In my very limited research I just did this morning, I have deducted that veteran MLB umpire Ron Kulpa has been around the game for a long time. He made his MLB debut in 1998 and has gotten to the point in his career where he's worked multiple All-Star Games, eight Division Playoff Series, three League Championship Series and the 2011 World Series, one of the all-time great Fall Classics. That's a successful career any way you slice it.
That said, Ron Kulpa is not a name I knew off the top of my head like I know Angel Hernandez or Jim Joyce. For Kulpa, that's a good thing. No ref or umpire ever wants to hear their name in the news the day following the game, though the way Kulpa acted on Wednesday night at the Houston Astros-Texas Rangers game, it's possible he did indeed want to hear and see his name all over the internet.
In the top of the second inning, Rangers pitcher Mike Minor threw a breaking ball to Astros infielder Tyler White that was so low it almost bounced in the dirt. Kulpa called it a strike, causing the entire Astros bench to throw their arms in the air questioning the call. Kulpa welcomed this with open arms of his own, removing his mask and yelling back at the bench. Astros manager A.J. Hinch took offense and went out to defend his guys. After a somewhat civil conversation Kulpa returned to his post and stared a hole through the Houston bench.
Hinch had seen enough, telling Kulpa "don't look over here, there's nothing for you to see. Look out there!" as he pointed toward the pitcher's mound. That's when Kulpa began to throw his toys, tossing Houston hitting coach Alex Cintron from the game and getting in Hinch's face. After that chat ended, Kulpa made another questionable call and all hell broke loose, as Kulpa again stared at the bench, which Hinch again took offense to only for Kulpa to tell him "I can do whatever I want!" like a child. Here's the entire sequence:
And here's an even better breakdown with subtitles from Yankees Twitter personality Jomboy, a must-follow for baseball fans of any team (Yankees especially):
Pretty insane behavior from a 50-year-old man, but we shouldn't be too surprised. I said I had never heard Ron Kulpa's name before, but apparently I have seen plenty of his work. Here was one of his worst calls of his career, which actually benefitted the Yankees, but even the most diehard Yankee fan could see this was the biggest ball of all time:
I despise David Ortiz as much as you could possibly despise someone, and yet I know he was in the right here. Kulpa has plenty more where that came from too. Here's a few of his greatest hits, like the time he missed a clear strike during Yu Darvish's bid for a perfect game, which Darvish lost on the next pitch, causing catch A.J. Pierzynski to argue it. Naturally, Kulpa tossed him:
Here was a routine double play in the 2011 World Series that Kulpa bundled incredibly:
The Cardinals went on to score four runs in the top of the fourth inning, eventually winning the game 16-7, so you could say that was a meaningful call.
The heated discussions with Hinch were far from his only great moments from Wednesday night as well. Watch Kulpa interrupt Astros pitcher Gerritt Cole's warmup because Cole went over the pitch clock:
(extreme Billy Mays voice) But wait, there's more!!! Later, Kulpa was practically BEGGING Cole for a fight. Cole refused:
What a performance from Kulpa. Really giving the people their money's worth. After all, he's the guy everyone is coming to see.