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Pugnacious ump union rep Phillips dies

PHILADELPHIA — Richie Phillips, a tough-talking Philadelphia lawyer who became a negotiator for Major League Baseball umpires and NBA referees, died Friday of cardiac arrest at his second home in Cape May, N.J. He was 72.

Mr. Phillips' death was confirmed by the D'Anjolell Memorial Home in Broomall.

"We got so much because of Richie: pensions, vacations, better salaries," former umpire and board member Don Denkinger said Tuesday.

Mr. Phillips represented NBA referees in the 1970s and '80s and led MLB umps from 1978 until 1999, when a failed tactic of mass resignations cost 22 umpires their jobs. The setback prompted umpires to abandon his Major League Umpires Association and form a new union, the World Umpires Association.

Mr. Phillips liked to tell the story of how, at age 13 while living in the Philadelphia area, he led a strike of altar boys at his parish over a dispute about their tips. In years to come, his work stoppages involved a lot more money.

Under Mr. Phillips, big-league umpires held a seven-week strike in 1979, another walkout at the start of the 1984 playoffs and a brief interruption on opening day in 1991. There were other work stoppages, too.

"He had his feet on the ground and knew what he wanted," Denkinger said. "He'd keep talking until 6 a.m. if that's what it took."

A little more than that, sometimes.

"Every once in a while, he'd stage a breakdown. Throw something through a wall or something to get attention," he said. "But he wanted baseball to know that we were important, that we were valuable and worth it."

NATS MOVES: Top prospect Anthony Rendon was called up from Triple-A Syracuse, replacing struggling 2B Danny Espinosa, who went on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right wrist. Washington also activated OF Jayson Werth, who had been out since May 2 with a right hamstring strain; designated RHP Henry Rodriguez and LHP Zach Duke for assignment; and selected the contract of LHP Ian Krol from Double-A Harrisburg to shore up the bullpen.

BLUE JAYS: RHP Josh Johnson, out for six weeks with a right triceps injury, and OF Rajai Davis, out since May 10 with a strained left side, were activated from the 15-day disabled list.

GIANTS: 3B Pablo Sandoval returned to the lineup after missing three games because of a foot strain. OF Angel Pagan sat out an eighth straight game with a right hamstring strain.

INDIANS: SS Asdrubal Cabrera went on the 15-day disabled list a day after aggravating his lingering quadriceps injury. INF Juan Diaz was called up from Triple-A Columbus.

ROCKIES: RHP Tyler Chatwood is expected to miss at least one start because of pain in his triceps.

YANKEES: RHP Michael Pineda, coming back from labrum surgery on his pitching shoulder, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Saturday at Class A Tampa.

Pugnacious ump union rep Phillips dies 06/04/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 9:12pm]
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