CINCINNATI — Angel Hernandez, a big league umpire for nearly a quarter-century, sued Major League Baseball on Monday alleging race discrimination.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the 55-year-old Hernandez, who was born in Cuba and lives in Florida, alleges MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre “has a history of animosity towards Hernandez stemming from Torre’s time as manager of the New York Yankees.”
As evidence of the alleged discrimination, the suit cites Hernandez’s lack of World Series assignments in the past decade and baseball not promoting Hernandez to crew chief.
MLB declined comment, spokesman Michael Teevan said.
Hernandez cites criticism by Torre in 2001 that Hernandez “seems to see something nobody else does” and “I think he just wanted to be noticed over there.”
The complaint alleges Hernandez received positive evaluations for most of his big league career, which began in 1993, but says “following Torre’s arrival in Major League Baseball’s front office in 2011, the notion that Hernandez ‘just wanted to be noticed’ permeated Hernandez’s yearly evaluations, as did Torre’s general negative attitude towards Hernandez.”
Hernandez worked the World Series in 2002 and 2005 but not since. Hernandez worked last year’s NL Championship Series along with Division Series in 2011, ‘12 and ‘15.
Other than Alfonso Marquez, who worked the World Series in 2011 and ‘15, the suit says “the other 34 umpires assigned to the World Series during Torre’s time in the office of the commissioner have been white.”
“The selection of these less qualified, white individuals over Hernandez was motivated by racial, national origin and/or ethnic considerations,” the suit says.
In addition, the suit claims Hernandez has served as a temporary crew chief and applied four times to be a permanent crew chief, and “all 23 umpires promoted to crew chief since 2000 have been white.”
The suit alleges violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio state law.
“Major League Baseball’s actions were intentional, with reckless disregard for Hernandez’s rights,” it claims.
According to the suit, Hernandez and the World Umpires Association asked MLB why Hernandez was not promoted to crew chief for this season. The suit says Torre sent a letter on March 27 stating Hernandez needed to “gain greater mastery of the official playing rules and replay regulations, continue to improve situation management, and display an ability to refocus and move forward after missing calls or receiving constructive feedback from the office.”
Hernandez filed a pair of charges of discrimination against Major League Baseball on June 5, and the suit says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued notices of right to sue last week. The suit asks for money damages and an injunction against any discriminatory conduct by MLB.
Hernandez worked third base for the Chicago Cubs’ game at Cincinnati on Sunday, but was not working Monday night.