MINNEAPOLIS - Umpire Paul Schrieber promptly issued an apology on Thursday morning for placing his hand on Detroit slugger Magglio Ordonez's back and steering him toward the dugout during a heated confrontation the previous night.
It took even less time for Ordonez and Tigers manager Jim Leyland to accept it.
"In yesterday's game, after I called Magglio Ordonez out on strikes, I inadvertently placed my hand on his back and ushered him away from home plate so I did not have to eject him for arguing balls and strikes," Schrieber said in a statement issued before the Tigers-Twins series finale on Thursday. "I should not have placed my hands on him, period. For doing so, I apologize to both Magglio Ordonez and the Detroit Tigers."
Ordonez argued that the called third strike was low. As Schrieber spoke to him, the umpire placed his hand on Ordonez's back and steered him toward the dugout. That's when the hitter and manager responded.
Leyland was ejected after a vehement defense of Ordonez. A day later, the hot tempers had cooled considerably.
Even before Schrieber made his statement publicly, Leyland and Ordonez said they were sure the umpire's actions were innocent.
Ordonez said Thursday morning he was surprised when Schrieber put his hand on his back, but added that he didn't think Schrieber "had any bad intentions."
"You're not supposed to do that," Ordonez said. "If you touch (an umpire), you get suspended. I'd be home."
Throughout a managing career that started in the minor leagues in 1971, Leyland said he has never seen an umpire make contact with a player like that. But he also made a point to say that he didn't think Schrieber should be suspended.
"I want to defend the umpire in a sense that he did not do it with any intentional, physically really, challenge of the player or anything like that," Leyland said. "I have no problem with that umpire. I do have a problem with what he did. You can't do it. But it wasn't something that was a violent gesture. I think he was just saying, 'Hey, that's it. Get out of here.'"
There is a high-profile history of players and managers being punished for making contact with an umpire, from Baltimore's Roberto Alomar spitting in the face of John Hirschbeck in 1996 to Boston's Carl Everett head-butting Ron Kulpa in 2000. Twins outfielder Delmon Young got 50 games for flinging a bat at an umpire while in the minors in 2006.
Just on Saturday, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for brushing umpire Bill Welke's hat with the tip of his own cap while arguing an obstruction call on Jose Reyes.
But the instances of an umpire initiating contact are so rare that Leyland and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire couldn't recall a similar case.
"Have I ever seen it? I've seen a lot of stuff in the game," Gardenhire said. "I don't know. You'd have to talk to the umpire and all them on that side. I know Mr. Leyland was very fired up about that, to say the least. So, yeah, that didn't look too kosher. I think it was kind of meant to be harmless, but it's really not."
Umpire Mike Winters was suspended for the final five days of the 2007 regular season and did not work the postseason for using profanity aimed at then-Padres outfielder Milton Bradley, but there was no physical contact between the player and umpire.
The Associated Press left a phone message with Mike Port, Major League Baseball's vice president of umpiring, seeking comment.
Leyland went out of his way to compliment Schrieber's performance on Wednesday night.
"I hope the umpire doesn't get suspended or something because I don't think the man did it with any malice or tried to create a problem," Leyland said. "It was just a reaction. It was a reaction he shouldn't have had, but I don't think it warrants any type of discipline, maybe other than a fine. I hope we both get fines and turn the page."
Crew chief Joe West said Schrieber "shouldn't have put his hands on him, but he was trying to keep the man in the game."