DETROIT -- Tim McClelland marked his 4,000th game as a Major League umpire in the Tigers' 9-3 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. The evening began pleasantly enough, but McClelland didn't get through his milestone game without some controversy.
McClelland was congratulated by the managers, Ned Yost of the Royals and Jim Leyland of the Tigers, during the pregame conference at the plate, and he posed for a photo with them and his three umpiring cohorts, Brian Runge, Marvin Hudson and Ted Barrett. McClelland, the crew chief, was stationed at second base.
All went well until the ninth inning, when Jeff Francoeur's bid for a home run bounced off the top of the left-field wall, then was speared by center fielder Austin Jackson. Though the ball was in play, McClelland made an out signal and confusion reigned for a few minutes. Francoeur, thinking he'd been called out, wandered past second base and was tagged by the Tigers.
In the end, McClelland admitted his mistake, restored order by ruling Francoeur had a double and the teams finished the ninth inning.
"You'd think a guy with 4,000 games would have a little more experience than to mess up a play like that," McClelland said good-naturedly.
Leyland argued the resolution for a time, claiming Francoeur should be out because he'd been tagged, but later joked that he was only trying to be a part of McClelland's No. 4,000. Yost merely said: "There was no real argument there. He made a mistake and he rectified it."
McClelland is remembered for being the home-plate umpire in the famous George Brett pine tar game of July 24, 1983, at Yankee Stadium. McClelland laid the bat across home plate and called out Brett, nullifying his home run and sending the enraged Royals star charging at him. The Royals protested, got the home run reinstated and won when the game was completed later.
At Saturday night's game against the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, the first 20,000 fans will receive a mini pine tar bat to commemorate that historic incident.