield.
"That's when I turned around and said ‘You know what, get rid of this guy.' You could have your wife, girlfriend, kids - they buy tickets," Davidson said. "They don't have to come here and listen to that."
"And people cheered me. Which is unusual in this town for me," Davidson said.
The heckler, a Delaware County resident who, by his own account, was telling Giants players that they "suck," (and wasn't wrong) also claimed he told a Giants player to get a haircut and "that was basically it." He said he wasn't drunk. We may never know the real story. That's probably fine.
Nevertheless! Bob Davidson wasn't afraid to make an enemy in Philadelphia, whether in the stands or in the dugout. May baseball scientists one day discover the secret behind his penchant for balk calls.
Tim Welke: Postponed first World Series game in history
The Phillies were in the World Series, and the city, rich with autumn colors in late October 2008, was jubilant. But this was a course of events the universe rejected, and quickly spread various plagues across the globe to express its disgust. In Philadelphia, it sucked frigid moisture out of every corner of the universe and flung it down on us without mercy, resulting in several full, consecutive days of unyielding sleet. It wasn't until everyone had huddled in the High & Inside Pub at CBP during Game 5 and only briefly, naturally considered cannibalism, that the league decided enough was enough.
It's not an easy thing, canceling a World Series game. Commissioner Bud Selig talked it over with his lieutenants - the ancient gargoyles outside his bedroom window with whom he performs daily communes - and then went on the airwaves to inform the public that this game could wait until tomorrow. Or the next day.
In truth, Selig did confer with a human underling to make a final decision. It was umpire crew chief Tim Welke, a man who had to pretend the game was being postponed because of the puddles on the base paths, and not the ones in his shoes.
"Obviously the conditions deteriorated. The grounds crew has done a phenomenal job to keep the game going," said Bob Dupuy, MLB’s Chief Operating Officer, from down on the field. "But with all the puddling and the wetness, the Commissioner and the (umpire) crew chief Tim Welke decided that the playing conditions were such that we ought to call time and get the tarp on the field."
Welke was the first crew chief to call off a World Series game, ever.
Canceling a game heavy with that much fate could have had dire consequences. Selig said they would wait until Thanksgiving to play in Philadelphia if they had to. At any moment, the city is in danger of becoming a smoking crater. It would be perfect for the Phillies to come so close to a championship only to have a fluky twist derail their momentum and in some fated, backhanded way, cost them the World Series. It was all too easy to imagine it, and Welke would have been the architect of the destruction.
Well, probably not. Selig would take the most of the abuse. And they'd probably have found a way to blame Jimmy Rollins, too. So instead of torturing us, the Phillies came back two nights later and won their second World Series in franchise history with a finger to the gods.
That wasn't the only time Welke watched the Phillies celebrate: on May 29, 2010, he watched Roy Halladay's perfect game from first base (his brother, Bill, worked third) (Tim's brother, I mean; not Roy's). In fact, Welke made a real habit of having Doc's back.
Clayton Kershaw in an obvious Cy Young Award race with Roy Halladay is ejected after 5 scoreless innings by HP umpire Tim Welke w/o warning?— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) September 15, 2011
Hey, we just can't help being fans.
Left game with jacked up hand Called Roy Halladay’s Post Season no-hitter
Hirschbeck is much better known in my head as the guy Roberto Alomar spit on and was subsequently profiled by the Baltimore Sun, which won a Pulitzer for its coverage. He was also on the field for Barry Bonds' 756th home run and Mariano Rivera's 602nd save.
One of Hirschbeck’s journeys through Philadelphia saw him struck in the hand by a pitch and having to leave a game. For that, Hirschbeck was the subject of not a Pulitzer-winning newspaper story, but rather the sympathies of Charlie Manuel, which weren’t sympathies at all, and were actually closer to complaints.
"If he hadn't called a foul tip it would have been 2-0," Manuel said. "Evidently, [Hirschbeck] told the umpires it was a foul tip. Because he got hit, he was on the ground and didn't call anything. I went back and watched it, and I didn't think he hit it. That's what I was talking to Bob Davidson about."
But more notable, Hirschbeck was behind the plate for Roy Halladay's first ever post season appearance. If you remember how that went, it also means he was around for an even bigger historical moment.
You're right. Let's just watch.
That was Hirschbeck back there, ringing up Red after Red. Some people would say that Hirschbeck's strike zone inexplicably widened that evening; that perhaps knowing he could catch the low corners made Roy Halladay even more dangerous; like a shark with a machine gun. Those people were on the same wavelength as Cincinnati's Orlando Cabrera.
"It was a bad combination with John (Hirschbeck) back there," Cabrera said. "He gave him every single pitch. A guy like Halladay feeds off that. It makes it nearly impossible with a guy like that. He can hit every single corner, and he was low in the zone. He and the umpire threw a no-hitter. Another umpire and another zone, he wouldn't have been able to throw a game like that."
Two games later, Orlando Cabrera was eliminated from the 2010 playoffs, having hit .125.
Hirschbeck said later that he was "totally unaware" that a no-hitter in the playoffs had only been called by one other umpire in history. It was said that he received praise for his strike zone, except, naturally, "from one Philadelphia sports columnist," as well the, again, almost instantly-eliminated Reds.
Jim Joyce: Cost Phillies a win with blown foul call
Another man known for something that happened some other time, Joyce has the lightest history with the Phillies of the four departing umps. He largely just stood there and had a handlebar mustache for most of his career. But one night at Citizens Bank Park against the Cubs, Joyce blew a call that would have sent everybody home, back when we were watching every game with our eyes glued to the screen, having visceral reactions to just about every play.
On June 13, 2009, Ryan Howard tied a 2-1 game against the Red Sox with a one-out home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Two innings later, Raul Ibanez doubled and Shane Victorino was intentionally walked. The Phillies just needed a base hit to score Ibanez (maybe) and win the game. So when Greg Dobbs cranked a home run to definitely score Ibanez, the situation solved itself.
But, then, the situation changed.
Jim Joyce called it a foul ball. Conspiracy theorists sprung into action, producing blurred, unsubstantial evidence of Joyce's call being wrong that started to doubt itself in its own captions.
In any case, Joyce told Charlie Manuel he wasn’t reviewing it because he just didn’t want to.
"He said they weren't going to review it. They didn't 'want to review it' is basically what [Joyce] said. I asked him why. I said I wanted it reviewed. He said 'it's my call.'"
"He said he saw it. I asked him a lot of questions about it. He said, 'I stayed on it Charlie.' I said to him it's not where it lands, it's where it goes out. And he said, 'I stayed on it. I've been doing this a little while too.'"
This was two years before Joyce was the umpire who blew Armando Galarraga’s perfect game in 2011.
The Phillies were so demoralized, they accidentally put Kyle Kendrick in the game, who gave up three runs in the 13th and let the Red Sox slither out of a walk-off loss.
Damn it, Kyle! Go home!