Wednesday, February 20, 2013
February 20- National League Umpire
After last night’s unfortunate, but necessary research plunge, I was a bit hesitant to have this hat next in the rotation. The one advantage of moving on to the National League umpire cap is that I at least knew the end point of its use on the field. 1995 was the final year, just like its American League comrade, as 1996 ushered in the new era of the giant red “N” with the logo of the NL in the center (a crest with an eagle head and a bat and glove in each talon). So with that, it was back to YouTube and photo archives, funneling through footage from all World Series prior to 1988. Actually, one thing that I should have pointed out in the AL umpire post is that that particular hat was the second edition of the basic white font umpire cap. The first featured the “A” and “L” on separate panels. The one advantage that I have with the NL is that they never changed the look in all of the years they used it.
I decided to start my research in 1982, as I recall seeing this hat used by the NL umpires during the 1983 World Series footage I had scoured yesterday. I couldn’t find many videos on the World Series, but I did comb through 15 minutes of San Francisco Giants highlights from ’82. Being a loyal Oakland Athletics fan, I felt dirty every second my eyes glossed over the screen. About 13:46 into the video I got confirmation. 1981 was a little bit more challenging as most of the videos I found only featured World Series pre-game on ABC with a young Al Michaels and an always tenacious Howard Cosell. Once again I had to comb through several videos of highlights from the previous games until I got confirmation. It took about seven videos, but I got it. 1980 only took about two minutes as I came across a video of a controversial triple play call during Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros. Having four umpires in frame during the 20-minute argument made things very easy for me. Last, the 1979 World Series. Like the previous video, it took about two minutes to confirm that all of the umpires were wearing all-navy blue hats as the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates slugged it. My total time spent doing research tonight: roughly 47 minutes. Yay!!!
From 1980-1995 the National League umpires rocked this hat, but this is only the second time I’ve ever worn it. My timing couldn’t have been any better when I decided to go with it today as it has been exactly 359 days since I last wore it. How do I know? Well… a week shy of a year ago I was in Phoenix, Arizona as a member of the Top 30 for the MLB Fan Cave. I had taken about six hats down south with me as a precaution. By that I mean I made sure to cover every possible angle I could depending on what we did and who we were to work with. On the last day (today for the current group) I had my panel interview with the executives in charge of the operation. Basically it was about 13-15 people with very prominent jobs within MLB sitting at tables in front of you and on both sides of you while you sit in a chair in the center of the room. Before I had gone in for my session, I waited outside and relaxed. Not knowing what to expect I just sat on the small set of steps which faced the breakfast lounge. During my wait, a gentleman in a light blue polo shirt came out and stopped mid-track to ask me about my hat. His question, “So what’s the deal with the hat?” I asked him to repeat his question, at which he repeated the same thing. Not knowing who he was, my response to the repeat question was, “No, I need you to clarify your question. Are you asking about the history, why I’m wearing it or some other bit of information?” He then asked why I was wearing it. I told him about my collection of hats and how it wouldn’t be complete unless I also had a few umpire hats in the mix. He seemed impressed by my answer, at which we discussed the Diamond Collection. After about eight minutes of this talk he finally told me that he was in charge of the licensing for the Diamond Collection. I then thought about my previous curtness when trying to break down his first question and how it would later affect me as it turns out he was a member of the panel interview. “Oh drat!” I thought. As it turns out, it didn’t affect me at all. Matt Bourne, the Vice President of Business Public Relations at Major League Baseball, had a pretty good-sized folder in front of him, filled with information dating back to before I was in high school, and he led the interview. The rest of the panel consisted of Tim Brosnan- the Executive Vice President of Business for MLB, and is essentially the next guy in line for spot of Commissioner after Bud Selig retires, Jacqueline Parkes- the Chief Marketing Officer for MLB, Jeff Heckelman- a member of the Public Relations staff and Tyler Hissey- the stooge who runs the Fan Cave Twitter account and Facebook page. There were others, but none of them with as high of a ranking as those five. Anyway, I got through the interview with little to no problems. All of my answers were off the top of my head and honest, which is a principle I abide by unless I really need to mull something over. I left the room, but not until I shook everyone's hand and thanked them for their time. My friend, and Fan Cave Top 30 member Brad Jeffers was waiting outside for his run of the gauntlet as I submerged. I felt pretty good about things. Obviously, the rest is history. I was one of nine people to make it to New York City, I was let go, promised assistance for the future (job wise by Parkes and Heckelman) and have yet to be talked to by any of those people since. So, like the umpires who previously wore this cap, the state of my future career is ultimately in their hands. God damn it.
I couldn’t come up with two better people to pay tribute to, so I’ll just roll into it…
#10- John McSherry was a National League umpire from 1971-1995. Throughout his career, McSherry umped in three All-Star games (1975, 1982 and 1991), eight NLCS (1974, 1978, 1983-85, 1988, 1990 and 1992), two NLDS (1981 and 1995) and two World Series (1977 and 1987). Of all the games he umpired, the most notable had to be as the home plate umpire for Game 6 of the 1977 World Series when Reggie Jackson belted three home runs. The 8-4 Yankees victory earned the "Bronx Bombers" their first World Series championship under owner George Steinbrenner and their first title since 1962. After Jackson's first home run off Burt Hooton, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda came to the mound to make a pitching change. Lasorda asked McSherry who he should summon from the bullpen; McSherry suggested that Lasorda go with right-hander Elías Sosa. Sosa would give up Jackson's second home run in the fifth. McSherry was not a slender man either. At 6’2’’ his weight had ballooned up to close to 400 pounds by the time 1996 rolled around, a note which some say was a contributing factor to his death on April 1, 1996. I still remember this day. It was Opening Day of the ’96 season and McSherry was working home plate for the Cincinnati Reds/Montreal Expos game in Cincy. Seven pitches into the game, McSherry called a timeout, spoke briefly to Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee, and walked slowly towards the Reds' dugout. Moments after signaling for the second base umpire to come in and replace him, McSherry stumbled and collapsed. Resuscitative efforts were begun on McSherry and he was taken to University Hospital in Cincinnati, but he was pronounced dead within the hour. He was 51 years old.
#21- Harry Wendelstedt is arguably one of the best umpires to ever work in the National League, and did so from 1966-1998. During his time he umped in four All-Star games (1968, 1976, 1983 and 1992), three NLDS (1995-1997), seven NLCS (1970, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1988 and 1990) and five World Series (1973, 1980, 1986, 1991 and 1995). Most notably, Wendelstedt was the home plate umpire for five no-hitters, a distinction he shares with Bill Klem. On May 31, 1968, Wendelstedt made a famous call that preserved Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale’s consecutive shutouts and scoreless innings streaks. Giants catcher Dick Dietz came to the plate in the top of the 9th inning with the bases loaded and no outs. On a 2–2 count, Drysdale hit Dietz on the elbow, apparently forcing in a run that would have ended the streaks. However, Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz made no attempt to avoid being struck by the pitch, and called him back. Drysdale retired Dietz on a short fly ball and got out of the inning without yielding a run, earning his fifth (of six) consecutive shutouts. On March 9, 2012 Wendelstedt passed away after a 10-year fight with a brain tumor. Wendelstedt has a son, Hunter, who is still umpiring in the league and wears #21 to honor his father.