Former Braves third baseman Chipper Jones recalled the funniest confrontation he witnessed with an umpire, during a Braves game in Cincinnati on July 29, 1998, when both manager Bobby Cox and starter John Smoltz were ejected during an 11-5 win. It all started when a Reds base runner, Bret Boone, was called safe at third base.
Booney slides into third. I missed the tag coming in, but he slid off the bag and I held it on him and he was out. Hunter Wendelstedt blew the call. Smoltzie was backing up third, and Smoltzie saw it. I saw it. Booney saw it, but apparently Hunter didn’t see it.
However, Smoltzie and Hunter got tangled up. I think Hunter stepped on Smoltz’s foot. Smoltzie couldn’t move. They bumped. And Smoltzie went nuts because Hunter overreacts immediately, as usual, and throws him out of the game because he bumped him.
It’s the (fourth) inning of the game; it’s the first game of the series, and we’re going to have to go five, six innings with our bullpen, so Bobby went nuts.
And Hunter is a second-generation umpire. Harry Wendelstedt was one of the most respected umpires that I ever knew. Everybody loved Harry. I always talked to him. It wasn’t confrontational. He wasn’t in any way cocky about his job, just loved him to death.
And Hunter and Bobby start going at it. They’re nose-to-nose. Hunter gives some cockamamie explanation as to why he blew the call or why he threw Smoltzie out of the game. Bobby looked him dead in the eye and he goes, “Hunter, you wouldn’t make a pimple on your daddy’s (expletive).” I almost got thrown out of the game because when I heard it I started laughing.
That was the game where Bobby told Smoltzie to go get up on the mound, that he wasn’t being thrown out of the game. Smoltz was standing up there on the mound like a whipped puppy. He just looked real embarrassed, and finally Bobby went and got the baseball from him, and we (brought a pitcher in from) the bullpen.
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As told to staff writer Carroll Rogers