Former umpire Ken Kaiser dies at age 72

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Ken Kaiser, who was a big league umpire from 1977 until 1999, has died at his home in Rochester, New York. The cause of death was not given. He was 72.

Kaiser — who this excellent obituary in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle notes spent time as a professional wrestler before he made the big leagues — was a colorful umpire with a colorful strike and out call. That didn’t always sit well with the players but you certainly knew when he was behind the plate. He once split his pants during a game and kept umping because, heck, we all wear underwear, right? No big whoop. I know umpires are supposed to make people mad as a matter of course, but I always sorta liked Kaiser and guys like him. If the calls are good and they’re not of the view that they’re more important than the game I don’t mind a little showboating and humor. Kaiser didn’t always make the right calls, but no other umpires do. I don’t recall him being a Joe West type as far as attitude, but it’s been a while and that’s all ancient history now.

Unfortunately, Kaiser’s end in the game came by virtue of a profoundly misguided labor negotiation tactic during the 1999 season. That’s when the umpires union had the brilliant idea of mass resignations as a means of attempting to create bargaining leverage. It backfired spectacularly as Major League Baseball happily accepted the resignations of the umps it didn’t like but had no real power to fire — Kaiser among them — and re-hired the ones they did like and went on its merry way. Since then there has been labor peace with the umpires, but Kaiser and 12 other umps saw their careers end.

The linked article suggests that Kaiser fell upon some hard financial times after losing his job, but I hope that he still managed to find some happiness all the same. Rest in peace, blue.

Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall

USA TODAY Sports
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.