Umpires who left MLB are set to start over -- in minors

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Former big league umpires Bob Davidson and Tom Hallion will return to work this week in the low minors, more than 3 1/2 years after losing their jobs in the majors.

Davidson and Hallion were among the 22 umps who took part in a failed mass resignation plan in September 1999. Court battles ensued, and several of those umpires were rehired by the majors, some retired and others were caught in limbo.

Now, Davidson and Hallion are starting over.

Davidson will resume his career Wednesday in the Class A Northwest League, calling his first game when Vancouver visits Everett. Hallion will be in the Class A New York-Penn, which opens its season Tuesday.

"There are no promises, there are no guarantees," Mike Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation, said Monday. "They'll be looked at and judged just like all the other umpires in the minor leagues."

"But the fact that they're willing to start at the lowest level shows the desire they have," he said.

Hallion and Davidson both went through an umpire evaluation course in Florida in March, along with 49 aspiring umps, and were hired. It could be several years -- if ever -- before Davidson and Hallion make it back to the majors, where both worked for more than a dozen years.

And they'll begin a long way from where they once were -- working in two-man crews for $1,800 a month and driving around leagues that only last until the first week in September.

In the majors, their salaries were $160,000 and up and they traveled by plane between cities. They also got a per diem that dwarfs what they'll get now to cover meals.

Ed Hickox, a former AL umpire who was among those 22 umps, started on this path last year when he worked in the short season New York-Penn League. This year, he's at the full season Class A South Atlantic League.

The 50-year-old Davidson joined the NL staff in 1983 and went on to work the 1992 World Series, three league championship series, two division series and a pair of All-Star games.

Nicknamed "Balkin' Bob" because of his frequent balk calls, he was considered an outstanding balls-and-strikes umpire. After leaving the majors, he worked as a radio co-host in Denver.

The 46-year-old Hallion joined the NL staff in 1986 and called one league championship series, two division series and one All-Star game. He once ranked in the top 10 in almost every category in a player survey, and had only one blemish -- he was suspended for three games in 1999 for being too aggressive in an argument with Colorado catcher Jeff Reed and coach Milt May.

Hallion worked in the financial field in Louisville, Ky., after leaving baseball. He's sure to see some familiar territory in his return to the game, having worked in the New York-Penn League more than 20 years ago on his way up to the big leagues.

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