(the members of S.O.D. consider revoking their sponsorship of the local Little League side).
The Methuen West Junior League team had jumped to a 3-1 lead in the third inning Tuesday night when its assistant coach gave a simple command to his pitcher, ”Tira lo bien!”
But that prompted an umpiring call, which unhinged the teenagers on the field, enveloping these boys of summer in a very adult controversy about ethnicity and discrimination.
Hearing this cry in Spanish to deliver a good pick-off throw to second base, the umpire halted the game and ruled: English only on the diamond. The unprecedented ruling was quickly condemned by national Little League officials, who yesterday instructed state officials to ban the umpire for the rest of the 2005 tournament.
Little League International spokesman Lance Van Auken, whose organization also runs Junior League, said yesterday there is no rule forbidding Spanish or any other language on the field, and said it was believed to be the first time an umpire tried to ban a language from being spoken.
He said the umpire was concerned that Spanish gave the Methuen team an unfair advantage, allowing the coaches to freely give orders without the other team understanding, though it’s usual to give signs so the opposing team doesn’t know the play.
”He simply overstepped his authority,” Van Auken said. ”Mistakes happen a lot in baseball. We recognize that umpires are humans, just like all of us, and make mistakes like we all do.”
Little League officials would not name the umpire or the district administrator who upheld the English-only call after Mosher protested from the dugout, demanding to see the prohibition in the rulebook.
The umpire and district administrator could not find anything, Mosher said, but the administrator told him he had to uphold the call in order to back the umpire. The umpire said that anyone caught speaking Spanish would be thrown out of the game. At that point Mosher relented, not wanting to hurt his team’s chances.
In an unrelated story, MSG and Fox Sports NY officials continue to employ Fran Healy despite the announcer’s struggles with the English language.