Baseball91's Weblog

October 12, 2009

That Umpire Who Once Was a Bartender: I’ll Have a Double

Filed under: baseball,MLB — baseball91 @ 1:31 AM
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Phil Cuzzi became well known Friday night in Minnesota. Major League Baseball only has umpires along the outfield foul lines in the All-Star Game and for post season baseball. He was the umpire whose only duties down the left field line was to judge fair or foul balls.

Cuzzi is a 54-year old umpire with decades of experience. Sunday night he is the third base umpire. If there is a fourth game, he will be at second base. “Unless you umpire, you can’t possibly understand,” in a phone interview Saturday night Cuzzi told The Newark Star-Ledger . “It happens. It happens at the worst possible time. And it happened to me.” Steve Politi wrote, he was standing barely 10 feet away, with an unobstructed view when he saw the ball curve down the left-field line and bounce. When reached Saturday night by Steve Politi, Cuzzi admitted he felt badly about blowing the call Friday night in which he ruled that Joe Mauer’s drive fell in foul territory.

How the heck did he miss that call?. “We’re not used to playing that far down the line,” Cuzzi told Steve Politi. “I think I may have been looking too closely at it. I never had a feel for where the left fielder was on the play.”

In 1993, Cuzzi was “released” from his duties as a AAA umpire, having been in 140 major-league games. Then in 1996 Len Coleman was the president of the National League staying as a guest at the Short Hills Hilton when he was approached by Cuzzi who was working there as a concierge. Cuzzi had stood in the hallway early one morning, waiting for Coleman’s door to open.

“I initially jumped back, and then he identified himself,” Coleman told the Newark reporter. “He was working at the hotel and figured I’d be going out in the morning. He already had 140 major-league games under his belt. But I told him there was no way he was getting back to the big leagues unless he started at A ball. And that’s exactly what he did. He got back into his car and rode all over the country, umpiring A-ball games from one league to the next, all because he wanted to get back to the majors so badly.”

After being fired as a minor league umpire in 1993, he becoming one of 25 umpires hired after a number of umpires resigned as part of a Ritchie Phillips’ labor scheme gone bad, writes Mark Gonzales in the Chicago Tribune. Gonzales described Cuzzi’s job in 1996 as that of a bartender.

The labor scheme gone bad involved mostly National League umpires in a Phillips’s scheme of having the umpires resign en masse to induce MLB to negotiate for a labor agreement to replace the agreement that expired three weeks before. In the board-conducted election, umpires voted by 57-35 for the Major League Umpires Independent Organizing Committee to represent them, which was the end of Ritchie Phillips. And it saw the likes of Phil Cuzzi to come back to the big leagues.

He still serves up a strong Manhattan.
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1 Comment »

  1. Speaking of homers, apparently bettors keep track of stats like the modern day analytics. Home teams are 16-10 (61.5 percent) in games with Phil Cuzzi behind the plate.

    Comment by baseball91 — October 3, 2017 @ 2:16 PM | Reply

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