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Friday, January 31
 
Slur costs umpire 10 days, Opening Day assignment

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Longtime umpire Bruce Froemming has apologized for using an anti-Semitic slur to describe a Major League Baseball administrator and said he won't contest his suspension and loss of an Opening Day assignment in Japan levied against him by baseball Thursday.

Froemming told Bloomberg News on Friday that he received a 10-day suspension without pay for a remark about umpiring administrator Cathy Davis.

You hate to see anybody use derogatory language, whether they're being taped or not. There are things you shouldn't say, and professionals are supposed to live by a certain code.

It's tough to say whether Bruce Froemming's punishment fits the crime. I'm not sure how much money is involved in his 10-day suspension without pay. But at least MLB is showing that the league won't tolerate such conduct. And by not appealing the suspension, Froemming indicates that he accepts the punishment.

I remember an incident with Froemming when I was with the Dodgers in 1996. Froemming came into our clubhouse about a half hour before a game I was pitching. He had some baseballs and asked Mike Piazza to autograph them. Piazza was on the table and the trainers were helping him stretch.

I'm getting ready to pitch -- I was about to go out and warm up -- and my catcher is trying to prepare for the game. And Froemming is telling Piazza this story about how one time Johnny Bench wouldn't sign baseballs for him, and Bench went 0-for-4 that day with three called strikeouts (or something like that). So Piazza stopped stretching and signed the baseballs.

I believe that was inappropriate, and his recent remarks were certainly inappropriate. But when you umpire for 32 years, you've got to be a good ump. You don't last that long by being incompetent or by exhibiting insensitivity. And who knows, maybe Froemming donated the signed baseballs to charity.

Froemming had been scheduled to work the season opener between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 25 but will be replaced by Steve Rippley, Ralph Nelson, baseball's vice president in charge of umpires, told Bloomberg.

"I've apologized to Cathy Davis. I was disciplined and I'd like to move on," Froemming said in an interview with Bloomberg. "This is not me. I made a stupid remark and I'm sorry."

Three league officials independently told USA Today they had heard a recorded phone message in which Froemming made the remark. According to the newspaper, Froemming was upset after being chided by baseball officials for booking his own transportation to Japan and not letting the major league office handle it as he was instructed to do.

Froemming told Bloomberg he made the remark during a conversation at home after speaking with the commissioner's office. The comment was picked up over his mobile phone, which he hadn't turned off.

"It was not directed at anybody," he said.

Baseball officials told USA Today they have a copy of the recorded phone message.

Ken Jacobson, associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said baseball's reaction to the comment was appropriate.

"There is no place in baseball, or society, for this kind of comment," Jacobson said. "We are very pleased that baseball acted so swiftly, that is very important."

Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney told Bloomberg that Davis wouldn't comment on the incident. Nelson also declined to comment on the specifics of Froemming's punishment.

"Our policy is that we don't talk about personnel issues," Nelson said.

At 63, Froemming is baseball's most senior umpire. He was to start off his 33rd major league season by working the two-game, opening series between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners in Tokyo on March 25-26.

Davis also is a longtime baseball employee, having worked many years for the National League with umpires before taking over her present job.

In June 1996, NL president Len Coleman spoke to Froemming after the veteran crew chief went into the Los Angeles Dodgers' locker room before a game against the Mets in New York to get players' autographs. Froemming was reported to have gone into the trainer's room to seek Mike Piazza's signature.

At the time, Coleman said it was against league policy for umpires to seek autographs from players because it was a conflict of interest.

Baseball and its umpires have had a bumpy relationship for a few years.

During the 1999 season, 22 umpires lost their jobs after a mass resignation plan designed by former umpires' union head Richie Phillips failed. Twelve have since been reinstated, with the fate of the others still in federal court.

The WUA is meeting Feb. 22 and 23 in Florida, and umpires will then meet with baseball officials for three days before the start of exhibition games. The WUA and baseball have been fighting since last summer over management's use of a computerized system that rates their balls-and-strikes calls.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.




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