David Bruce: The Funniest People in Sports, Volume 2: 250 Anecdotes — Umpires

Umpires

• Baseball players have tricks to fool the umpires. Some umpires at first base will look at the feet of the runner and listen for the sound of the baseball hitting the first baseman’s glove. Therefore, some first basemen will try to fool the umpire by pounding their fist in the glove to imitate the sound of a baseball hitting their glove. Once, Larry Goertz was umpiring and watching the feet of runner Johnny Moore. Umpire Goertz heard what he thought was the sound of a baseball hitting the glove of first baseman Sam Leslie while Mr. Moore was two steps from first base, so he called Mr. Moore out—and was surprised when Mr. Moore, who was not known to be a complainer, became very upset. Mr. Moore said to Umpire Goertz, “Larry, I feel I have a right to argue. Leslie doesn’t have the ball. They made the play at third base instead.”

• Umpire Tim Hurst was a very intelligent man. When John McGraw was a baseball player, he liked to bet on the horses and a racetrack was conveniently located just outside the St. Louis ballpark. Therefore, Mr. McGraw decided to get on Umpire Hurst so he could be thrown out of the game and could leave and go to the racetrack. After Umpire Hurst called a play, Mr. McGraw ran over to argue the decision. Unfortunately for Mr. McGraw, Umpire Hurst knew what he was doing, so Umpire Hurst told him, “You’re not going to be thrown out of this game, so get back and play third base. And if you expect to place anything on the horses, you’d better send a boy over to do it for you. You’re playing ball.” Mr. McGraw played third base and sent a boy over to place a bet for him.

• St. Louis Cardinal manager Frankie Frisch used to insult umpires, but he was careful not to say anything so insulting that he would be thrown out of the game. However, once he slipped up. He shouted something that the umpire didn’t hear, and when the umpire asked what he had said, Frankie said, “You guessed at everything else today. See if you can guess what I just said.” The umpire replied, “OK, I will, and for saying it, you’re out of the game, Frisch.

• Detroit Tiger Donnie Bush did not care for the way that umpire Silk O’Loughlin was officiating, so he let him know how he felt—loudly and angrily. Umpire O’Loughlin simply walked away, and Mr. Bush kept following him and continuing to let him know how he felt. Eventually, umpire O’Loughlin walked out the gate near first base. Mr. Bush followed him. Then umpire O’Loughlin turned around and told Mr. Bush, “Keep walking. You’re through for today.”

• Jackie Robinson broke the color line in modern major-league baseball. For a long time, he was treated differently because of his race. In 1948, he heckled an umpire who threw him out of the game. This actually made Jackie happy—the umpire would have done exactly the same thing to a white player who had done what Jackie did. Jackie treasured the next day’s newspaper headline: “Jackie Just Another Guy.”

• Frankie Frisch was manager of the Gas House Gang in St. Louis. One day, Mr. Frisch got into an argument with umpire Bill Klem, and after shouting a while, he pretended to faint in an attempt to avoid being thrown out of the game. The Pump House Gang started shouting, “Heart attack!”—but Mr. Klem leaned over Mr. Frisch and said, “Frisch, dead or alive, you’re out of the game.”

• As an African-American major-league umpire, Eric Gregg used to dance with the Philadelphia mascot, the Phillies Phanatic. When people asked why he was the only umpire who did that, he used to reply, “That’s easy. I’m the only umpire who can dance.”

• Charlie Moran used to be an umpire in the National League. Once, he was very slow in making a call about a hit ball, so some ballplayers surrounded him, asking, “Is it safe, or is it out?” Mr. Moran snarled, “It ain’t nothing until I call it.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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