May 25, 1988
El Paso Times
Paul Strelzin’s musical tastes got him kicked out of Tuesday night’s El Paso Diablos baseball game at Dudley Field. In one of the most bizarre moments in recent memory at the old baseball park, the Diablos’ public address announcer was thrown out of the game by umpire Brian Owen after playing Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved?” The opening line of the song – “I’ve been cheated” – infuriated Owen.
Strelzin, known around town as “The Mouth,” began to play the tune after Diablo runner Joe Mitchell was called out on a close play at home during the fifth inning of the Jackson Mets’ 12-3 victory. Strelzin stopped when Owen signaled him to cut the song short.
When Strelzin played the song again – between innings – he was tossed. Owen’s decision confused Strelzin and Diablos General Manager Rick Parr. It also angered many of the 2,252 fans at the stadium. One customer was removed from the stadium by police after throwing ice at first base umpire Dale Luker.
“I think the man (Owen) owes me an apology,” Strelzin said. “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong.” Strelzin said he played the song to help get the fans involved in the game. At the time, Jackson was winning 8-1 and the crowd had been relatively silent.
Strelzin and Parr said the song, which ahs been played at Diablos’ games since 1974, is not intended to poke fun at umpires. “The intent is to make the game fun for the fans, not to pinpoint anything the umpires do,” Parr said.
The game was held up for about five minutes after Owen ejected Strelzin. Owen discussed the matter with Parr on the field while some fans shouted obscenities at the umpiring crew. Strelzin, who has been the team’s announcer for 10 of the past 14 seasons, said he doesn’t understand Owen’s decision. “I’ve played that song more than 200 times and no one has ever objected to it.”
Owen, who has umpired several games at Dudley Field, said he had not heard the song at the stadium before. He said he ejected Strelzin because he believed the lyrics “incited the crowd.” Owen said, “The song is telling the fans to get on the umpires. It can get to the point were it’s dangerous for umpires.”
Owen disagreed with Parr’s claim that the song is intended to give the fans a few laughs: “It’s an attempt to have the crowd react to our calls.” After Strelzin was ejected, Parr phoned Texas League Commissioner Carl Sawatski. Parr and Sawatski probably will discuss the matter with the umpires before tonight’s game at Dudley Field.
Parr said Sawatski attended several Diablo games – including a few last week – and has never objected to the song. Strelzin, who is also principal at H.E. Charles Junior High, said he doesn’t know if he’ll play the song tonight if another close call goes against El Paso.
Owen meanwhile said he “more than likely” will eject Strelzin again if he plays it. Game time is 7 p.m.