Getting Rough In The Diamond

MIKE DI MURO, AN American baseball umpire, was sent to Japan in March to try to teach his counterparts there a few things about respect for the men in blue. He had as much luck as Detroit does selling cars in Tokyo. Last week Di Muro, the first American to ump a regular-season game in Japan, was heading home, the victim of a culture warp only Roberto Alomar could love. Di Muro, 29, was constantly berated by players andmanagers; the turning point came when he called a strike on Chunichi Dragons slugger Yasuaki Taiho. When Taiho refused to return to the batter's box, Di Muro ejected him. Taiho erupted, striking the umpire in the chest before team members pushed DiMuro away. No one was fined or suspended, and U. S. baseball officials ordered Di Muro home in protest. Di Muro said he was "shocked." Is this fa-mously polite Japan? In the ba-suboru diamond, yes. Bullying is common in this country of hierarchies-- and umps aren't high on the ladder because they are usually failed or retired ballplayers. After a dubious call, they might apologize. While the umps lamented Di Muro's departure, the Dragons manager caught the sentiment of many players: "Now we can play without anxiety."