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Battered, Bloodied in Game : Slow-Pitch Umpire Was Not Safe at Home Plate

November 07, 1985|DICK WAGNER | Times Staff Writer

When he decided this year to become an umpire, Hal Smith knew he would be in for a certain amount of abuse. He had expected to be called obscene names and occasionally have dirt kicked on his feet. But he never thought players would attack him with bats and that he would have to leave a diamond with his face battered and bloodied.

But on Halloween night, slow-pitch softball turned scary and for 10 minutes at Chittick Field in Long Beach, Smith feared for his life.

"I was getting hit all over," said Smith, who is 6 feet 1, 230 pounds, a competitive weightlifter and a former football player at Northwestern University. "Everyone I saw had a bat. Five or six guys were working on me."

Two players on the Pacific Supply Wrecking Crew team, Greg Sinsun, 19, and his brother, Benito Sinsun, 20, both of Long Beach, were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. They were freed on $2,000 bail.

"No charges have been filed yet," said Long Beach Police Det. Joe Thompson, who indicated he may take the case to the district attorney for review at the end of the week. "We're waiting to see what will happen with the victim. It looks like the injuries are not real serious."

Smith suffered contusions above his right eye and a severely bruised cheekbone. He said he saw double right after the incident but that his vision has since improved.

"It looks like I'm healing pretty fast," Smith, 33, of Bellflower, said Wednesday.

The incident occurred during a game between Pacific Supply Wrecking Crew and Quinn's Pub and Grub, which Quinn's won, 15-1. Smith said about 20 people were watching the game in the stands.

Smith said he almost forfeited the game to Quinn's because Pacific Supply had arrived a few minutes late. "I asked one of the players why they were late and he said, 'We were messing around at the bar,"' Smith said.

He gave this version of what happened:

Greg Sinsun, the Pacific Supply third baseman, had been arguing with members of another softball team, who were in the stands waiting to play a later game and whom he apparently believed were taunting him after Pacific Supply made a three-error play. That team had beaten Pacific Supply, 18-3, the previous week.

When Greg Sinsun came to bat in the top of the sixth inning, he walked toward the team that was to play later and, according to Smith, said, "You guys stick around, and when the game is over we'll see what you're made of."

"Settle down and play ball," Smith said he told Greg Sinsun.

Smith said Greg Sinsun turned to him and said, "I'll just beat . . . you too."

"You're out," Smith hollered and ejected the player.

Smith said he then told the Pacific Supply coach, "You've got 60 seconds to get him off the diamond."

Smith said he backed away but Greg Sinsun, whom Benito Sinsun said is about 5 feet 9, followed him with his bat and raised it in the air.

"I reached up, grabbed the bat and had him under control," Smith said. "I was just trying to get the bat away from him. Then I got hit (with a bat) from behind."

That alleged attack, police said, was made by shortstop Benito Sinsun, who was the next batter.

"That knocked me loose from the third baseman's bat," Smith said. "Then three or four other guys with bats came out and I was getting hit all over."

Benito Sinsun, however, told The Times Wednesday that Smith provoked the fight.

"The umpire threw him (Greg Sinsun) out and then came up to my brother, pointing at him, getting in his face, and then slapped him upside the head," Benito Sinsun said.

"My brother backed away and cocked his bat and the umpire came at him. The other team (Quinn's) came out and jumped on my brother."

Smith, however, said he didn't slap Greg Sinsun.

"It might have looked that way when I was trying to get the bat from him," Smith said.

Benito Sinsun, who said his team carries only four bats to its games, denied hitting Smith with a bat.

Greg Sinsun declined comment when contacted by The Times.

Ken Matsagas, who was catching for Quinn's, said, "I couldn't believe what was happening. It lacked any human traits. These people (Pacific Supply players) were in a rage. These guys didn't want to break it up. There was an intensity and a desire to fight that I can't understand where it came from."

Smith said the Quinn's players--several of whom suffered cuts and bruises--broke up the fight.

"If they hadn't it's conceivable I could have been beaten to death," Smith said.

The incident infuriated officials of the city's Parks and Recreation Dept., which oversees one of the largest amateur softball programs in the country with more than 1,000 teams and 11,000 players. Department officials said it was the first time an umpire has been attacked.

"People like that should never be allowed to participate in organized sports." said James D. Ruth, parks and recreation director.

The Sinsuns have been banned for life by the recreation department from playing softball in Long Beach, according to Jack Deaton, sports supervisor for the department.

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