Frank Pulli, known to his peers as "Ish" passed away this morning after a long battle and complications with Parkinson's disease.
Frank Pulli was a Major League Umpire "and an excellent one" as Hall of Fame Umpire, Doug Harvey (and former partner) would say. A 28 year veteran of the National League, Pulli umpired 3,774 National League games, Four World Series (1978,1983,1990 Crew Chief, and 1995), Six National League Championship Series (1975,1979,1986,1991,1993, and 1997), and Four National League Divisional Series (1981, 1995,1996, and 1998). He worked two All Star games in 1977 and was the Crew Chief in the 1988 Summer Classic.
He started his umpiring in Easton, Pennsylvania where he grew up and in 1968 he worked the final championship game of the VFW Teener League National Championship. He later umpired in the National League (6/20/1977)with the catcher on the losing team of that Championship game.
At graduation from Umpire's School, he finished high on a list of candidates to be put into the minor leagues and within four years the National League purchased his contract from the International League and Frank Victor Pulli became a full time National League Umpire in the spring of 1972.
When Major League Baseball started the Umpire Development Program, Frank was asked by Barney Deary (Director of Umpire Development) to be one of the lead instructors.
Always known for his hustle and great positioning, Frank was an excellent teacher of umpiring. Frank mentored the likes of Jerry Crawford, Ed Montague, Stever Palermo, Richie Garcia, Mike Reilly, Eric Gregg, Joe West, Charlie Williams, Steve Rippley, Drew Coble, Tim McClelland, Angel Hernandez, Steve Rippley, Bob Davidson, Ed Rapuano, Larry Poncino, Tom Hallion, and Greg Bonin.
One of twenty two umpires that were illegally terminated by Major League Baseball in 1999, Frank was awarded his job back with back pay and benefits and even though he never returned to the field he helped numerous umpires in a supervisory capacity with MLB... a compliment to his ability proving that Major League Baseball fired him and the other twenty one to break the union and not because of his or their work.
In 1999 he was the first umpire to look at a replay to try and make sure his decision was correct, in a game between the Marlins and Cardinals. He was criticized by the National League for doing so, but, the very play that he took a look at in 1999 was the first thing Major League Baseball endorsed in their instituting of "Instant Replay."
Frank is survived by his brother Mickey, his wife Kim, and children Vickie, Michael, Michelle, Frank, Jr., Candace, and Nickie.
Frank Victor Pulli, a great brother, husband, teacher, partner, and umpire gone at the age of 78.
Richie Phillips, who helped organize NBA referees and headed the union for Major League Baseball umpires for more than two decades died on Friday. He was 72.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, which first reported his death, said the cause was cardiac arrest.
Phillips, an attorney from Philadelphia, formed NBA referees into a negotiating group in 1976 and helped them win better pay and working conditions.
In 1978 he began a run of more than 20 years as executive director of the Major League Umpires Association, where he helped them make gains in wages and benefits several times until a bargaining strategy in 1999 failed and caused membership to flee the union.
Phillips encouraged umpires to resign in the final month of the 1999 season, but the move backfired when 42 of the 50 umpires who followed his advice had their resignations accepted and were replaced by minor league umps. There were 20 who gained reinstatement but 22 never did and the umpires en masse left Phillips and the MLUA and formed the World Umpires Association.
Hard-driving negotiating tactics were part and parcel for Phillips-led organizations.
The NBA referees won their first improvements in 1976 when they threatened a strike before the playoffs. The baseball umpires had several work stoppages including a seven-week strike in 1979 and a walkout at the start of the 1984 postseason.
Under Phillips, the umpires got pensions and better salaries. The salary of a rookie umpire was $17,500 when he started and at least $95,000 in 2000, after he’d left.
“We got so much because of Richie – pensions, vacations, better salaries,” former ump Don Denkinger told the Associated Press. “He had his feet on the ground and knew what he wanted. He’d keep talking until 6 a.m. if that’s what it took.”
Sure, the San Francisco Giants' surge to a two-game advantage over the Tigers as the series turns to Detroit is a contributing factor, though one reason for baseball blandness this late in the 2012 postseason has been repeated by broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver several times, albeit in a very covert way.
This umpiring crew has been on point.
As said by Buck during Game 2 on Thursday, the 2012 World Series umpiring crew has called all close plays correctly, securing an accuracy of 100 percent through the championship round's initial set by the Bay.
Before the World Series began, umpire Brian O'Nora told his native Austintown, Ohio's WYTV that, "[Officiating is] the only job that you have to get everything right, you have to be perfect and get better."
The 2012 World Series umpiring crew meet with managers Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy prior to Game 1. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
As if putting this theory immediately into practice, O'Nora's crew for this year's Fall Classic has been exactly perfect—yet managed to improve from Game 1 to Game 2.
Using similar criteria employed by ESPN during their 2010 study, which found that umpires, on average, miss one out of every five non-balls/strikes close calls—a study that similarly found only 1.3 calls per game were, on average, considered "close" enough to merit video review, prompting extrapolation of the data to conclude that, of all calls that come their way, umpires are 99.545 percent accurate—Game 1 of the 2012 World Series contained two close calls, while Game 2 housed four.
