IF BASEBALL wasn't actually written into the Constitution (and who is to say the Founding Fathers didn't at least make the attempt, abandoning it only when they couldn't agree on the infield fly rule), it is peculiarly American and thus, unlike lesser sports, a place where due process of law should obtain.
It was particularly shocking, then, that Gaylord Perry, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, should be summarily ejected from a game this week without so much as a reading of his rights--and then ordered suspended for 10 days--all because of a particularly noteworthy pitch he threw against the Boston Red Sox.
Mr. Perry has had a long career with a number of teams, during which he has won more than 300 games, an achievement that few in his profession can even dream of. There are those who say that his success has been achieved less by the fluid grace of his delivery than by grace of certain fluids he has used, illegally, to get baseballs to defy various laws of physics.
On Monday, Mr. Perry was in a tight situation when he threw a pitch that, in the words of an American League official, "apparently was so unusual it was rather incredible. One newspaperman . . . said he'd never seen anything like it, said he jumped out of his seat." Mr. Perry, who had already been warned once about this sort of thing, in the fifth inning, was ejected by umpire Rick Miller and subsequently ordered suspended by American League President Lee MacPhail.
Apparently more a student of psychology than the law, Mr. Perry attributed his misfortune to human frailty. He called Mr. MacPhail "a . . . weak human . . . (who) didn't know what to say, didn't know what to do." But clearly Mr. Perry's argument should be with the arbitrary unfairness of the system that allows an umpire to be judge, jury and executioner. For even if his appeal is upheld, his suspension rescinded, Mr. Perry's reputation has been tarnished, and he has been irrevocably cheated out of several innings of baseball during which he might have done even more spectacular feats of dipsy-doodle with the ball and levitated several additional journalists.
Umpire Miller deserves special condemnation for violating a tradition of baseball that is almost as old as the Constitution and has served Mr. Perry well during his career: "The umpire is blind."