Tuesday, February 19, 2013
February 19- American League Umpire
I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a pain in the ass doing research for this hat has been. For starters, there isn’t a single dedicated Web site or listing to prove the use of each and every style of cap used by MLB, American League and National League umpires. Trust me; the last fours hours prior to writing this were dedicated to scouring every last terabyte of information revolving around umpires caps. I started with the obvious, “Dressed to the Nines,” a Web site operated by the Hall of Fame which showcases every hat, pant and jersey combination for every team throughout Major League Baseball’s history. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a lot of flaws with their displays. For instance, the wrong colors are used on a number of hats, which has prompted me to use other resources a number of times on my daily task. Most importantly, none of the umpire uniforms are listed on the site. And with that, a seemingly easy task became more of a vision quest.
Lucky for me, I knew a rough time frame in which this particular cap was used; however, I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to these things so accuracy was key. The first time in my life I could recall ever seeing this cap was in one of my favorite comedies of all time, “The Naked Gun.” If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you should, but I bring my account up because of something I said earlier while I was watching clips from the film: “Why isn’t The Naked Gun in anyone’s Top 10 baseball movies of all time list?” It’s a valid point. I mean, it has actual MLB stars from the era (Jay Johnstone and Reggie Jackson), not to mention one of the funniest portrayals of umpiring/Leslie Nielsen’s brilliance in a five minute clip on the field at Dodger Stadium. (Sidebar: The mere fact that they filmed the California Angels/Seattle Mariners game at Dodger Stadium proves how much people actually hate the Angels outside of Los Angeles) But the most vital detail of this clip is that this is in fact the first indication of when this hat was used on a professional field. Watch…
As a frequent user of IMDB.com I made sure to do my research on my last catharsis. “The Naked Gun” was released on December 2, 1988, which was obviously after Kirk Gibson and the God damn Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series. After doing some digging I found out that the entire film production took place between February 16, 1988 and some time in April 1988; which means that filming of the baseball scenes took place during spring training OR April 21-24 when the Mariners were in Anaheim playing the Angels (Which is more than likely). Like I said, I did a lot of research. Now, the other part of this question is, “how do I know that the hats weren’t used before then?” Easy, I looked through every World Series, American League Championship Series or significant date within the A.L. I could find from 1980-1988. In an ironic twist that will come up in several blog posts in the future, the 1987 video I found was a Dan Gladden highlight compilation.
Now, I figured out the first part, but I still had to find the end date. The easiest thing to do was start in 1994 when the updated version of “Angels in the Outfield” was released. You remember, Christopher Lloyd saying, “you can call me AL” as he put the cap on. By the way, I’m curious to know if Disney was sued by Paul Simon for that quote. Hmmmmm… anyway, I then bounced around a bit more and found a few photos from 1995 which featured the hat, but not in 1996. ’96 was the first year in which the umpires started wearing those horrific red shirts, but most importantly, it’s the first year in which they rocked the caps with the giant red “A” with an eagle in the middle.
So yah, I did a lot of research on something you’ve probably given little to no thought about. But hey! We have an answer! As for the marks, I had to be just as clever about it.
#11- The American League didn’t adopt numbers for umpires until the start of the 1980 season, so with that I had to roll with someone who umped during the time when this cap was used. So, who better than Don Denkinger? Now, I know what you’re thinking, “who the hell is that clown?” Well, Denkinger is the guy personally responsible for giving the Kansas City Royals their one and only World Series title in 1985, thus preventing the St. Louis Cardinals from winning what would have been their 10th. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up; Game 6. It is probably one of the most ridiculously blown final out calls outside of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. Denkinger umped until the end of the 1998 season and served as the crew chief for the 1988 and 1992 ALCS as well as the 1991 World Series.
#50- After doing all of this research I decided to have a bit of fun. If you didn’t watch “The Naked Gun” link I posted, here’s your chance to redeem yourself. Since the filming was one of the first times the cap was used I couldn’t think of anyone better to pay tribute to than Leslie Nielsen. It’s hard to spot, but Nielsen wore the #50 during his umpiring scenes. Baseball is first, and foremost a game and Nielsen did a wonderful job showing just how much fun the guys in blue could have on the field. Granted, if modern day umpires acted like he did they would probably get their immediate walking papers. But just imagine how much more fun the excitement and entertainment would be.