All month long, Outsports is revisiting key moments in gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer sports history as part of LGBTQ history month. Today, following the Nationals’ 5-4 victory over the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series, we revisit April 2019, and the homophobic slur right fielder George Springer said from the dugout about one of the most reviled umpires in the MLB.
Here’s what I wrote about that on May 1, 2019, in an Outsports exclusive report:
Outsports has learned exclusively that Major League Baseball has “disciplined” Astros slugger George Springer for what he said in anger — and on camera — following a called third strike during an at-bat last month in Houston.
Video from the game leaves little doubt that Springer called umpire Angel Hernandez a “fucking cocksucker.” The anti-gay slur resulted in an unspecified punishment, the office of the commissioner told Outsports, in response to our inquiry.
“This inappropriate behavior was addressed with Mr. Springer and the Houston Astros,” according to the office of commissioner Rob Manfred, “and he has been disciplined.”
Outsports asked MLB for details on what kind of discipline was doled out, and when, but we did not receive any further clarification. Two MLB sources who asked not to be identified would only say Springer’s remark did not go unnoticed, and was addressed by the commissioner’s office. We reached out to the Astros for comment but did not receive a response as of press time.
Here’s what led to this:
The Astros were hosting the Minnesota Twins on April 23. It was the bottom of the 8th inning, the count was full, with two on and one out. Springer sat on a pitch that was extremely low and, to him and to every observer but one, landed outside the strike zone. Thinking it was ball four, he started for first base.
Umpire Angel Hernandez, however, saw it differently. He called a strike, and Springer threw his bat. In video of the game, Springer is seen complaining to Hernandez that the ump had called a prior pitch, just like the one that cost him a trip to first base, a ball.
Hernandez has a notorious reputation among most baseball fans, and was dubbed “the worst umpire in baseball” by “For The Win.” A popular YouTube personality garnered more than 1.3 million views with two videos cataloguing all of his bad calls.
A closer look at that seventh pitch to Springer on the night in question may eclipse them all.
You can see from ESPN’s scorecard from the April 23 game, that the Twins’ Trevor Hildenberger got Springer to swing at his first pitch in the bottom of the 8th, high and inside; threw a knuckle curve low and outside for ball one; pitched outside to get Springer to hit a foul ball for strike two; high up the middle for ball two, followed by another foul ball, and then a low ball down the middle for ball three. The called third strike with Springer looking was logged by ESPN as a 94 mph four-seam fastball: low, but right up the middle… and outside the strike zone.
The next thing that happened was Springer’s vulgar and offensive dugout outburst. As upsetting as those two words can be to the LGBTQ community and its allies, it’s even sadder that Springer, saying them on camera, delighted so many straight fans.
There doesn’t seem to be any argument about what Springer said. So the question now remains, what was the MLB’s “discipline”? It could have been a fine, as outlined in the MLB’s “Official Baseball Rules” document.
Section 6 refers to “unsportsmanlike conduct,” and prohibits the use of “language which will in any manner refer to or reflect upon opposing players, an umpire, or any spectator.”
Section 8 refers to “the use of obscene or indecent language, or an assault upon an umpire,” and indicates a fine that must be paid within five days is one form of discipline. Another possibility is benching, or clearing players from the bench and exiling them to the clubhouse.
“When the occupants of a player’s bench show violent disapproval of an umpire’s decision, the umpire shall first give warning that such disapproval shall cease… he shall order the offenders from the bench to the club house” if it does not. Hernandez, however, took no such action on April 23.
But perhaps the commissioner did.
Houston Chronicle reporter Chandler Rome tweeted on Monday, April 29, that Springer was not in the lineup in another game against the Twins, this time at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Less than an hour later, Rome tweeted an update, informing followers that Astros manager A.J. Hinch told him it was merely Springer’s regularly scheduled day off.
But was it? We’ve reached out to the Astros for comment, but the truth is, we may never know.
Springer did ultimately play in Monday’s game. With Taylor Rogers pitching for Minnesota, Springer pinch hit for center fielder Jake Marisnick, batting 9th, but ground-out to third. The Twins beat the Astros, 1-0.
Whatever discipline was issued, it wasn’t on Tuesday night, either, when Springer scored an RBI double in the third inning and homered on the first pitch of the fifth, to help the Astros humiliate the Twins 11-0.
And so ended yet another episode of anti-gay slurs in major league baseball.
Tomorrow — and every day in October — we’ll look back at another moment in LGBTQ sports history.