The Most Controversial Man in Baseball Is Retiring

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

When you think of sports celebrities, players and coaches immediately come to mind. Umpires and referees tend to fade into the background and don’t achieve notoriety. When we do hear about an umpire, it’s usually not good news. 


The most infamous umpire in Major League Baseball for the past three decades has been Angel Hernandez. Hernandez courted controversy throughout his career in MLB for his bad calls, his inconsistent strike zone, and his propensity to eject players and managers who argued with him.

Fans despised Hernandez and made him the butt of jokes. Players didn’t care for him, either. Detroit Tigers infielder Ian Kinsler faced a $10,000 fine for saying that Hernandez "need[ed] to find another job." Retired pitcher Pedro Martinez said on TBS that "Angel was horrible. Don't get me going on Angel now. Major League Baseball needs to do something about Angel... He's as bad as there is."

Hernandez didn’t improve his reputation when he sued MLB for discrimination in 2017, claiming that the league passed him over for opportunities for promotions and postseason games. He claimed that former Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who took the job as MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer after retiring from managing, had a beef against him. A court ruled in favor of MLB, and another court rejected Hernandez’s appeal.

Now fans and players won’t have Hernandez to kick around anymore. He announced his retirement on Memorial Day. According to The Athletic, the league approached Hernandez about retiring at the beginning of the season, but he held out for a settlement.


Related: This College Baseball Program Goes for One Last Ride After the School Shuts Down for Good

Sources say that the distraction that Hernandez became was a primary driver for the request that he retire. He hasn’t umpired since May 9, but Hernandez’s attorney insists that MLB didn’t force him out.

Hernandez issued a statement, which read:

Starting with my first Major League game in 1991, I have had the very good experience of living out my childhood dream of umpiring in the major leagues. There is nothing better than working at a profession that you enjoy. I treasured the camaraderie of my colleagues and the friendships I have made along the way, including our locker room attendants in all the various cities.

I have decided that I want to spend more time with my family. Needless to say, there have been many positive changes in the game of baseball since I first entered the profession. This includes the expansion and promotion of minorities. I am proud that I was able to be an active participant in that goal while being a Major League umpire.


Hernandez’s attorney told The Athletic last week that the nastiness he experienced from players, managers, and fans weighed on him: “What hurts him the most is the pain that his two daughters and his wife go through when they know [that the criticism] is so unbelievably undeserved.” 

While the league was content to let the courts do the talking, everyone else involved in MLB may beg to differ about whether any of the vitriol is undeserved. I don't wish any ill on Hernandez, but maybe now that he's retired, he can make an appointment with his eye doctor. 


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