The Fates of the 22: MLB Umpire Resignations in 1999

This article was written by Chris Williams

This article was originally published in “The SABR Book of Umpires and Umpiring” (2016), edited by Bill Nowlin.

 

The SABR Book of Umpires and Umpiring (2017)In July 1999, as part of Richie Phillips’ strategy to gain bargaining leverage against the leagues, 57 of 68 major-league umpires signed resignation letters and Phillips announced the resignations at a press conference on July 15, 1999.1 Although many of the umpires attempted to rescind their resignations, the Leagues had been busy hiring replacements and ultimately 22 umpires were out of work.

On September 1, 1999 the umpires and MLB reached an interim agreement under the terms of which the umpires were paid for the remainder of the year but would not continue to work.2 Also in September 1999 MLB offered to rehire 10 of the 22 umpires at the major-league level and three at the minor-league level, with buy-out offers for four, and five others allowed to retire, but the Major League Umpires Association, the Phillips union, rejected the offer.3

The grievances of the 22 were submitted to an arbitrator, Alan Symonette,4 who ordered nine to be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.5

As appeals of the arbitrator’s rulings made their way through the courts, MLB and some of the umpires agreed to a partial settlement in 2002.6

In 2004, as part of the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, MLB agreed to rehire three of the 22 and pay a total of $2.3 million in severance pay to another six.7

Finally, in 2006, the last of the outstanding claims were resolved with an award of back pay to five umpires and pension contributions for two.8 The 22, and their fates, follow.

  • Drew Coble (AL): Arbitrator ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits; retired with back pay9
  • Gary Darling (NL): Arbitrator ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits; rehired as part of 2002 partial settlement with issue of back pay left for resolution by courts; shared in court back pay award of $3.1 million with four others (Hohn, Poncino, Vanover, and West)10
  • Bob Davidson (NL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; worked as minor-league umpire; rehired as part of 2004 settlement11
  • Bruce Dreckman (NL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; federal court vacated arbitrator’s decision and ordered new arbitration hearing; claim was settled–rehired without back pay in August 200412
  • Jim Evans (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; received $400,000 severance pay and reinstatement to health benefits as part of 2004 settlement13
  • Dale Ford (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; received $400,000 severance pay and reinstatement to health benefits as part of 2004 settlement14
  • Rich Garcia (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; hired as umpire supervisor in 200215
  • Eric Gregg (NL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; received $400,000 severance pay and reinstatement to health benefits as part of 2004 settlement16
  • Tom Hallion (NL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; worked as minor-league umpire; rehired as part of 2004 settlement17
  • Ed Hickox (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; worked as minor-league umpire; rehired as part of 2004 settlement18
  • Bill Hohn (NL): Arbitrator ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits; rehired as part of 2002 partial settlement with issue of back pay left for resolution by courts; shared in court back pay award of $3.1 million with four others (Darling, Poncino, Vanover, and West)19
  • Sam Holbrook (NL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; federal court vacated arbitrator’s decision and ordered new arbitration hearing; claim was settled–rehired without back pay20
  • Mark Johnson (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; received $325,000 severance pay and reinstatement to health benefits as part of 2004 settlement21
  • Ken Kaiser (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; received $400,000 severance pay and reinstatement to health benefits as part of 2004 settlement22
  • Greg Kosc (AL): Ordered reinstated by arbitrator with full back pay and benefits; retired with back pay23
  • Larry McCoy (AL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; received $400,000 severance pay and reinstatement to health benefits as part of 2004 settlement24
  • Paul Nauert (NL): Arbitrator upheld discharge; federal court vacated arbitrator’s decision and ordered new arbitration hearing; claim was settled–rehired without back pay25
  • Larry Poncino (NL): Arbitrator ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits; rehired as part of 2002 partial settlement with issue of back pay left for resolution by courts; shared in court back pay award of $3.1 million with four others ( Darling, Hohn, Vanover, and West) and was awarded $47,422 pension contribution26
  • Frank Pulli (NL): Ordered reinstated by arbitrator with full back pay and benefits; retired with back pay27
  • Terry Tata (NL): Ordered reinstated by arbitrator with full back pay and benefits; retired with back pay28
  • Larry Vanover (NL): Arbitrator ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits; rehired as part of 2002 partial settlement with issue of back pay left for resolution by courts; shared in court back pay award of $3.1 million with four others (Darling, Hohn, Poncino, and West) and was awarded $42,356 pension contribution29
  • Joe West (NL): Arbitrator ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits; rehired as part of 2002 partial settlement with issue of back pay left for resolution by courts; shared in court back pay award of $3.1 million with four others (Darling, Hohn, Poncino, and Vanover)30

CHRIS WILLIAMS is a lawyer in the employee benefits group at Perkins Coie LLP in Los Angeles and a long-time member of SABR. Having lived in Baltimore for many years her first love is the Orioles, but now that she’s in SoCal she also roots for the Angels and Dodgers.

 

Notes

1 Phillips v. Selig, 959 A.2d 420, 425 (2008).

2 Murray Chass, “Umpires; Arbitrator Named to Rule on 22 Jobs,” New York Times, September 28, 1999, at http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/28/sports/umpires-arbitrator-named-to-rule-on-22-jobs.html .

3 “Baseball; “Arbitrator Orders Baseball to Rehire 9 Umpires,” New York Times, May 12, 2001, at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/12/sports/baseball-arbitrator-orders-baseball-to-rehire-9-umpires.html .

4 Murray Chass, “Umpires; Arbitrator Named to Rule on 22 Jobs,” New York Times, September 28, 1999, at http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/28/sports/umpires-arbitrator-named-to-rule-on-22-jobs.html .

5 “Baseball; “Arbitrator Orders Baseball to Rehire 9 Umpires,” New York Times, May 12, 2001, at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/12/sports/baseball-arbitrator-orders-baseball-to-rehire-9-umpires.html .

6 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006, at http://articles.latimes.com/print/2006/aug/26/sports/sp-bbnotes26 .

7 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

8 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006, at http://articles.latimes.com/print/2006/aug/26/sports/sp-bbnotes26 .

9 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

10 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006.

11 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

12 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

13 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

14 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

15 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

16 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

17 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

18 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

19 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006.

20 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

21 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

22 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

23 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

24 “Six More Will Split $2.3M in Severance Pay,” ESPN.com at http://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=1953109 .

25 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

26 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006.

27 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

28 “Umpires Who Quit Lose Again in Court,” Cape Cod Times, February 18, 2004, at http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20040218/Sports/302189952 .

29 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006, at http://articles.latimes.com/print/2006/aug/26/sports/sp-bbnotes26 .

30 “Umpires Awarded Back Pay,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2006, at http://articles.latimes.com/print/2006/aug/26/sports/sp-bbnotes26 .

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