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On This Date in Sports August 7, 2001: The Worst Umpire

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Angered at a controversial all earlier in the game, Steve McMichael in an intoxicated state rankles umpire Angel Hernandez by saying he will speak with him after the game before leading the crowd at Wrigley Field in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Hernandez orders security escort the former Chicago Bears defensive lineman turned professional wrestler removed from the stadium. The Cubs would go on to win the game 5-4 over the Colorado Rockies on a botched run down. 

Angel Hernandez was born in Havana, Cuba, on August 26, 1961. Like many Cubans looking to escape Fidel Castro’s oppression, Hernandez and his family emigrated to the United States a year later. Growing up in the Cuban refugee committee in Miami, Angel Hernandez became a National League umpire in 1991. Over the last three decades, Hernandez has consistently been ranked among the worst umpires by players. 

Known for his hot temper, Angel Hernandez has had several incidents that have stained his reputation. Just before the 1998 All-Star Break, Hernandez ruled Michael Tucker safe on a close play at the plate, giving the Atlanta Braves a 5-4 walk-off win in the 11th inning against the New York Mets. Replays showed that Piazza made the tag, and Tucker never touched the plater. The Mets argued vehemently with John Franco getting a suspension for bumping Angel Hernandez. It had been a brutally hot day in Atlanta, and it was clear the umpire wanted to go home.

In 2017, Angel Hernandez sued Major League Baseball, claiming racial discrimination as he had yet to be appointed a crew chief, while not working a World Series since 2005. Hernandez claimed that Joe Torre, now overseeing the umpires held a grudge from several run-ins during Torre’s managerial career. However, the numbers do not lie since the start of replay; Angel Hernandez is one of the most overturned umpires. In the 2018 ALDS, he had four calls at first base overturned in one game alone. Following the game, Pedro Martinez called him the worst there is.  

A study conducted by Boston University in 2019 stated that Angel Hernandez made 19 incorrect calls a game when assigned the duty of calling games behind home plate, averaging 2.2 missed calls per inning far higher than any other umpire in Major League Baseball. He once was forced to return autographed baseballs from Homer Bailey, after asking the Cincinnati Reds hurler to sign a dozen balls after he worked home plate of his 2012 No-Hitter. 

For nearly 30 years, Angel Hernandez had made a name for himself as the worst umpire in baseball. Even in 2020, he continues to show his ineptitude as he had a moving strike zone in Wednesday’s game between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, drawing the ire of Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin. 

The lawsuit that Angel Hernandez still carries on, but there are millions of fans who can testify that Hernandez's attitude towards players, coaches, and even fans is what has kept him from promotions in the game. There is a saying that if you know an umpire’s name, he sucks, and Angel Hernandez is perhaps the most well known and without a doubt the most notorious umpire in baseball.