Umpires are livid that Major League Baseball (MLB) has sent investigators to their hometowns, asking neighbors a series of questions that include whether the ump belongs to the Ku Klux Klan.
"The questions that we found out are being asked are about beating wives, marijuana use and extravagant parties," World Umpires Association president John Hirschbeck said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "And then finally with this whole thing about the Ku Klux Klan."
"You get someone from security, shows his credentials and starts asking these kind of questions, and right away what's the neighbor going to think other than the umpire is in trouble, he's done something wrong and he's going to lose his job," he said.
Hirschbeck and union spokesman Lamell McMorris said Tom Christopher, the Milwaukee-based supervisor of security and investigations in the commissioner's office, had asked questions about membership in the Klan, the white supremacist group, to neighbors of umpires Greg Gibson and Sam Holbrook, who reside in Kentucky. In addition, Hirschbeck said similar questions had been asked to neighbors of umpire Ron Kulpa, who lives in the St. Louis area.
MLB stepped up background checks last August after it became public that the FBI was investigating NBA referee Tim Donaghy for betting on games. Donaghy pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce, and he awaits sentencing.
MLB asked umpires to sign authorizations allowing the sport to conduct financial backgrounds checks, but umpires balked.
"We did not anticipate that they would approach neighbors posing as a close colleague and friend of the umpire's and asking them questions such as: Do you know if umpire `X' is a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Does he grow marijuana plants? Does he beat his wife? Have you seen the police at his home? Does he throw wild parties?" McMorris said by telephone from India.
"To try to link our umpires to the Ku Klux Klan is highly offensive. It is essentially defaming the umpires in their communities by conducting a very strange and poorly executed investigation. It resembles kind of secret police in some kind of despotic nation," he said.
Contacted on Wednesday, Christopher referred questions to Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations. Manfred did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
"The claims of inappropriate questions by individuals conducting background checks was brought to our attention and looked into," Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of operations, said in a statement. "It was determined that these claims were inaccurate. Questions was conducted with a written script consistent with common practice, and there was no inappropriate conduct on behalf of the investigators."
'READY, FIRE, AIM'
Hirschbeck, who lives in Poland, Ohio, said that he encountered Christopher on a street in his own neighborhood shortly before Christmas. Hirschbeck said MLB was taking what the WUA considers to be a typical heavy-handed approach to umpires and that it would be brought up in negotiations for the next labor contract. The current deal expires after the 2009 season.
"Once again, baseball's favorite way of doing things: Ready, fire, aim," Hirschbeck said. "It's not a good way to start the season."
DRIVING AMBITION: ‘I was excited by playing at the Olympics ... Who knows what’s going to happen? Hopefully, I could have a chance to win a medal,’ Tiffany Chan said After just three tournaments this year, a chance of Olympic glory postponed and two weeks alone in quarantine, golfer Tiffany Chan could be forgiven for feeling sorry for herself. Instead, Hong Kong’s first LPGA Tour player is sporting a broad grin and taking the positives from the game’s COVID-19 shutdown, determined to establish herself in the fiercely competitive world of women’s golf. The talented 26-year-old kept herself fit physically and mentally during the lockdown, and is happy to be back on the fairways since the easing of coronavirus restrictions last month. “When I came back to Hong Kong [in March], I actually did
Eleven-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown, who is hoping to become Britain’s youngest Olympian next year, fractured her skull and broke bones in her left hand after falling from a ramp during a training session in California. Brown posted a video of the accident on Instagram, but reassured supporters that she was fine. “I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them ... but this was my worst fall. I just want everyone to know that it’s OK — don’t worry, I’m OK,” she said. “I’m going to push boundaries for girls with my skating and surfing. I’m going for gold in 2021
It is the land of the world champions, but is it really a soccer country? That is the question that some in France have been asking this week while its European neighbors work to bring the sport back after the COVID-19 shutdown. Debate has raged ever since Ligue 1 decided in late April to bring a premature end to the season with 10 rounds of matches unplayed. By contrast, two weeks have passed since the Bundesliga restarted, while Italian Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora on Thursday confirmed that Serie A would return on June 20, and La Liga and the English Premier
A feel-good campaign allowing fans to have cardboard cutouts of themselves at Australian rugby league games has been hijacked by pranksters, with a notorious serial killer among those making an appearance — while one TV show edited an image of Adolf Hitler into the crowd. The NRL launched “Fan In The Stand” to coincide with the sport’s return at the weekend after its season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters are barred from stadiums under strict health protocols, but can pay A$22 (US$15) to have their photograph printed on a life-size cutout and placed in the stands of