Years of strife between the Major League Umpires Association (MLUA) and Major League Baseball came to a head in July 1999 when Richie Phillips, the executive director of the MLUA, suggested the umpires resign en masse. Phillips also suggested the MLUA disband and form a new union, Umpires Inc., with himself as the leader.
Fifty-seven umpires resigned while 11 AL umpires and two NL umpires did not attend the meeting and did not resign. But rather than cave, MLB began hiring minor league umpires as replacements. Meanwhile umpires began rescinding their resignations. Within three weeks, the union realized the strategy was failing and encouraged all remaining umpires to rescind their resignations. But for some, it was too late. Twenty-two resignations were accepted.
Referee was able to get behind-the-scenes details of the meetings and the aftermath. The feature revealed the long history of discord among the umpires themselves, when each league had its own staff. Even members of the same crew couldn’t agree. For example, Bruce Froemming, a staunch supporter of the MLUA, made travel and lodging arrangements on his own to minimize contact with crewmates Jeff Nelson, Mark Hirschbeck and Wally Bell, who had contrary feelings about the union.