". . . shall appoint an Umpire, who shall keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the Bylaws and Rules."
-1845, Rules of the Knickerbocker Club of New York-
The "men in blue" quietly keep order in the game of base ball. Their fate is not to strut the bases to the fickle adulation of the crowds, but to hunker down to do a thankless job amid the catcalls of the mob. We in the OOSL honor them with this Roll Call. Without the Umpire, base ball would not be The National Pastime.
These umpires have been culled from the history of the game, and are among the finest of men to ever don the uniform of the "just arbiter." They represent all eras of base ball, from the dawning of organized ball in the latter 1800's, through the dead and lively ball eras, the World War II days, the expansion years, to the present time. They are a fitting crew to watch over the honor of the game.
The need in base ball for an Umpire to be the sole judge of fair and unfair play has been recognized for as long as the Game has been played. Accounts of umpires in match games between gentlemen opponents are common as far back as the 1840's. In 1858 the National Association of Base Ball Players sanctioned the use of a single Umpire. When base ball became professionalized, the institution of umpiring was also professionalized. In 1871 the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players officially continued the tradition of unpaid volunteer umpires. However, in 1878 the National League of Base Ball Clubs decided that the Home Team would pay the umpire $5 a game. The next year William A. Hulbert, the National League President, appointed base ball's first official Umpire Staff. But this Staff was just a list of men that the teams could pick a game judge from. It was not until 1882 and the advent the new American Association that the Umpire took on the role we are so familiar with today. The American Association created the framework whereupon an Umpire Staff was hired, paid and assigned to games by the League. The tradition of wearing blue also started here, as the AA decided that blue flannel coats and caps would be the official uniform for all umpires. In 1883 the National League adopted the idea of a permanent, uniformed Umpire Staff paid and appointed by the league.
The following interval from 1883 to 1903 was a decidedly dangerous one for umpires. Team owners resorted to umpire-baiting to increase ticket sales. The stereotype of the Umpire was quickly reversed from esteemed arbiter of fair play, to despised villain of questionable intellect. Umpiring became a very dangerous occupation in the physical sense. Owners, players and fans all rallied against the lone man in blue on the field. Physical abuse and mob violence became dangerously commonplace.
However, in 1903 Byron Bancroft "Ban" Johnson, president of the American League, saw the need to provide strong support to the League's umpires. Ban Johnson created the idea that the umpire on the field was the representative of the highest officials of the league. The Umpire, therefore, should be respected and supported throughout all levels of base ball. Johnson demonstrated his support by suspending players and enforcing fines and on-field decisions made by his Umpire Staff. Johnson also molded the Umpire's Code of Conduct, insisting that the umpire be a tactful overseer of the game. Again, the National League followed suit -- especially under Presidents John A. Heydler and Thomas J. Lynch who had both previously been umpires.
Ban Johnson also realized that a single umpire was not enough to follow the action and control the game. He instituted the two-umpire crew where the Umpire-In-Chief called balls and strikes, while the Field Umpire controlled the baselines. The National League followed again, and by 1912 it was common practice in both leagues that there would always be two umpires per game. It was at this time that umpires became figures of myth and legend because of their exploits on the field. Free from the threat of physical harm, and free from having to always side with the home team in close decisions, umpires started becoming prestigious figures in their own right. This was the time of "Silk" O'Loughlin, who matched wits and words with the best of players -- and always won. Also of "Big Tommy" Connolly who become the first League Umpire-In-Chief after 30 years of game service. Connolly umpired the first American League game in 1901, and served the League until 1954. There were many more, such as "Jack" Sheridan who was the first to crouch behind the plate, and "Billy" Evans who set the standard for appearance and dress for all umpires who came after him. Perhaps the best was Bill McGowan, who received universal praise from his colleagues for all of his thirty years of service.
The National League had their men of legend too, including Cy Rigler who began the practice of raising the right hand for calling strikes, and Hank O'Day who thrived on the technicalities of the rules. O'Day was the umpire involved in the fateful Merkle Incident of 1908. There was "Lord" Byron, also known as the Singing Umpire because he sometimes rendered his verdicts in singsong verse. However, there was one man who dominated umpiring just as George Herman Ruth dominated events from the other side: William G. "Bill" Klem. The autocratic Klem insisted on discipline from all members of both teams, and the fans. He was always the supreme authority upon the field. In arguments with players he would draw a line in the dirt and warn, "Don't cross the line!"
Klem went a stretch of 16 consecutive years working every game behind the plate instead of rotating with the other umpire as was the custom. He boasted that he never missed a call in his life, and his honesty and knowledge of the game were respected by all. The "Old Arbiter" was the public's personification of the major league umpire.
Bill Klem began the NL tradition of using the inside-the-vest chest protector, while his counterpart in the junior circuit, Tommy Connolly, began that league's tradition of the balloon protector. Klem also started the over-the-catcher's-shoulder position for calling balls and strikes. He used exaggerated arm signals for calls so that every fan in the stadium would immediately know his decision. While Field Umpire he also started the practice of straddling the foul lines in order to sight balls hit down the line as fair or foul. Klem served as the senior circuit's first Chief of Umpires after he retired from the field in 1941. It was a position he held until he died in 1951.
