A few more weeks like this last one and Joe Brinkman’s wife may want him to reconsider his career as an American League umpire.
Seven days after Brinkman was body-slammed by Cleveland pitcher Julian Tavarez during a players’ brawl in Milwaukee, the 52-year-old crew chief was called an “embarrassment to his profession” by Kansas City pitcher Tim Belcher.
“My wife called me this morning from Florida after reading about this latest thing in the paper,” Brinkman said prior to the Seattle-Kansas City game Saturday night. “After last Friday and this Friday, she was kind of worried about how I was doing.”
Brinkman was working the plate in the first inning Friday night when he and Belcher exchanged words. As Belcher bent down to tie his shoe, Brinkman walked to the mound, and a moment later ejected him.
The enraged Belcher, who had to be restrained by teammates, left reporters a hand-written note taped to his locker in which he said, “I was baited, I was ejected, and I apologize to our team and fans. No apology EVER to umpire Brinkman.”
Brinkman, an A.L. umpire since 1973, disputed Belcher’s account.
“To say he was baited is the furthest thing from the truth,” said Brinkman, loudly booed when umpires were introduced prior to Saturday night’s game.
Brinkman said the problem began when Belcher started directing obscenities at him.
“That’s why I went out to the mound. I said, ‘That’s your break right there. Clean it up. I’m giving you a chance to stay in the game,”’ he said.
Brinkman said Belcher then repeated his obscenity.
“That’s when I ran him. There isn’t an umpire in the world who wouldn’t run him in that situation,” Brinkman said. “If there’s any embarrassment, I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t run him.”
Royals manager Bob Boone, who was also ejected during the fracas, said he was going to protest Brinkman’s going to the mound.
“Going to the mound was just giving the guy another chance,” Brinkman said. “You’re supposed to get your composure back. I was going to keep him in there, but he didn’t want that.”
Reporters seeking access after the game to the umpires’ room were stopped by two policemen who said, “They don’t want to talk to you guys,” but Brinkman said he’d been inside waiting for media questions.
“We didn’t tell anybody we didn’t want to talk,” Brinkman said. “I wondered why nobody came to get my side of the story. I didn’t know what Belcher had said until my wife called me from Florida. That’s how I woke up this morning.”
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