Schlossberg on baseball: Game needs Ump in Broadcast Booth • Latino Sports


Schlossberg on baseball: Game needs Ump in Broadcast Booth


Al Clark proved during his book tour last year that he’s the best big-league broadcaster without a job.

The son of a Trenton sportswriter did so well in the broadcast booth of the Triple-A Tidewater Tides that the team offered him a regular on-the-air spot.

Al Clark was the guy who ejected Cal Ripken for the third and last time

Al Clark was the guy who ejected Cal Ripken for the third and last time

Although he lives in nearby Williamsburg, Clark wisely decided to bypass minor-league money — plus the associated hassles of travel — in favor of his current routine of motivational speaking, golf outings, and recreational travel, including occasional baseball cruises and visits to his brothers in Arizona and New Jersey. He just returned from a family destination wedding in Australia.

Putting Clark behind a big-league microphone would be a horse of a different color, however. If he worked for ESPN or FOX instead of a big-league team, for example, Clark could expect to make more than the $375,000 peak he reached as an umpire.

He’d be a godsend — supplying a perspective never before seen or heard since baseball broadcasting began in 1920. Nobody considers an umpire’s point of view but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

As Clark says, there are three teams on the field at every game: the home team, the visiting team, and the umpiring crew. All three teams rely on signals and positioning to perform the best possible job — but only the umps make split-second decisions based upon their experience and judgement.

It’s a difficult and thankless job but the men who do it are required to know, understand, and enforce the rules. Their wisdom would be shown if some network executive would have the courage to think outside the box and bring turn a man in blue into a man in view.

Al Clark (left) and Lou Piniella

Al Clark (left) and Lou Piniella

Clark, who umpired in the majors from 1976-2001, was always known for marching to the tune of a different drummer. Blessed with vocal cords that first won attention at his bar mitzvah, Clark later became the only Jewish umpire in the history of the American League (before the staffs merged). Not surprisingly, he survived anti-Semitic venom from several sources — including two-time Cy Young Award winner Denny McLain.

He also survived a firing by Sandy Alderson, now general manager of the Mets, and a four-month jail term that resulted from a memorabilia scam initiated by an acquaintance.

With those contratemps more than a decade behind him, Clark has made amends. He’s giving up smoking and drinking, making him the best designated driver in Williamsburg, and has even dropped 100 pounds of excess weight, thanks to an April operation that removed much of his stomach.

That surgery has made Clark pain-free, eliminated his diabetes and cholesterol medication, and given him a new lease on life.

At age 67, he’s not only a shadow of his former self but a happy, healthy, and humor-filled friend who follows baseball closely. He’s also an exceptional communicator who knows how to work a room full of strangers.

Whenever he appears in public forums, Clark quickly wows the room with tales of his career — on and off the field — and stories about the game. He’s got tons, since his umpiring log includes Cal Ripken’s tiebreaker, Randy Johnson’s American League no-hitter, Nolan Ryan’s 300th win, the Bucky Dent game,

Al Clark's memoirs were published in 2014

Al Clark’s memoirs were published in 2014

and the Earthquake World Series. He even saw Mount St. Helens erupt while flying from one city to the next.

As Casey Stengel might say, you could look it up.

There isn’t a team in the majors, or a broadcast entity in the baseball universe, that couldn’t improve its sound and stature by adding a guy who spent 26 years in the big leagues — without favoring any one club.

Since FOX just hired Pete Rose, whose affinity for the Reds is painfully obvious, there’s no good reason why somebody shouldn’t forgive the lesser sins of Al Clark and give a good guy the chance he deserves.

He was a pioneer before — the first arbiter to wear glasses on a regular basis, among other things — and should be again. Just e.mail [email protected] and the message will be forwarded.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have long names on the front and the back

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have long names on the front and the back

The man with the longest name in baseball history has joined the team with the longest name: Jarrod Saltalamacchia is now with the Arizona Diamondbacks . . .

On a team that has Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez, did anyone anticipate that Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal would collect eight RBI in a single game? . . .

Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, now 0-5, has tied the dubious record, shared by Zack Greinke (2010) and Frank Viola (1989), for most consecutive winless starts (7) following a Cy Young Award season . . .

So far this season, Atlanta (Shelby Miller) has the edge on its trade with St. Louis (Jason Heyward) . . .

Injured-plagued Tampa Bay took a hit when Alex Cobb went down with likely Tommy John surgery . . .

Don’t look now but the red-hot Minnesota Twins, led by the rejuvenated Torii Hunter, have become a

Welcome home, Torii Hunter

Welcome home, Torii Hunter

surprise contender in the American League Central . . .

One of the reasons Detroit remains near the top of that division is the surprising stick work of Julio Iglesias, the best-fielding shortstop this side of Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons . . .

The Mets were so anxious to give wunderkind Noah Syndergaard time to adjust that they promoted him from Triple-A several days in advance of his Tuesday debut . . .

Bet the Dodgers regret dealing Dee Gordon, who continues to lead the National League in hits and batting by wide margins as he sets the table for the Marlins.




About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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