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Wednesday, September 29
Four umpire evaluators to be fired

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Baseball plans to fire four employees responsible for evaluating umpires as a part of a reorganization designed to rein in umps, two senior baseball officials said Wednesday.

The four employees, all former umpires, will be let go at the end of the season. They include Paul Runge, the National League's executive director of umpires and a former president of the umpire's union, and three evaluators: Jim Quick and Harry Wendelstedt of the NL and Don Denkinger of the American League.

While the firings weren't announced, they were confirmed by two high-ranking baseball officials who spoke on the condition they not be identified.

"I don't really know," commissioner Bud Selig said. "I've been on other stuff today."

The officials said they were not sure if the employees who were being fired had been notified. Some of the employees have multiyear contracts with the AL and NL, another baseball official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Umpires' union president Jerry Crawford had not heard about the four firings.

"If that's true, it's another sad day for baseball," Crawford said.

Sandy Alderson, Selig's executive vice president of baseball operations, didn't immediately return telephone messages. Runge didn't immediately return a message left on his home answering machine.

In recent years, officials in the commissioner's office have complained the system of having former umpires evaluate the current umps hasn't worked. As part of his plan to eliminate the American and National league offices, Selig wants to consolidate the umpires from both leagues and have them report to Alderson.

Ralph Nelson, a former San Francisco assistant general manager, was hired earlier this year as an assistant to Alderson and apparently will become the supervisor of the umpires.

Runge, a founder of the Major League Umpires Association, was an NL umpire for 24 years before retiring after the 1997 season. Wendelstedt (a 33-year veteran), Denkinger (30 years) and Quick (23 years) retired after last season.

The sons of Runge and Wendelstedt -- Brian Runge and Harry Wendelstedt Jr. -- were among the 25 umpires hired from the minor league earlier this month as baseball accepted the resignations of 22 umps after their mass resignation plan backfired.

Surviving the purge for now are Marty Springstead, the AL's executive director of umpiring; Phil Janssen, the AL coordinator of umpire operations; and Tom Lepperd, the NL umpire supervisor.

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