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BASEBALL EXTRA | BASEBALL NOTES

Ump Is Called Home After Japan Incident

June 10, 1997

It was an experiment that was supposed to bring the United States and Japan closer together. Instead, it ended with punching and shoving and a shower of garbage.

Mike Di Muro, the first American umpire to work full time in Japanese professional baseball, is leaving the country only three months into the season because of an on-field fracas in which several players and coaches shoved and struck him during a game.

U.S. Major League Baseball officials called Di Muro home over the incident Monday.

Di Muro, who was invited to Japan this season to help improve the quality of Japanese umpiring, said he and American baseball officials he consulted were "shocked" by last Thursday's dust-up, which involved at least five Japanese players and coaches.

In that game, Yasuaki Taiho of the Chunichi Dragons contested Di Muro's strike call. Di Muro promptly ejected him from the game.

In the melee that followed, when dozens of players and the Dragons' manager gathered nose-to-nose around Di Muro in protest, Taiho pushed Di Muro in the chest.

As is common practice in Japanese games, the head umpire got on the public address system and explained the incident to the crowd. Di Muro said the announcement so enraged the crowd that two young men climbed the screen behind home plate to scream at him, and other people threw plastic noise-makers and garbage toward the field.

Taiho's ejection in that game was the only penalty handed down for the dispute, and there were no suspensions. The Americans were incredulous that none of the players or coaches involved was fined or suspended.

"What will the next guy be allowed to do if I call a strike--take a bat to my head?" Di Muro said. "There's a great difference in the style of baseball here and in America, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I would hope that when you're talking about a physical assault, there would be no acceptance of that no matter where you are."

Di Muro, 29, said American officials would not allow him to continue working in a league where players can rough up umpires without meaningful punishment.

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Paul Blair, who won eight Gold Gloves with the Baltimore Orioles from 1964 through '76, was named manager of Coppin State College in Baltimore.

Blair's only managing experience was at Fordham University in 1983, where he was 14-19.

A Baltimore resident since 1965, Blair, 53, ended his playing career with the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds and sandwiched the Fordham job between brief stints as an outfield instructor with the Yankees and Houston Astros.

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The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. will open a new exhibit Thursday tracing the involvement of blacks in baseball, from the second half of the 19th century to the present.

Among the items on display will be Jackie Robinson's UCLA letter sweater and military uniform and Satchel Paige's St. Louis Browns' jersey.

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Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., the major league home run leader with 25, leads American League players in fan balloting for the All-Star game. Griffey, selected to the AL's starting lineup each year since 1990, has received 1,205,581 votes for the July 8 game at Cleveland. He was the overall vote leader in 1994 and 1996.

Baltimore third baseman Cal Ripken, a 14-time all-star who has started the last 13 years at shortstop, is second overall at 872,547. With Ripken's shift to third base, Seattle's Alex Rodriguez tops shortstops at 646,906.

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Relief pitcher Jeff Brantley of the Reds will have arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to find out why he has pain when he throws. He has been on the disabled list since May 20. . . . The New York Yankees acquired Chad Curtis, an outfielder on injury rehab, from the Cleveland Indians for David Weathers, a pitcher designated for assignment in April. . . . The Rangers announced minor-league rehabilitation assignments for second baseman Mark McLemore and pitcher Danny Patterson. McLemore, who has been on the disabled list since May 15 because of hand and knee injuries, joined triple-A Oklahoma City. Patterson, disabled since May 22 because of small tears in his pitching shoulder, was sent to double-A Tulsa. . . . The Orioles' Eric Davis will have an operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Friday to remove a mass in his abdomen. He is expected to miss about eight weeks. . . . Expos left-hander Carlos Perez was selected NL player of the week after pitching two shutouts.

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