Apparently, O'Nora thought Middlebrooks was acting when the rookie pointed to his right wrist.
Sox manager Bobby Valentine and right-hander Josh Beckett, who did not pitch, were both thrown out arguing that Middlebrooks deserved first base as a hit batsman in the final frame of a 10-inning, 3-2 win over the Yankees. A strike was called instead, and Valentine's third ejection of the season came after a lengthy talk with O'Nora that took a while to escalate.
"It was pretty red," Valentine said of Middlebrooks' right wrist. "I mean, it wasn't a bee sting."
Once Valentine was gone, the sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd erupted. The game was tied at 2 then, but the Sox pulled ahead later in the inning.
"It was just a seam mark where he got me," Middlebrooks said. "They said it hit the bat, so, I mean, it's a tough call 'cause it happens really fast."
The ball also clipped O'Nora, and both men went down. Valentine said O'Nora made his call based on sound, which O'Nora would have heard very shortly before he was struck.
"I took my stuff off 'cause I thought I was going to first," Middlebrooks said. "I didn't even know they said it hit the bat."
Valentine repeatedly pointed to his own wrist, imitating the gesture Middlebrooks himself made after being called back. Other umpires stood near the heated Valentine and O'Nora, but Valentine said there was no help to be had.
"No one saw anything," Valentine said. "He just heard it. What are you going to do? We won and I'm not going to say anything that's going to get me fined anymore."
Valentine said he's been fined "plenty" in 2012.
Middlebrooks came to the plate with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on first and none out and the game tied at 2. A pitch after the drama, Middlebrooks singled on a curveball, pushing Saltalamacchia to second base. Saltalamacchia scored on a two-out Pedro Ciriaco single, the decisive run in a huge win for the Sox.
Beckett had been tossed just one other time in his career. Valentine's been thrown out 40 times as a manager.
As he walked into the dugout, Valentine took his gum out of his mouth and chucked it away from the field, in seemingly no particular direction.
Sunday wasn't the first time that gum has had an auxiliary involvement with a Valentine ejection this season. Umpire Gary Darling's gum fell onto a close-ranged Valentine on May 18 in Philadelphia, in Valentine's first ejection of the season.