A day after the All-Star game at Boston's Fenway Park July 13, not everyone was still aglow from the star-studded event. Fifty-three of the 66 unionized Major League Baseball umpires announced their resignations, effective Sept. 2, more than four weeks before the end of the season. But some umps are breaking ranks with their union. Two days ago, five American League umpires decided not to resign. As many as 8 to 10 more umpires might change their minds. This would mean that at least one-third will stay on the job.
Q: What is behind the resignations?
A: Umpires were upset when National League president Len Coleman suspended umpire Tom Hallion July 2 for three days for bumping a player. Tensions have been running high since September 1996 when Roberto Alomar was suspended for only five games for spitting in umpire John Hirschbeck's face. Umpires attempted to strike during the '96 postseason, but baseball owners obtained an injunction in federal court. By mutual agreement, umpires cannot go on strike. Hence the resignations.
Q: Who would replace the umpires if they resigned?
A: Minor-league umpires. But college and high school umps have been called up to fill positions in previous work stoppages.
Q: How much do umpires earn?
A: The umpires have a contract that runs through this season and pays them $75,000 to $225,000 annually. By resigning, umpires can collect a total of $15 million in severance pay. Most senior umps would collect $400,000.
Q: When have other work stoppages occurred?
A: In 1995, umpires were locked out by a players' and owners' disagreement and missed the first 86 games of the season. Umpires went on strike in 1979 and 1985, which prompted the hiring of replacement umpires.
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