Worst anti-umpire tirade ever?

Golden Baseball League umpire Billy Van Raaphorst was the target.  Edmonton Capitals manager Brent Bowers was the horrible, angry, sad instigator.

Jason Whitlock does a good job telling about it here.  No need to reproduce what Bowers said in his on-field tirade, except that it contains about a billion F-bombs–both garden-variety F-bombs and gay-epithet F-bombs.  Bowers flexed his muscles in a “gun show,” mocking Van Raaphorst.  Most incredibly, Bowers actually bent over and grabbed his ankles as he yelled “Is this how you like it, you f-ing [expletive]?”

The GBL’s original response?  A two-day suspension.  But GBL umpires all threatened to not take the field due to the light punishment of Bowers, so it was upped to a season-long suspension, and the Capitals subsequently fired Bowers and required all the rest of their employees to undergo sensitivity training.

A couple of thoughts.

1.  Van Raaphorst said it was all he could to to keep from hitting Bowers.  He could have really hurt Bowers too–Van Raaphorst played center at San Diego State.  But he showed immeasurable restraint in not responding.  I’ll try to remember that next time a coach or parent gives me trouble and I’m tempted to respond negatively.  I’ll never hear anything as bad as this, and if Van Raaphorst can endure it stoically, so can I.

2.  Major, major props to the GBL umpires, who responded heroically.  There’s some history to umpires threatening wildcat strikes due to ridiculously lenient punishments for abusive players and coaches.  I dimly recall an NHL playoff game with replacement officials called in at the last minute (a quick internet search confirms this with a Sports Illustrated article; it happened in 1988), and MLB umpires briefly threatened to walk out on playoff games in the wake of the 1996 Roberto Alomar spitting incident until a district court judge said they’d be in violation of the CBA.  But the GBL umpires actually forced their league into a change.  It’s a good thing, too–if they hadn’t, they’d have been legitimate targets for literally any kind of verbal abuse from all fronts.

3.  Still, as the title shows here, I’ve been thinking:  is this the worst verbal tirade against an official in pro sports history?  (I’ll set aside physical assaults for now.)

I’d imagine early African-American officiating pioneers like Emmett Ashford, Burl Toler, and Jackie White (especially Ashford, due to the nature of baseball versus the other sports) all had to put up with horrendous N-bombs.  Pam Postema put up with some awful garbage as she umpired the minor leagues (a frying pan on home plate?  really?), and I’m sure she heard some unbearable language as well.  Worse, she and some other female umpiring pioneers say they didn’t always have the support of their partners.

But as far as an individual tirade, I can’t come up with anything worse than this one.  I can’t imagine how I would have responded if I’d been in the stands, let alone been Van Raaphorst.  Kudos to everyone except Bowers, for not getting it (among other things he says in his apology that “my mom works with a lot of gay hairdressers and I joke around with those guys all the time”), and the league, for getting it too late.


About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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