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For Umpires it's a Dangerous Game

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  • For Umpires it's a Dangerous Game

    From the Washington Post 8/19/1907:

    John T. Powers, of Chicago, formerly president of the Wisconsin Baseball League, figured in a sensation in Goldfield, Nev. last week, when he appeared to umpire a game between two teams of miners with revolvers strapped around his waist. He was disarmed by the sheriff, and then the game proceeded. The contest was for $5,000 a side, but Powers escaped with his life.

    Any other stories about the dangers of playing or umpiring?

  • #2
    From the New York Times, 5/2/1899: BASEBALL UMPIRE KILLED. Called Foul on a Home-Run Hit and Was Attacked.

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    • #3
      Is Samuel Powell the same person as Samuel White? White died under the exact same circumstances in the exact same year. I've been looking for info on White as well as Ora Jennings (another ump killed in a Minor League game), but so far next to nothing on White. How Powell's death unfolds (favors one team, angry hitter starts insulting him, he knocks over angry hitter, angry hitter has a baseball bat in his hands and swings it...) is almost line-by-line the same thing. The only difference I can see is that White has been repeatedly listed as a "Minor League umpire," while this fellow seems to have been an amateur umpire.
      Last edited by Dalkowski110; 02-08-2008, 10:25 AM.
      "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
      -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

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      • #4
        In 1899, the minor league was the amateur league.
        Baseball writer

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        • #5
          "In 1899, the minor league was the amateur league."

          Not true. Minor Leaguers were paid a salary then just as now and thus professional baseball players. Amateur league ball is not professional baseball.
          "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
          -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

          Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you. I got some things mixed up.
            Baseball writer

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            • #7
              Standing The Gaff: The Life And Times Of A Minor League Umpire is an autobiography written by Harry "Steamboat" Johnson. It covers in detail his many scrapes in 30 years of umpiring. He was forced to carry a knife on him for protection and got into several fistfights.

              Here's a couple of my favorite tales from my book about umpire Wild Bill Setley:

              Wild Bill was umpiring one time in the coal mining region of PA. He is standing in back of the catcher when he hears a voice cry "Hi There! What's The Score?" Wild Bill looks all around him but doesn't see anyone so he gets back to umpiring. Again the voice hollers "Hi There! What's The Score?" Wild Bill takes a good look around and he still can't see anybody who is talking to him. Then he takes a look down on the ground and he sees a crack in the dirt. He bends down and peers into the crack and sees a miner's helmet. Beneath the helmet he sees the face of a miner. Wild Bill asks the coal miner what does he think he is doing? The miner tells him he was sent up by his crew boss to find out what the score was in the baseball game. Wild Bill tells him since he didn't pay admission to the game he will have to leave otherwise Wild Bill will fill in his hole.

              In the final game of the 1910 Texas League season the pennant is on the line. Roy Mitchell was the pitcher for Houston and he was struggling because of the heat and being down by two runs. Wild Bill is standing behind him because Galveston has a baserunner. Mitchell turns to Wild Bill and whispers to him "you call this next one a strike no matter where it is." The next pitch is right down the middle and Wild Bill hollers "Bawll Thrree!!"

              The catcher throws the ball back to Mitchell who catches it, and turns around and fires it at the umpire at close range. The ball hits Wild Bill in his left temple and knocks him unconscious. The Galveston team runs out and removes the umpire from the field and they put him in their four horse wagon to rush him to the hospital. Angry fans pelt the four horse wagon with everything they could find. Houston appoints a new umpire who declares Houston won by forfeit so they win the pennant.

              Fort Worth fans would wear their six-shooters to games and fire at high fly balls for target practice. Wild Bill Setley once pitched a game for Boonville, NY wearing revolvers on each hip that he borrowed. The newspaper called him "Two-Gun" Setley.
              "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
              "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
                John T. Powers, of Chicago, formerly president of the Wisconsin Baseball League,
                5+ years later Powers would start-up the Federal league.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dalkowski110 View Post
                  Is Samuel Powell the same person as Samuel White? White died under the exact same circumstances in the exact same year. I've been looking for info on White as well as Ora Jennings (another ump killed in a Minor League game), but so far next to nothing on White. How Powell's death unfolds (favors one team, angry hitter starts insulting him, he knocks over angry hitter, angry hitter has a baseball bat in his hands and swings it...) is almost line-by-line the same thing. The only difference I can see is that White has been repeatedly listed as a "Minor League umpire," while this fellow seems to have been an amateur umpire.
                  Hmm, I don't know. They could be the same. While it's easy to say whether a particular player is a professional or an amateur--is he paid?--in terms of leagues, there was not nearly the clarity of separation that we have today. There were amateur leagues (no paid players), semipro leagues (some paid players), industrial leagues (men employed in other trades, but playing baseball in company-sponsored teams, with the addition of ringers hired and paid specifically for ballplaying), and full professional minor leagues. The boundaries between these would remain somewhat blurry for many years after the time of this umpire, and certain small leagues moved back and forth between categories. I can certainly imagine someone who was, say, primarily a police reporter not a sportswriter, not thinking it important to carefully delineate what sort of league it was that this took place in, beyond the fact that it was certainly not a "major" league.
                  Last edited by Pere; 02-11-2008, 10:59 PM.

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                  • #10
                    The NY State League (Class B) went through 35 umpires in the 1903 season when only one or two umpires were needed per game. Minor league umpires seldom lasted an entire year back in the 1890's to 1910's. Many of them were former ML ballplayers and even that notoriety didn't stop an angry mob from beating them senseless. Some minor league umpires were professional boxers and they too were challenged to fights by players and fans.