Let's review them.
World Series Game 1
In the bottom of the first inning, Giants batter-runner Marco Scutaro was ruled out at first base, umpire Dan Iassogna judging that first baseman Prince Fielder caught a throw from teammate Jhonny Peralta scarcely before Scutaro's foot touched first base. Replays indicate the call was correct.
In the fourth inning, Delmon Young's chopper into the ground at home plate resulted in a double play after home plate umpire Gerry Davis ruled the squibberfair as Giants catcher Buster Posey alertly tagged Young and fired to retire baserunner Fielder at second base. Replays—and education regarding what constitutes "fair territory"—indicate the call was correct.
World Series Game 2
In a game-changing play, a relay from Giants right fielder Gregor Blanco to Scutaroto Posey retired baserunner Fielder as he attempted to score from first base on an early double by Young. Replays indicate the call was correct, as did Buck: "Great call by Dan Iassogna."
In the third inning, Scutaro grounded out, diving head first into first base as Fielder received a Peralta throw. Though the slide sure complicated matters at the bag,replays indicate the call was correct, with McCarver adding: "Excellent call by first base umpire FieldinCulbreth."
With one on and none out in the seventh inning, Brandon Belt came within inches of hitting into a rally-killing double play with his grounder to first base. Instead, Fielder caught the chopper in foul territory, allowing Belt to walk and baserunner Hunter Pence to advance to second before scoring on a subsequent double play. Replays indicate the umpires' foul ball call was correct.
When Angel Pagan gave America free tacos with his eighth-inning stolen base, umpire Brian O'Nora was on top of the call, which, in real time appeared quite close. Replays indicate the call was correct.
Yes, the umpires have been perfect through the first two games of this 2012 World Series; Tigers manager Jim Leyland even praised Iassogna for calling his player out at home plate during his Game 2 post-game press conference.
Yet by the same token, some fans and the media covering baseball have felt a collective knot, a yearning for one more source of controversy.
After Holbrook's correctly invoked infield fly ruling, Braves fans threw debris on the field in protest. Pictured above is right field umpire Rob Drake. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
When Sam Holbrook called an infield fly during the inaugural NL Wild Card Game—though the call was correct—the mere possibility that an umpire's gaffe had cost the Atlanta Braves a chance to advance in the postseason quickly became front page fodder for that most familiar of gripes and qualms: expanding instant replay in MLB.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has stated that in 2013 professional baseball will expand instant replay to include traps and fair/foul calls.
How about machines to determine intent vis-à-vis check swings and throwing at batters, too?
How about a polygraph?
Seizing on a trend, all umpire calls during the 2012 postseason have grown subject to enhanced scrutiny—a benign incorrect call by Jim Joyce quickly generated syndicated headlines, while Joe Girardi's ejection following an incorrect call at second base led to a rash of new articles with very familiar motifs, as did a tag attempt during the St. Louis Cardinals-Giants NLCS.
So during Game 2 of the World Series, when Buck praised the umpires for a job well done, ESPN editor/writer and former Baseball Prospectus editor Christina Kahrlcouldn't help but respond: "It's like they're just daring Cowboy Joe West to get involved somehow, no?"
In 2007, the Hardball Times comprehensively reviewed MLB umpire strike zones, with author Jonathan Hale concluding that, of all umpires, Country Joe "had the fewest number of extra balls and strikes, which is a sign of consistency." For that reason, West received Hale's "top vote."
Evidently, given his 2012 World Series assignment, West also received MLB's "top vote."
Dating back to 2006—and again in 2011—West has found himself on both sides of a players' poll, having been voted one of the best umpires in baseball while simultaneously being named one of the worst in both years' surveys. Sounds like a Joe West strike zone is needed to establish some semblance of consistency.
Umpire Joe West has paradoxically been ranked as one of the best—and one of the worst—umpires in Major League Baseball. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
As subjective as they may be, however, the polls' paradoxical dichotomy establishes the grand conflict of sports officiating: "All fans complain about officials. All fans believe the officials hate their team and have it out for them. This despite zero evidence supporting that belief."
So, for the time being, praise them. Offer up your respect while you still can.
Because that extremely misleading one-in-five close call statistic will come into play soon enough—the umpires are on a six-close call correctness streak.
And after all, isn't that what we all want: more justification for an expanded instant replay system we have absolutely no idea how to logistically and fairly implement?
Heading the crew of umpires for the 2012 World Series Umpires is 29 year veteran Gerry Davis. This will be Davis' fifth World Series and when he works the first game behind the plate he will break the all time record for most postseason games worked by a major league umpire when he passes Jerry Crawford and Bruce Froemming. Davis will be joined by first time World Series Umpires Brian O'Nora (16 year veteran) and Dan Iassogna (11 year veteran). Also selected to work his second World Series was Fieldin Culbreth (16 year veteran) and old guard crew chiefs Brian Gorman (21 year veteran working his third World Series) and Joe West (35 year veteran working his fifth World Series).