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33 years ago: Boise Hawks' manager disguises as Humphrey the Hawk following ejection

Following a 6th-inning ejection in a June 29, 1989 matchup with the Salem Dodgers, Mal Fichman went back on the field to relay signs in the Humphrey costume.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday is a momentous day in Boise Hawks history. In fact, it's a momentous day in Minor League Baseball history.

33 years ago, the Boise Hawks were in the opening month of their third season, an unaffiliated team playing in the eight-team Northwest League. 

Their manager was Mal Fichman, a 5-6, 155-pound baseball lifer from back east. He was also the Executive Vice President, as it says on his baseball card from the season before.

On this day 33 years ago - June 29, 1989 - the Salem Dodgers were in town. In the bottom of the 6th inning with the Hawks trailing, second baseman Paul Cluff from BYU was up to bat. 

Cluff made contact on a pitch, leading to an infield ground ball. There was a close play at first and he was called out. Cluff didn't concur, saying something about the diminutive stature of the first base ump and he was tossed. 

Coaching third at the time was Fichman, who didn't realize Cluff was sent to the showers until he got back to the dugout.

So the story goes, Fichman argued with the umpire and agreed with Cluff's assessment that if the umpire was more than 5 feet tall, he might have had a better look at the play. So, Fichman was also ejected. 

However, the Hawks' manager wasn't going to let the ejection stop him. 

It just so happened it was a hot one that evening, with temperatures still in the 90s. The man working as Humphrey the Hawk that night - his name was Jason - was taking a break, cooling his heels and every other part of his body, under the stands with the hawk headset on the ground next to him. 

According to the story Fichman told Minor League Baseball several years ago, he asked Jason if he was done for the evening. Jason said no, but Fichman said he is now.

Fichman made off with the Humphrey costume, put it on and went back on the field. Back then, Humphrey wasn't allowed on the field, so something was off from the start. 

Then, in the 8th inning with two on for the Hawks, Fichman went over to Jeff Mace, the coach who was now coaching third since Fichman's night was supposed to be finished. 

Mace said Fichman was relaying signs while wearing the costume, when Fichman walked over to tell him to bunt through the mesh of the hawk head. 

Well, everyone kind of figured it out. The next day, Fichman was suspended for one game. The man who suspended him; the Northwest League President, Jack Cain, who wasn't at the game in Boise that night, but rather in Bend, Oregon. However, Cain was on his patio in Charbonneau, Ore. this afternoon.

"I did get a phone call about 8:00 the next morning from Mal Fichman and he said, 'Jack, I did something stupid last night,' and I said, 'okay, what was that?' He told me and I laughed," Cain said. "I thought, 'that is hilarious. I thought that was the funniest thing in the world, but you know the minute I hear from the umpires, I'm going to have to suspend you?' He said, 'oh, I know.'"

Cain said Fichman told him the whole thing, admitting he was kicked out of the game and forgot what inning it was.

"He said, 'I did something stupid, put the mascot uniform on,' and unfortunately, he forgot to take his baseball shoes off and his stirrups and it was kind of obvious who it was, you know," Cain said. "That's Mal, you know? He was in a hurry. He didn't have time to change his shoes and so about noon that day, I got a call from the umpires, and they said, 'Mr. Cain, the manager of the Boise Hawks did something really stupid last night, blah blah blah,' you know.

"I followed up then with Mal, called him back, and I said, 'Mal, I heard from the umpires. You're suspended.' He said, 'I knew it was going to happen.' You know, something he shouldn't have done, but it was kind of funny at the time and I still think it's funny."

Cain said every time Fichman's name comes up, he tells the story. 

"A win is a win, it doesn't matter how you got it," Cain said laughingly.

However, it wasn't a win. The Hawks apparently lost 8-4. On Tuesday, Cain said he probably could have suspended Fichman for more than one game, but decided his confession was worth something. 

KTVB was able to track down Fichman, who still lives here in the Treasure Valley, but he wasn't a big fan of speaking to us about his claim to minor league fame.

The Boise Hawks are back at home Saturday for a three-game homestand against the Missoula Paddleheads. 

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