Power often is correlated with arrogance. There have been many complaints about the quality of umpiring today, but getting the call right has always been a problem.
Many years ago, the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the Milwaukee Braves in Milwaukee. In the fourth inning, Brooklyn right-hander Bob Milliken was facing Braves’ shortstop Johnny Logan with runners on first and second. There were two outs.
With the count two balls and two strikes, Milliken checked the runners and delivered a fast ball low and away for ball three. Umpire Lee Ballanfant waved Logan to first base, indicating that it was ball four.
Logan’s was completely surprised as he remained at home plate instead of going immediately to first base. After the game, Brooklyn’s legendary statistician, Allan Roth, showed his record of Logan’s at-bat to the press, as presented in the New York Times.
“Foul, strike one. Strike two swinging. Ball one. Foul. Ball two. Foul. Ball three”
Ballanfant called the last pitch ball four.
Braves’ announcer Earl Gillespie, had the count as three ball and two strikes.
“When I saw Logan going to first base,” he told reporters, “I thought I was crazy. Couldn’t believe I missed a pitch.”
What is even more unbelievable is that the scoreboard had the count as 2-2 when Ballanfant signaled the score board keeper that the count was full. The correct count was changed.
The call stood. The Braves had the bases loaded with Eddie Mathews at the plate. Mathews hit a grand slam home run. The Dodgers were livid.
Jackie Robinson led off the fifth inning. He turned to Ballanfant with fire in his eyes and laced into the umpire.
“That was the worst call I ever saw, giving a man first bases on three balls.”
Ballanfant responded with equal venom. “Get in there and hit or I’ll throw you out”
Robinson told the umpire that he had already messed up everything so he might as well throw him out. Ballanfant complied.
Jackie Robinson had a temper, which he was forced to control, but when he knew that he was right, his anger showed.
As he walked to the Dodgers’ dugout after being ejected, Robinson tossed his bat toward the bat rack, but it had been raining. The bat slipped out of his hand and hit the dugout roof, skidding into the box seats. It hit a woman, Mrs. Peter Wolinsky, who was sitting next to her husband, Peter.
Mrs. Wolinsky’s lawyer had the seats directly behind her seats. He was at the game and claimed that getting struck by the bat had left a bump on her head..
The lawyer, James Stern, said neither he nor his client was interest in the money. They were upset but didn’t hold Robinson responsible.
Stern was quoted as stating “There is no question but it was ball three on which Logan was given a base on balls by the umpire. The game was a disgrace and should not have a place in the standings of the clubs”
Robinson immediately apologized. A few days later, he was fined $50 by the National League.
Of course, lawyers are similar to umpires. Stern filed a $40,000 lawsuit against the Robinson and the Braves, claiming both Wolinsky’s were struck in the head by Robinson’s bat. The claim was dismissed on Feb. 4, 1957.
The Wolinsky’s settled out of court for $300 each.
McGowen, Roscoe. “Robinson, Dodgers Face Threat of Suit in Sequel to Bat Tossing.” New York Times. June 4, 1954. p.30.
“Fans Settle Suit Against Robinson.” New York Times. Feb. 4, 1957. p.28.