Akinori Sasaki followed by Laird No. 4…Reason for Shirai Ball Referee’s “Trouble after Trouble”. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Akinori Sasaki followed by Laird No. 4…Reason for Shirai Ball Referee’s “Trouble after Trouble”.

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Shirai faces Laird (right), who spoke out of turn, and announces his ejection (Image: Kyodo News)


Laird, who struck out on an inside fastball that was ruled a strike, yelled at Kazuyuki Shirai, 44, the Lotte umpire, to tell him what was going on. Umpire Shirai was furious. Grabbing the microphone, he announced to the field, “Laird is hereby ejected from the game for abusive language! and announced it to the entire field.

The trouble occurred on May 15 in a game between Lotte and Orix, when Laird, the first batter in the second inning, vehemently protested against the umpire’s decision. The day before, Lotte manager Yoshihito Iguchi had been ejected from the game for verbal abuse. It was the first time in 27 years in the Pacific League that two consecutive games from the same team resulted in an ejection.

After the game, umpire Shirai said, ‘I can’t tell you what (Laird) said. This is not the first time Shirai has gotten into trouble with Lotte; on April 24 against the Orix, he threatened ace Akinori Sasaki when he was unhappy with a decision.

Torao Matsukawa, a first-year catcher, sensed something was amiss and intervened between the two, and Tetsuya Shimada, the umpire in charge at second base, calmed Shirai down and the situation was somehow resolved. Manager Iguchi complained, “The umpire has to be more calm,” said a baseball team official.

If that was a dead ball, quit umpiring!

Shirai, a veteran umpire who joined the Pacific League umpire’s office in February 1997, made his first-team debut in August 2000 in a game between the Orix and Lotte. In September 2009, he became the 98th umpire in history to appear in 1,500 games. However, he has had his share of troubles in the past. The following are the main disturbances in the past.

In July 2010, Takeshi Yamazaki of Rakuten protested vehemently against a strike decision. If that was a strike, I’m going to the minors,” he raged. He was ejected from the game.

April 13, 2001: A play in which two players crossed the plate at home base, which looked like an out, was declared safe by DeNA’s defense. Angry manager Kiyoshi Nakahata hits him with his body and ejected him.

In May 2001, the ball appeared to have hit the grip end of the bat, but was ruled dead. In protest, Hideki Kuriyama, the manager of Nippon Ham, said, “If that’s a dead ball, quit being an umpire! and left the game.

In April 2006, Hanshin ace Messenger was furious over a decision to call a walk on an out. He was ejected from the game after he spoke out of turn.

It is true that Mr. Shirai has a temperamental personality. There are many subtle decisions that make you want to shake your head. On the other hand, as a referee, he is very serious and sincere.

Referees are human beings, and we don’t want to get into trouble or commotion. Mr. Shirai knows that he will clash with players and coaches, but he sticks to the judgments that he thinks are right. It is the umpire’s authority to caution players who express dissatisfaction with a decision. I think there are parts where he went too far, but as for Mr. Shirai, I think he is just doing what he is supposed to do.

Until the 1990s, clashes between bloodthirsty players and umpires were a common sight at ballparks. Mr. Shirai’s words and actions may be more noticeable because the players have become more mature.

  • Photo Kyodo News

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