                    One minor league umpire walked from the ballpark to the train station after a rough game and was never heard from again. Some umpires carried knives on their persons for protection. A few umpires ran and locked themselves inside the tool sheds at ballparks and waited until the angry fans would leave. Some umpires received a mob escort to the train station and were pelted by rocks, rotten eggs, and bottles. Occasionally an umpire would stand his ground and deck a ballplayer who was arguing with him.

                    It was impossible for one man to umpire a minor league game to everyone's satisfaction. You needed eyes in the back of your head plus the guts to make the call against the home town team. Once the stands emptied, and angry fans were coming your way, you had better know where to run to if you wanted to live to umpire another day. The career of one of these gentleman would make a great subject for a movie.
                    "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                    "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Tim Flood

                      Tim Flood played second base for St. Louis in 1899 and Brooklyn from 1902-03 in the National League.

                      On June 25, 1907 he was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern League. In a game in Toronto, Canada, Flood kicked umpire John Conway. One report says it was a drop kick. He was immediately arrested and removed from the field by a police inspector.

                      After spending the night in jail, the ballplayer came before Police Magistrate Denison the following day. He pled guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to 15 days in jail - hard labor. Flood thought he was pleading to common assault with a small fine attached.

                      On June 27 Eastern League president Pat Powers expelled Flood from the league stating, "Flood is expelled. He is not fit to play in civilized ball."

                      The Washington Post lamented, "Flood has been known as a rowdy for many years. He Has assaulted umpires in every league he has ever played in..."

                      Flood was finally released from jail on July 4. Reports indicated that he lost ten pounds during his incarceration.

                      He found work later that month in the American Association with St. Paul.

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                      • #12
                        In the Rough and Tumble 1900 Montana State League:

                        Umpire Brennan failed to show up for an important game because " he was too drunk and never found the ballpark." - Great Falls Daily Tribune

                        Umpire Eddie Burke, a former major leaguer, ejected Joe Tinker (future HOFer) from a playoff game but Tinker refused to leave. Burke took out his watch and waited the customary five minutes before he would award the game to Tinker's opponents from Great Falls. Angry Helena fans stormed the field and Helena player Flannery hit Burke several times. Burke broke free and grabbed a baseball bat to defend himself. The mob took the bat out of Burke's hands and knocked him to the ground. Somehow Burke got loose and declared the game a forfeit before running into town. The angry mob chased him through the streets and Burke spent most of the night avoiding another beating. He was arrested by the sheriff who charged him with drawing a knife during an incident at a game two weeks earlier. The charges were dropped the next day after the sheriff made sure Burke missed the train so he could not umpire the final and deciding game of the playoffs.

                        Umpire Eddie Burke charged Helena fans with attempted bribery by offering him the job of Fire Chief in return for helping the Helena team win. Burke also charged Helena fans with offering to split their winnings on bets for the series if Burke would see to it that Helena won. - Great Falls Daily Tribune

                        You got all this entertainment for only a quarter too!

                        P.S. Helena lost the fifth and deciding playoff game when it's catcher got so pissed off at the pitcher that he threw the baseball over the left field fence and umpire McDonough forfeited the game to Great Falls.
                        "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                        "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks Tony for presenting us with solid baseball research and insight. It is very refreshing in this forum that is so stale with the repeated "who's best" analysis and the endless discussions about only the greats in history.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
                            Thanks Tony for presenting us with solid baseball research and insight. It is very refreshing in this forum that is so stale with the repeated "who's best" analysis and the endless discussions about only the greats in history.
                            Anybody can read newspapers from 1890 to 1910 on microfilm and see stories like these happening almost every week in the minors. I bet I could come up with a list of 100 of the greatest umpire fights just from my research notes. Multiply that by 20 or 30 other minor leagues and you have the makings of a classic book. People would think it's fiction.
                            "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                            "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Harry "Steamboat" Johnson wrote Standing The Gaff about his minor league umpiring career from 1911-1946. His early stops included the Ohio-Penn League, I-I-I, and Western League. He umpired in the NL in 1914 but had run-ins with McGraw and a few other managers. Next, he umpired in the NY State League, International League, Sally League, and finally the Southern League. He was the dean of minor league umps.

                              He mentions cowboys shooting at home run balls in the Western League. Early on he took a "couple of rights to the ear." He was attacked by fans in his hotel, and in the storage shed at the ballpark. When an angry mob surrounded him one time he took out his knife, snapped the blade open, and then calmly began to cut his fingernails with the sharp blade so all could see. They backed off!

                              In Nashville, a doctor was razzing Johnson from his box seat behind home plate. Steamboat Johnson finally turned around and yelled, "Doctor, they bury all your mistakes." In Atlanta one time he was hit several times in the head and back with bottles after ejecting both the Atlanta pitcher and catcher. One time in Wilkes-Barre, Johnson was beaten up by eight men and could not straighten up for days.

                              In Troy, NY, Johnson ducked a punch and landed one of his own that decked the player. The player swung his catchers mask and hit Johnson above the eye and knocked him down. Johnson umpired the rest of the game while bleeding above the eye. The police escorted him to a street car and angry fans hit him with chunks of coal before the police could catch them.

                              A bullet barely missed him during another mob scene because he was bending down to pick up something.
                              "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                              "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                              Comment

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