The reasoning behind Major League Baseball umpire Brian Runge‘s strange midseason dismissal has reportedly come to light.

According to a report from Ben Walker of the Associated Press, two sources close to the situation have confirmed Runge‘s firing came as a result of a failed drug test, as he then failed to complete the terms of his agreement to stay on the staff. The drug that led to Runge’s dismissal is unknown at this time.

As part of their agreement with MLB, umpires are subject to random drug tests. The exact scope of the testing is unclear, as is what the compliance policy is once a positive test happens. It’s unknown whether Runge failed another test, or whether he merely did not complete an MLB-required stipulation of his initial agreement.

The league office announced Runge‘s dismissal on June 14. According to Walker, this represents the first known firing of an umpire due to violations of MLB’s drug policy.

Runge has been a major league umpire for nearly a decade-and-a-half, starting his career in 1999. The son and grandson of former MLB umpires Paul and Ed Runge, Brian helped the family become the first third-generation officials in league history. In 2009, Brian joined his father and grandfather as the only said combination to call a no-hitter behind the plate, when San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez blanked the San Diego Padres.

Last year, Runge became just the 10th umpire in league history to call multiple no-hitters in the same season. He called Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber’s perfect game in April and then was behind the plate less than two months later when the Seattle Mariners threw a combined no-no against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The 43-year-old Runge was also part of the 2012 All-Star Game crew in Kansas City. He also worked three different playoff series, though never any deeper than the Divisional Series. 

Runge was injured late in the 2012 season and went on leave. Though still employed by Major League Baseball, Runge had not worked a game in the bigs since last August. He worked some in Triple-A before being replaced on MLB’s staff by former longtime minor league ump Chris Conroy.  

There had not been an umpire removed from his position midway through a season previously since 2000, which was due to injury.

Neither MLB nor Runge have released a statement on the matter at this time. Joe West, president of the World Umpires Association, also declined to speak with the Associated Press for its story.


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