Day 10: 30 baseball books in April, 2014 — OMG: Doug Harvey’s tribute to himself

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  • The book: “They Call Me God: The Best Umpire Who Ever Lived”
  • The author: Doug Harvey, with Peter Golenbock
  • Vital stats: Gallery Books, 288 pages, $28
  • Find it: At Gallery Books, at Powells, at Vromans, at Amazon.com.
  • The pitch: This story starts on page 170:
    Doug_Harvey_6“The umpire is there for one reason and one reason only: To make sure one team doesn’t gain an unfair advantage. It’s that simple …
    “I used to get a kick out of Tommy Lasorda. He’d come waddling out. He could be nasty but I always kind of liked him. In this game, Don Sutton, who was a hell of a pitcher when he wasn’t cheating, was pitching for the Dodgers and he was pitching a brand new ball. He rubbed it up, and there was a fly out and (umpire) Jerry Crawford got the ball and looked at it and he called me over.
    “‘ Chief, look at this,’ Jerry said. And he showed the ball to me and it had a scab right on the league president’s signature. I didn’t think it was an accident that the mark had been put on that spot.
    “Sutton pitched another brand new ball and on his first pitch Ken Reitz hit a fly out to Rick Monday in center field. Monday flipped the ball to Jerry coming in, and Jerry called me over again. That ball had been scuffed in the same spot at the other one.
    “‘Lasorda, come out here,’ I said.
    “Tommy came out.
    “‘Look at this ball.’
    “‘Yeah? So?’
    “‘Do you see this scuff right here?’ I asked.
    “‘Yeah.’
    “‘Well someone on your ball club is marring the ball’ — I didn’t even say that Sutton was the one marring it — ‘and I have to think Sutton is pitching the marred ball knowing it’s marred, and I’m telling you, if he does it again, I’m going to toss him.’
    “‘Jesus Christ, Harvey,’ Lasorda said. ‘What are you trying be, God?’”For the record, when it happened again later that game, Harvey ejected Sutton. Sutton came back and appealed the ruling to the league officials, bringing his manager, general manager and lawyer. NL president Chub Feeney let Sutton go without a suspension.
    “My next game was in Montreal and as I stood there at third base I was so upset that Sutton wasn’t suspended or fined that I couldn’t keep the tears from coming to my eyes,” Harvey wrote. “I was talking to myself, telling myself that I ought to quit and go home. That’s how upset I was.”p-483560-doug-harvey-autgraphed-signed-hall-of-fame-plaque-hc-45up7l5lvdHarvey, voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2010, some 22 years after he retired, has had some time to pull this together. We know the South Gate native has had health issues that likely have kept him from pursuing it.
    There is some interest in reading over some of the emotions and human feelings an umpire of his stature had over his career, his worth ethic and integrity, his love of the game and wanting to uphold its honor. But it’s lost in the fact that Harvey may really, truly believe he had God-like stature in the baseball world.Could he enjoy the sight of Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Game 1 homer, or Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit — he was on the field for both?
    It seems so. But as Harvey tells on page 200, he was the third-base umpire in that 1965 game at Candlestick Park with Juan Marichal hit Johnny Roseboro over the head with his bat. When called a year later to testify in a court case about the incident, Harvey said he was asked who the Dodgers pitcher was that day. He didn’t know. It was Sandy Koufax.
    “Let me get something straight with you,” Harvey told the judge. “When I walk off the field, unless I have a report to write, what’s over and done with is over and done with. I wash it from my mind.”
    That quote kind of hangs out there as you wonder how much of what Harvey saw in his 31-year career calling balls and strikes in the National League remained in his memory bank.
    God only knows.
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