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Goodbye Balkin’ Bob

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Bob Davidson and three other MLB umps call it a career.

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Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Flying under the radar of yesterday’s announcement from Commissioner Rob Manfred that MLB would be rolling out some new rules next year with or without the players union’s okey-dokey was the word that four MLB umpires were calling it a career. Among them are Jim Joyce—a fine umpire more known for the Armando Gallaraga “Imperfect Game” than any of the good calls he made—the very vanilla Tim Welke (did you know that Tim and his also-an-umpire brother Bill were different people?), the complicated John Hirschbeck, and everybody’s favorite blind squirrel, Balkin’ Bob Davidson.

Davidson’s 28-year career was checkered with amusing and/or infuriating moments, depending on whether or not you had a rooting interesting in the game he was calling. Per Andy Goldblatt’s “Major League Umpires' Performance, 2007-2010: A Comprehensive Statistical Review,” Davidson’s career ejection rate as of 2010 was 4.4%, or twice the major league norm. He placed fourth worst in a 2011 Sport Illustrated Poll of players and managers of umpires.

But it’s really impossible to fully appreciate Balkin’ Bob without seeing him in action.

There was the time in 2016 when he ejected a fan:

There was this from a 2012 Astros-Phillies game where he first interfered with the play, allowing the runner to reach first, then got into a heated argument with then-Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel, for which both he and Manuel were later suspended:

And then of course, for Rays fans, we will always remember this confrontation with Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon from 2010, in which Davidson showed himself to be both as blind as your 90 year old grandma and as aggressive as your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving dinner:

There’s something to be said for conviction. Fair winds and following seas, you cantankerous old gasbag!