Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Recollection of these Various Umpires

Growing up in the mid-1960s I can recall easily the names of the umpires as described by San Francisco Giants' announcers: Lon Simmons, Russ Hodges and Bill Thompson. When the A's arrived in Oakland for the 1967 season I'd listen to Monte Moore (disliked and mistrusted by some of the players and accused of being owner Charlie Finley's mole ) and Al Helfer (known as NBC's "Mr. Radio Baseball") when the Giants were either not playing or their game was over or had yet to start.

Al Barlick. Born 4/2/1915 and Died 12/27/1995. Worked in the National League for 28 seasons (1940-43, 1946-1955, 1958-1971).

Born in Springfield, IL, Barlick served in the US Coast Guard during World War II. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Emmett Ashford. (Born 11/23/1914..Died 3/1/1980) Nicknamed "Ash," Emmett was the first African-American umpire in major league baseball. He umped in the Southwestern Int'l League and then the Pacific Coast League for many years before being hired by the American League in 1961. He remained an umpire until mandatory retirement upon turning 56 years of age in 1970.

He brought a new style to being an umpire. He dressed impeccably, wore jewelry, including flashy cuff links and exaggerated his calls with gestures. (Remember the Leslie Neilson character in Naked Gun? I believe the idea was borrowed from Ashford's style.) Per Wikipedia: While some observers believed that his race prevented him from working in the majors earlier than he did, others maintained that his flashy style actually delayed his major league debut due to general disdain for umpires to draw attention to themselves.

Thomas David Gorman. Born 3/16/1919. Died 8/11/1986. Father of Brian Gorman.

Grew up in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York city. Served in the Army as a member of the 16th infantry during World War II.

An injury in 1946 ended his playing career (he was a lefty who pitched 5-innings in 4-games with the 1939 New York Giants) he was faced with the choice of returning to New York city to become a plumber or take advantage of some news of an umpiring position in the New England League. His wife persuaded him to take the umpire position for the 1947 season at $180 per month.

He was an umpire from 1951-1976, and then as league supervisor.

His most famous World Series, in which he umpired, was when he called balls and strikes as Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer) struck out a World Series-record 17 Detroit Tigers.

During a game in the 1962 season, Gorman discovered that the Giants were having their groundskeepers water down the Candlestick Park infield to slow down Los Angeles Dodger star Maury Wills; Gorman stopped the game for an hour and a half to allow the field to dry out.

Gorman umpired 9 no-hitters. He was the left field umpire for Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

He was the home plate umpire on June 15, 1952, when the St.Louis Cardinals set a National League record by overcoming an 11-0 deficit to beat the Giants 14-12. Two weeks later on June 29, 1952, he was there when the Cubs scored 7 runs with 2 out in the 9th inning to beat the Cincinnati Redlegs, 9-8.

Two years later on August 8, 1954, he was again the home plate umpire when the Reds gave up a record 12 runs (all of them unearned) after there were 2 out and no one on base in the 8th inning of a 20-7 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers; the inning ended only when Gil Hodges' bid for a grand slam was caught high off the centerfield wall. (Name of person catching the ball was not mentioned. They remembered to mention the victim (Hodges) getting robbed but forgot to put the name of the culprit. I am indebted to Wikipedia for being a place to remind me of things and keeping my account accurate but occasionally they fumble.)

On May 2, 1956, he was behind the plate as the Giants and Cubs used 48 players in a 6-5, 17 inning, Giants victory. In that game, Cubs outfielder Don Hoak struck out a record 6 times against 6 different pitchers.
Chris Pelekoudas. Born 1/23/1918..Died 11/30/1984.
Born in Chicago, IL into a family of 14 children. He had an unsuccessful tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals, known as the Gas House Gang, in 1934.

Worked in the National League from 1960-1975.

He may be best remembered for ordering an apparent Hammerin' Hank Aaron home run to be nullified on August 18, 1965, because the Hammer stepped out of the batter's box when he made contact; Pelekoudas had warned Aaron on the previous 2 pitches.

Pelekoudas was also the first umpire to ever eject Gaylord Perry from a game for using an illegal greasy substance on the ball.

He was the home plate umpire on the day (4/30/1961) when Willie Howard Mays, Jr. hit 4 home runs in Milwaukee's County Stadium.

He umpired 6 no-hitters but was not behind the plate for one of them.

Pelekoudas spent most of his career residing in Sunnyvale, California.
Nestor George Chylak, Jr. Born: 5/11/1922 Died: 2/17/1982
Born in Olyphant, PA of Ukranian descent. Attended the university of Scranton.
During WWII, he served in the Army in Europe; in the Battle of the Bulge he was wounded by shrapnel from an exploding shell, an injury which nearly cost him his sight. For that he earned the Silver Star and (4th highest military decoration. It's also the 3rd highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy. For gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States of America.) a Purple Heart.

Among his noteworthy games were: Sandy Koufax's final game in the 1966 World Series vs. Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately for Koufax, in one of his games pitched in that forgettable series- if you bleed Dodger blue, that is- Willie Davis made 3 errors while roaming the grounds of centerfield.

Chylak was to umpire "Ten Cent Beer Night" in Cleveland but it became necessary to declare a forfeit due to constant fighting which spread onto the field and which saw Chylak get hit over the head with a chair (what was in the beer that enabled someone to rip out a chair from the grandstands?); and the first major league game played in Toronto, Canada.
In 1977, during a snowstorm at Exhibition Stadium, Chylak was the home plate ump for that monumental game.

Three Nestor Chylak quotes:
"I umpired for 25 years and can honestly say I never called one wrong in my heart. The way I see it, an umpire must be perfect on the first day of the season and then get better every day."

"Ballplayers will cheat under any circumstances if they think they can get away with it. Our job is to prevent it."

"This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who's doing it."

(thanks again, Wikipedia, for all the information I am able to remind myself of so as to be as accurate as possible.

Kevin Marquez