Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Evil Umpire: Who Once Called Pitches For Randy Johnson?

Illustration for article titled The Evil Umpire: Who Once Called Pitches For Randy Johnson?

Tom Verducci wrote up Randy Johnson in last week's Sports Illustrated and included this odd — and oddly unnoticed — anecdote:

So dominant was Johnson that before a game in 1993, the home plate umpire told Mariners catcher Dave Valle, "They don't even need you with Randy pitching."

"What are you talking about?" replied Valle, who would not name the ump.

"He's so good they don't need you. Let me call the pitches tonight."

"I let him call every pitch." recalls Valle, to whom the umpire whispered pitches under his breath.

An overpowering Johnson went the distance in a Mariners victory.

This is of course wildly implausible, and very likely in the same vein of charming but plainly obvious bullshit as the famous tale about catching Greg Maddux with your eyes closed. But let's assume for a moment that it's entirely true. Who was the ump? Verducci gives us enough clues — a complete-game victory in 1993, with Dave Valle catching — to whittle the list down to these seven guys:

Jim McKean, vs. Boston, April 21 (Johnson's line: 4 hits, 0 ER, 8 strikeouts)
Tim Welke, vs. Cleveland, April 26 (7 hits, 3 ER, 7 strikeouts)
Dale Scott, at Oakland, May 16 (1 hit, 0 ER, 14 strikeouts)
Ken Kaiser, at Toronto, Aug. 20 (3 hits, 1 ER, 11 strikeouts)
Joe Brinkman, vs. Milwaukee, Sept. 5 (5 hits, 2 ER, 13 strikeouts)
Ed Hickox, vs. Texas, Sept. 21 (3 hits, 0 ER, 11 strikeouts)
Drew Coble, at Minnesota, Oct. 1 (9 hits, 2 ER, 7 strikeouts)

Let's toss Coble and Welke, Johnson being a notch below dominant in those starts. It's doubtful that an ump would want to dick around with either a pennant race (which eliminates Hickox; the Rangers were four-and-a-half out at the end of the day) or a no-hit bid (which absolves Dale Scott; the A's didn't get a hit until the ninth). Two of the remaining three presided over fairly tight games.

And the other one? Well, first of all, it should be said that the moral of the story here is that Dave Valle is very probably full of beans. But if I had to name a suspect, I'd go with Jim McKean, who umped Johnson's 5-0 shutout in April and who in 1993 tied a record by calling the 10th no-hitter of his career (he is now retired). According to his Wikipedia page, McKean claims to have played in something called the Canadian Football League, which is highly suspicious because everyone knows that no such league exists.


Randy Johnson Will Grind Your Bones To Make His Bread [Sports Illustrated]

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`