You think major league umpires today are under the microscope?
Try umpiring a game with the best players in the world by yourself or with just one partner.
That’s what they did back in the first decade of the 20th century, the beginning of the Deadball Era.
In 2000 — the year he moved from Granger, Ind., to Olathe, Kan. — David Anderson took a cue from Notre Dame Joyce Sports Research Collection curator George Rugg and began doing research about the arbiters of this period is about to come out with a book, “You Can’t Beat The Hours.”
Anderson, the author of “More Than Merkle,” a Nebraska Press-published book about the 1908 season, splits his new work into five sections – The Game, The Honesty of Umpires, Communication with Players and Fans, Umpires and Their Uniforms and Who Were These Men.
Come this summer, nine umpires will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and four of them — Tommy Connolly (National League, 1898-99; American League, 1901-33), Billy Evans (AL, 1906-27), Bill Klem (NL, 1905-41) and new enshriee Hank O’Day (NL, 1897-1911, 1913, 1914-27) — worked during the Deadball Era.
It is a conversation between O’Loughlin and another umpire, Tim Hurst, that gave Anderson the name of his book.
“An umpire’s life is worst than a murderer’s,” said O’Loughlin to his colleague. “He is an Ishmaelite, an outcast, a thing despised, loathed and hated. He must hide from his fellow men; he dares not talk to anyone; he was no friends; he cannot speak to the players; he must hide in obscure hotels; conceal his identity; endure abuse, insult, and even assault.
“Who there that is his friend — that will stand by him when thousands are shouting ‘Thief!’ and ‘Robber!’ and thirsting for his blood? Who, I say? Why the worst criminal in the world gets more consideration and kindness; the umpire, hated, abused, insulted, and often hunted, stands alone with twenty thousand shouting every insult, taunt, and vilification known to him. From three o’clock in the afternoon until five he must.”
At that point Hurst interrupted, saying, “You can’t beat the hours.”
The other umps in Cooperstown happen to be Al Barlick (NL, 1940-71), Nestor Chylak (AL, 1954-78), Jocko Conlan (NL, 1941-65), Doug Harvey (NL, 1962-92), Cal Hubbard (AL, 1936-51) and Bill McGowan (AL, 1925-54).
“Umpires are so ignored,” says Anderson. “When the National League had its 75th anniversary, there was nothing said about the umpires at all.”
Anderson, himself a former umpire at the amateur level including northern Indiana high school games, finds this strange considering that the umpires helped form the game we recognize today.
“It’s a shame it has taken so long for umpires to gain recognition as human beings,” says Anderson, who notes that one-man umpire crews in the Deadball days called balls and strikes behind the catcher with none on base but called pitches from behind first with runners on.
Anderson, 64, recalls working a few games in South Bend solo and opted to stay behind the plate because of his equipment.
“Why has this been lost to history?,” says Anderson.
During a very rough-and-tumble time, most umpires held up under the strain.
“These guys were amazing in the way they handled themselves after games,” says Anderson. “They were chased off fields and mobbed. A lot of people don’t realize this.”
Anderson’s book will be available on-demand from Create Space and will also be available in eBook form.
Want to know more about Deadball Era umpires? Check out Signs of the Time, a production that explores the development of umpire hand signals?