DETROIT — Early in the game Saturday night at Comerica Park, baseball was the center of attention. Ian Kinsler homered to give Detroit an early 1-0 lead. Michael Fulmer struggled and gave it back. Standard baseball stats and baseball words applied. By the end, a game which the Tigers dropped 3-2 to end their winning streak at five, all anyone wanted to talk about was umpire Mike Everitt.
Everitt is a 52-year-old ump who’s been working the majors since since 1996, including the All-Star Game in 2006 and on field at the World Series in both 2007 and 2009. His 2016 stat line includes six ejections — four of those came Saturday night.
It’s easy to toss the words “ump show” around but it’s hard to be a major league umpire. That is why they spend years honing their craft in the minors. Their strike zones and decisions are scrutinized by supervisors, as is their on-field demeanor. Earning a promotion is difficult. Only the best of the best make it to the big leagues. And so you end up with 50 major league players in the dugouts of a game, but four umpires standing on the field.
The number of umpires’ names known by the general public is few, and usually not because of exemplary performance. Country Joe West.,Angel Hernandez, C.B. Bucknor, to name a few. The vast majority of them do their job, make a few mistakes, but not enough to have their names remembered.
Saturday night’s home plate umpire, Everitt, falls a little close to that first group than the second. So when after a shaky start to the game Everitt ejected Victor Martinez in the third inning for calling balls and strikes, you could have a conversation along the lines of this: “Who’s that ump?” “Mike Everitt?” “That Mike Everitt?” “Yup.”
The story goes that during a 14-inning game in Detroit in 1997, Everitt’s calls were so bad that he managed to get under the skin of the Angels’ and Tigers’ chapel leaders. There were 16 called third strikes.
The final pitch, like so many of home plate umpire Mike Everitt's calls, appeared so far outside that Detroit third baseman Phil Nevin, in the on-deck circle during Clark's at-bat, said it was "closer to me than it was Tony . . . I almost swung at it."
Nevin, the former Cal State Fullerton star, tossed his helmet toward Everitt and then, as Everitt walked through the Tiger dugout to go to his dressing room, Nevin flung a batting glove at the umpire, pretty much typifying how players--at least batters--felt toward Everitt Sunday.
"It was just so bizarre it was almost comical," [Tim] Salmon said. "It was pretty unbelievable . . . but the umpire was calling them both ways."
Among the victims were Tim Salmon of the Angels, who was ejected for the first time, and Travis Fryman of the Tigers, ejected for the first time that year in a game played on Sept. 8.
Seven of 18 strikeouts were called looking at Comerica Park. Martinez wasn’t one of them; he didn’t stay long enough to even finish the plate appearance.
Martinez after initially only saying a few words, grew more and more heated until eventually throwing his helmet onto the field from the dugout.
The second and third ejections came as a set, manager Brad Ausmus and hitting coach Wally Joyner in the fifth inning during a plate appearance by Cameron Maybin, who struck out swinging one batter after Ian Kinsler struck out looking.
Finally J.D. Martinez was ejected in the sixth inning after appearing to say very little at all following a called third strike.
“I don’t know, man, he had a short leash today, I guess,” J.D. Martinez said after the game, via Matthew Mowery of the Oakland Press. “I just told him he’s having a bad day. Honestly, that’s what I said. ‘You’re having a bad day today, huh?’ And he goes, ‘What’d you say?’ I said, ‘You’re having a bad day today’ and he’s like, ‘You’re gone.’ I said, ‘Why am I gone?’ He said, ‘Because you said it twice.’ I said, ‘You asked me what I said.’ I was shocked,” J.D. Martinez said of his first career ejection. “Yeah, I was kind of laughing at first. I was walking away and I was like, what just happened? Did I just get ejected? Hold on, what did I do? That was it.”
Martinez said he’s always treated umpires with respect and that he meant nothing by saying Everitt was having one. “I was like, ‘Everyone has bad days, Mike. I have bad days. Everyone has bad days. The least you could do is just man up to it.’”
Everitt spoke with Lynn Henning of the Detroit News following the game. Henning served as the pool reporter and Jeff Riger of 97.1 was not allowed into the interview.
““All of the players, the manager, and the coaches, were warned, and sometimes more than once or twice,” said Everitt, who is also crew chief.
“I will be filing a report with the Commissioner’s office in New York.”
Many of the 33,000-plus Tigers fans at Comerica Park voiced their own opinions, booing Everitt throughout the game and sarcastically cheering when he got a call right.
A spontaneous chant of “You suck!” arose quickly following the ejection of Ausmus and Joyner.
Tigers Fans chanting "You Suck" after Brad Ausmus got ejected. pic.twitter.com/9ED5sPyA84— Detroit Moments (@DetroitMoments) August 28, 2016
Even before the ejections the Tigers struggled to get their offense going. Angels starter Brett Oberholtzer lasted just three innings, allowing three hits and two outs but only a leadoff home run to Ian Kinsler in the first inning. The Tigers remained off the board until Andrew Romine drove Miguel Cabrera home with a sac in the eighth.
Michael Fulmer managed to stay on the mound for five innings for Detroit, not a bad feat after he struggled throughout. Kaleb Cowart hit a two-run home run 373-feet to right field to give the Angels a 2-1 lead at the time, and CJ Cron knocked in Kole Calhoun for LA’s third run.
In the end though, the baseball was forgettable. Everitt took over this game and made it his own in one of the more clear episodes of “ump show” that you’ll see. A good gig, if you can get it.