IN A MINOR-LEAGUE baseball game in Florida a few weeks ago, the umpire concluded a dispute over a call he had made by throwing out not the manager or one of the players but a 64-year-old man named Wilbur Snapp, who was in the grandstand playing the ballpark's organ. Specifically, Mr. Snapp was playing "Three Blind Mice" to protest the call. Umpire Kevin O'Connor walked toward the stands, looked up in the direction of the organist and jerked his right arm in the air in an unmistakable gesture. Yer outta here, Snapp -- take a shower.
Not to disparage ballpark organists, all of whom can probably play the "Mexican Hat Dance" as well as J. S. Bach ever could have, but we admire an umpire who knows a grating annoyance when he hears or sees one and has the audacity to use his considerable authority to abate it.
The major leagues need him or someone like him. Such an umpire could begin his tour in the big time by stopping the game the moment fans began doing "the wave" -- a performance in which thousands of people who are not very interested in watching the game stand and sit in sequence, attempting to create the illusion of a gigantic wave billowing through the stands. He would look up and shout, "All right, Sections 26 through 33, yer outta the game," and eight or nine thousand people would sheepishly get up and leave.
After another game he would burst into the locker room where an outfielder was giving a newspaper reporter the details of his weight-training program, including caliper measurements of his various muscles and their increases in tensile strength. "Enough of that stuff," the umpire would shout. "Yer outta the dressing room." As the player fled with only a towel to cover him, the umpire would turn to the reporter and say, "And who do you think you're writin' for? The New England Journal of Medicine? Yer outta the newspaper!"
At the following night's game he would eject 150 vendors for selling beer for $2.25 a bottle and hot dogs for $2, bellowing at them as they exited: "Get outta here with them prices -- they belong in Argentina!" Soon he would be interviewed by Howard Cosell, who would describe him as "an awesome figure bestriding the world of baseball like a colossus with his quintessentially splenetic umpiring style." The umpire would conclude the interview by ejecting Mr. Cosell from the broadast booth.
In time, annoyances would disappear as people sought to avoid the humiliation of being thrown out: fans would stop looking at the TV camera every five seconds to see whether it was on them; owners and players would quit talking about a strike; the commissioner would quietly shelve a proposal to allow 15 minutes between innings for commercials. At that point our umpire could begin to contemplate stepping down and providing for the devolution of his powers upon just and worthy successors, much in the tradition of the better Roman umperors.