Most say it was The Babe who saved the Game from the Black Sox Scandal, and they may be right. But in a way, it was the integrity and honesty of the men in blue as independant arbitrators that had much to do with The Fan regaining trust in the Game.
The three-umpire crew became routine in 1933, and 1952 saw the four-man crew officially instituted. In both leagues, the umpires regulated play from the same rule book, but many differences of style and technique arose between the leagues. This umpiring difference has much to do with the individual style of play of each League. The National League style was largely a product of Bill Klem's masterful feel for the game, while Tommy Connolly's robust, but quiet, authority was the chief progenitor of the American League style. A prime example is the chest protector. Klem used the small, inside protector which enabled him to crouch close over the catcher's shoulder -- allowing him to see the low end of the strike zone easily. Connolly favored the balloon protector held out in front of the body, which caused the perceived strike zone to be "high." From the preferences of these two greats came the NL tradition of low strikes, and the AL tradition of high strikes. Another example sometimes missed is that the American League favors umpires who deter argument by being a physically commanding presence on the field, which was the persona of big Tommy Connolly. The National League, under the control of the much smaller and less impressive figure of Klem, tended to emphasize the intellectual control of the game. These differences of presence has led to differences in the managerial style of the teams on the field.
Although umpires today do not enjoy the great respect they received in the "Golden Years" between the World Wars, they are still the lone arbiter of fair and unfair play on the green diamond. But whether or not we agree with their calls on the field, we should always keep in mind that they are there to preserve the integrity of the game. The institution of the Umpire deserves thankful respect from every fan. That is why we in the OOSL have made the effort to compile and assign Umpire Crews to both OOSL Leagues (hopefully, 1999 will see their names return to the OOSL boxscores). There are not enough slots available to honor every umpire deserving of OOSL service, and we do not dishonor any who have been left off of this Roll. The Umpire Crews of the OOSL reflect a cross-section of the men that make up Umpiring History. This Roster is not intended to be a Hall of Umpiring Fame.
OOSL American League Umpire Roster
The Umpire Crews are listed in order of authority, with the Union Representative Crew listed first. The Umpires themselves are also listed in order of authority, with the Crew Chief listed first.
Umpire Crew #1
Thomas H. "Tommy" Connolly, John J. Egan, George A. Hildebrand and Franklin H. "Silk" O'Loughlin.
Umpire Crew #2
James G. Honochick, Harry C. Geisel, William T. T. "Bill" Grieve and William R. "Bill" Summers.
Umpire Crew #3
Cal R. Hubbard, Edwin H. Hurley, William F. "Bill" McKinley and Ernest C. Quigley
Umpire Crew #4
George J. Moriarty, John "Homer" Craig, Clarence B. "Brick" Owens and Oliver P. Chill.
Umpire Crew #5
John W. Stevens, Frank W. Umont, James C. "Jim" Odom and Nestor L. Chylak Jr.
Umpire Crew #6
Durwood E. Merrill, Joseph N. "Joe" Brinkman, W. W. "Billy" Donaldson, Kenneth J. "Ken" Kaiser.
Umpire Crew #7
Martin J. Springstead, Jerome A. Neudecker, Richard R. "Rich" Garcia and Donald A. "Don" Dekinger.
Umpire Crew #8
Ronald M. "Ron" Luciano, Stephen M. "Steve" Palermo and Vito H. Voltaggio and Michael F. Walsh.
Joseph Paparella slipped through the cracks and umpired in both the OOSL American League and the OOSL National League in 1997. While umpires routinely worked different Leagues in the 1800's, it isn't intentionally done in the OOSL. Joe Paparella has been replaced in both Leagues in 1998. Lord Byron takes Joe's place in the OOSL National League, and Ernest C. Quigley takes the OOSL American slot.
The OOSL is also proud to announce that four umpires who roamed the diamonds of the Negro Leagues have been assigned to OOSL Umpire Crews. Peter "Pete" Cleage and Thomas "Tom" Johnston will now have their turn in the OOSL National League, while W. W. "Billy" Donaldson and John "Homer" Craig will patrol the OOSL American League fields. Joseph Francis "Gummy" Wall steps down in the OOSL National League to make room for Pete Cleage on NL Crew #1, and Horace McFarland will retire to make room for Tom Johnston on NL Crew #6. The OOSL American League sees Derryl Cousins move aside for Billy Donaldson on OOSL AL Crew #6, while Roy Van Graflan moves to a Union Rep job so Homer Craig gets a spot on AL Crew #4.
Harry Wendelstedt has been returned to the National League, where he toiled for 23 years. He takes Alfred Jennings' place, who has retired. He will now be Crew Chief on OOSL NL Crew #2. The old American Association's premier Umpire, Michael F. Walsh will take Harry's place on OOSL AL Crew #8 -- where Ron Luciano takes over as Crew Chief.
Lastly, the order of the Umpires in NL Crew #3 & #4 have been re-assigned to reflect years of service more accurately.