Leon Meadows of Jacksonville, N.C., writes to ask what I think about the antics of Billy Martin and others who rave and rant at rulings by umpires and other sports arbiters.
During my tenure as a sportswriter, I frequently sat in the dugout during the infield practice that precedes baseball games, and I found the bench a poor position from which to judge events on the field.
The bench may not be the worst seat in the house, but it will do until something worse comes along. It is presumptuous for a player or manager in the dugout to think he is in a better postition to call a play than is a properly positioned umpire a few feet away from the play. Protests from the bench on balls and strikes and absurd.
There is some psychological value as well as box office value in letting teammates and spectators know that you are playing with intensity. But kicking dirt on home plate (or at an umpire) is nothing more than a bush league temper tantrum. If we teach children not to kick and scream when they are frustrated, we have a right to expect that grown men will control themselves. And of course touching an umpire in anger must be severely punished.
Billy Martin's skill at managing is undisputed, but his tantrums make me wonder whether he can really be a leader of men.