As four men walked toward home plate today, the impossible happened-the 33,224 fans in sold-out Fenway Park rose in a standing ovation for the umpires.
"That hasn't happened in 100 years," said arbiter Joe Brinkman, waving his hat to the crowd in all directions.
"Yeah," teased Boston's Fred Lynn, "and it'll never happen again."
"This is the greatest day in the history of umpiring," said the veteran Brinkman after Boston's 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees. "We've been dumped on for a century. Now the dumping stops. "We've changed the nature of our profession for generations of umpiring to come.
"What this means," he continued, grinning "is that now i can tip the waitress."
Baseball's 2-month-old umpire strike offically ended today in a celebration of near-total victory by the arbiters.
The perfect symbol of their labor triumph was the ovation here in full view of a national @tv audience, plus signs in the stands like, "Welcome Backs Umps: Wakefield Rhode Island."
"I expected we'd be greeted with warm boos," said umpire Vic Voltaggio. "You know, I don't think any of us (has) ever been cheered before. People must understand that we were right to strike.
"On the other hand, we all know that it's not the end of bitching just because the players know now that somebody's worse than us."
In fact, Voltaggio made a pip of a blunder at third, calling Lynn out when he appeared to he safe by two feet.
"We're going to make mistake occasionally," said crew chief Marty Springstead, "but the point is that we're in control of the game. The players have faith in you. The game isn't one long argument."
"Sure, I was in Voltaggio's face, telling him what a horse-feathers call it was," said Lynn, who knocked in the game-winning run with a two-out single off loser Ed Figueroa in the eighth to cap a two-run come-from-behind Boston rally.
"But you better believe we're all glad to see the umps back. It was nice at the plate to know that balls and strikes would make sense. The amateurs got you so confused you didn't know what to do.
"It was getting worse the longer the strike lasted. Every game was full of bullying," said Lynn. "You could get away with murder in what you could say to those guys. Earl Weaver (Baltimore manager) totally intimidated the crew this week.
"It wasweird to stand at the plate with those home-town (amateur) umps. Some of ours were diehard Red Sox fans. You'd wonder if the guy was thinking, 'Gee, I Freddy gets a hit.'
"But even then, you had no idea what they'd call any pitch. They'd just make incredible mistakes."
The regular umpires admitted they felt mounting pressure as the strike dragged on. "You notice little signs of temper," said Brinkman. "Like I broke two gold clubs last week-first time ever. When the golf game goes bad, what have you got left?"
"In the past, we've been kept in line by our own internal dissension," added Brinkman. "They'd offer one of us a $250 merit raise, and instead of seeing that they were buying us with peanuts, we'd grumble about 'that guy's not a better umpire than me.'
"Even 10 days ago, baseball was trying to do the same thing. They offered the veteran umps big raises to break with rest of us. If they'd broken our union we'd have been busted forever. Instead, we've won and brought dignity to the job.
"We're no longer the scum of the neighborhood. Nobody's ever going to say to me again-and it's been said to my face hundreds of time-'Any guy in a bar can do your job.'"
Compared to the complex issues of the umpire strike, today's game was utter simplicity-it illustrated one crucial pennant-race point: New York has no bullpen and the Red Sox do.
Two tough right-handers, rehabilitated Bill (Soup) Campbell and Dick Drago, with his new motion, blanked the Yanks for the last three innings as Boston was rallying. New Yord had so little faith in fireman Dick (Gas Can) Tidrow that Figueroa, who struggled from the first inning, was left in to lose an 11-hitter.
"This was a (Goose) Gossage game," said Lynn, "But they had no Goose."
For the umpires, however, there will be a goose in every pot from now on-thanks to pay raises that average $7,000-a-man increased per-diem pay ( $53-to- $67) and two weeks in-season vacation.
When four men in blu stood at home plate today and ewaved their hats to a standing, cheering crowd, it was a watershed moment in baseball history.
"We are no longer invisible men," said Brinkman. "We loved it." CAPTION: Picture, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, left, and umpire Les Treitel hold friendly discussion on balk call against Dodgers. Lasord was ejected. AP