Friday, February 22, 2008

This guy just may have been the First BUM ump

Clarence Bernard "Brick" Owens (Born: March 31, 1885. Died:11/11/1949)

An American League umpire who worked in the National League in 1908 and again in 1912-1913. In the AL he worked from 1916 thru 1937 inclusive. He did the World Series in: 1918, 1922, 1925,1928 and 1934. In 1928 and 1934 he served as the crew chief, which usually goes to the most experienced ump in the crew. Being chief gave him a supervisory role over the other members of that crew.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You are moving into a land of both shadow and substance. Of things and ideas. And as Rod Sterling said before each episode...You will now be crossing over into the twilight zone...

Born in Milwaukee, WI, Owens hoped to pursue a baseball career, but accidentally shot himself in the left hand while celebrating a 4th of July in 1901. His family moved to Chicago, IL the following year (1902). With his baseball playing days behind him he took up umpiring. He would umpire for fifty cents a game. He soon raised his fee to $1 per game. (So you can see early he was doing it for the dead presidents.)

Upon being noticed by minor league executive, Al Tearney, he became an umpire for the major local contests at $5 per game.

By the age of 17 he was offered a position on the Northern League staff at a monthly salary of $75, but minor league games proved more contentious than sandlot events, and he accumulated so many scars from his various altercations that when it came time for him to be hired by National League president, Harry Pulliam, Pulliam asked if Owens had been involved in a train wreck.

In one instance, he called 3 straight strikes on a batter for Crookston (a city in Polk county of Minnesota) to end a game when the team was mounting a comeback vs. Winnepeg; the batter dropped his bat and got into a fight with Owens, whereupon a fan leaped onto the field, picked up the loose lumber and thumped Owens on the noggin. After local authorities began the process of bringing charges, the batter's father offered Owens $750 to drop the matter, and he agreed seeing as how the amount was double his annual salary.

On another occasion, Owens was attacked at his hotel by a player who Owens ejected in that day's game, after which the team had refused to replace him therefore forfeiting the game to the local Fargo team; the player was arrested and suspended.

By mid-1903 Owens moved to the Western League, joining the Missouri Valley League, when the Western League reorganized in 1904. He acquired the nickname of Brick after a game in Pittsburg, Kansas in which an unpopular call instigated fans to begin throwing bricks from the stands, with one brick connecting Owens' melon; when he returned days later with no serious injury, a player named Charley Lyons gave him the nickname of Brick. Owens found this more acceptable than some of the other things he'd been called.

He moved to the American Association in 1905-06, then the Eastern League in 1907 before returning to the American Association from 1908-1912.

After a game in 1906, local Minneapolis officials tried to get an injunction to overturn a call he made to end the contest, which brought on the ejections of seven (7) Minneapolis Millers players. The next day, Owens was the target of fans throwing eggs and cabbages from the stands, and a mob followed him to the hotel where he was staying, which they threatened to attack if he was not turned over; police had to evacuate him over the rooftops and to the railway station.

In 1908, a game in Milwaukee, he fought off fifty fans after a game-ending decision before being rescued by police. Another Milwaukee incident saw a rescuing policeman get his finger bitten off.

After briefly working in the National League in 1908, he had an offer from Harry Pulliam to join the NL staff in 1909, but the offer fell through due to Pulliam's subsequent illness. After Pittsburgh Pirates owner- the recently elected into Cooperstown good ole boy- Barney Dreyfuss took exception to one of Owens' decisions, Dreyfuss had the umpire followed by a private detective and accused Owens of visiting gambling houses. The league released Owens to satisfy the Pirates' good ole boy owner, and Owens worked in the International League during 1913 before returning to the American Association for the 1914 and 1915 seasons.

American League president Ban Johnson hired Brick for the 1916, a year following the passing of umpire Jack Sheridan.

Owens is perhaps best known for a game he was the home plate umpire. On June 23, 1917, Babe Ruth was the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Ruth walked the first batter for the Washington Senators and was promptly ejected by the Brick because the Babe was disputing Brick's calls. (One batter was enough for Brick to eject the Babe? The Brick truly was a BUM!) Ruth was so incensed by the quick hook from the game that he punched Brick.
Ernie Shore replaced Ruth as the Red Sox hurler and not only picked off the baserunner at first base but went on to retire all 26 Senator batters he faced without permitting any of them to reach first base. Long regarded as a perfect game the game is now officially regarded as a combined no-hitter by Ruth and Shore.

As if that wasn't enough, OWENS was also home plate umpire on June 15, 1925 when the Philadelphia A's scored 13 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, coming back from a 15-4 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians 17-15. Thus tying the major league record for the greatest deficit overcome to win a game.

Now if that isn't the material right out of a Twilight Zone episode, what is? Never hurts to have a baseball story includes Babe Ruth, that's for sure.

(thanks to the Twilight Zone and Wikipedia)

Kevin Marquez