NEW YORK (AP) -Umpires are livid that Major League Baseball has sent investigators to their hometowns, asking neighbors a series of questions that include whether the ump belongs to the Ku Klux Klan.
``The questions that we found out are being asked are about beating wives, marijuana use and extravagant parties,'' World Umpires Association president John Hirschbeck said in a telephone interview Wednesday. ``And then finally with this whole thing about the Ku Klux Klan.
``You get someone from security, shows his credentials and starts asking these kind of questions, and right away what's the neighbor going to think other than the umpire is in trouble, he's done something wrong and he's going to lose his job.''
neighbors of umpire Ron Kulpa, who lives in the St. Louis area.
Baseball stepped up background checks last August, after it became public that the FBI was investigating NBA referee Tim Donaghy for betting on games. Donaghy pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce, and he awaits sentencing.
MLB asked umpires to sign authorizations allowing the sport to conduct financial backgrounds checks, but umps balked.
``We did not anticipate that they would approach neighbors posing as a close colleague and friend of the umpire's and asking them questions such as: Do you know if umpire `X' is a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Does he grow marijuana plants? Does he beat his wife? Have you seen the police at his home? Does he throw wild parties?'' McMorris said by telephone from India.
``To try to link our umpires to the Ku Klux Klan is highly offensive. It is essentially defaming the umpires in their communities by conducting a very strange and poorly executed investigation. It resembles kind of secret police in some kind of despotic nation.''
Contacted Wednesday, Christopher referred questions to Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations. Manfred did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
``The claims of inappropriate questions by individuals conducting background checks was brought to our attention and looked into,'' Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of operations, said in a statement. ``It was determined that these claims were inaccurate. Questions was conducted with a written script consistent with common practice, and there was no inappropriate conduct on behalf of the investigators.''
Hirschbeck, who lives in Poland, Ohio, said that shortly before Christmas, he encountered Christopher on a street in his own neighborhood. Hirschbeck said MLB was taking what the WUA considers to be a typical heavy-handed approach to umpires and that it would be brought up in negotiations for the next labor contract. The current deal expires after the 2009 season.
``Once again, baseball's favorite way of doing things: Ready, fire, aim,'' Hirschbeck said. ``It's not a good way to start the season.''

Top MLB Public Bets

MLB Top Stories

Thumbnail A's vs. Angels Prediction Will the Angels complete their series sweep of the A's when the AL West rivals meet again tonight at 10:07PM ET?
Thumbnail Yankees vs. Red Sox Prediction Will the Yankees upset the Red Sox for a second straight night when the AL East rivals clash at 7:10PM ET?
Thumbnail Blue Jays vs. Cards Game 2 Prediction Will the Blue Jays pull off the upset in Game 2 of their double-header versus the Cardinals tonight at 6:15PM ET?
Thumbnail Astros vs. Indians Pick Will the Cleveland Indians find a way to close out a series win over the Houston Astros when the two meet up tonight at 6:10PM...
Thumbnail Dodgers vs. Giants Prediction Will the series finale between the Dodgers and Giants be low-scoring for bettors at 3:45PM ET?

MLB Team Pages