Wednesday, July 15, 2020

VBT and Giveaway: The Umpire Was Blind! by Jonathan Weeks

The Umpire Was Blind!
by Jonathan Weeks


GENRE:   Sports history/biography



In the words of former American League umpire Nestor Chylak, umpires are expected to “be perfect on the first day of the season and then get better every day.” Forced to deal with sullen managers and explosive players, they often take the blame for the failures of both. But let’s face it—umpires are only human.

For well over a century, the fortunes of Major League teams—and the fabric of baseball history itself—have been dramatically affected by the flawed decisions of officials. While the use of video replay in recent decades has reduced the number of bitter disputes, many situations remain exempt from review and are subject to swirling controversy. In the heat of the moment mistakes are often made, sometimes with monumental consequences.




…“The Streak” was in serious jeopardy on multiple occasions. In fact, DiMaggio extended it during his final plate appearance nearly a dozen times. But never was he more in danger of losing it than on June 10 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. After a pair of groundouts and an infield pop-up, the Yankee icon came to bat in the seventh inning against right-hander Johnny Rigney, who was one of Chicago’s top hurlers in those days. DiMaggio smashed a sizzling grounder to third, where the sure-handed Dario Lodigiani was stationed. “Lodi” could only block it with his body, but he recovered in time to nail the Yankee centerfielder at first by a quarter of a step. Fortunately for DiMaggio, first base umpire Steve Basil saw things differently, making a “safe” call on the play.

Basil, who had turned to umpiring after his playing career stalled out at the Class-D level, was in his sixth year of major league service. Though generally even-tempered, he was not afraid to assert his authority when his calls were held in question. Never was this more apparent than in June of 1938, when he tossed three members of the St. Louis Browns out of a game for arguing balls and strikes.

According to AL arbiter Joe Rue, Basil was a bit of a tattletale who was constantly trying to curry favor with MLB officials. In particular, he had established intimate relationships with umpire supervisor Tommy Connolly and AL president William Harridge. “Basil was always playing up to Connolly,” Rue asserted bitterly. “And he’d run to Connolly and Harridge with everything.”

There was no need to seek the counsel of league officials on the date in question. In fact, the White Sox hardly protested at all as DiMaggio’s streak was extended to twenty-five games. Basil’s call proved to be of monumental importance when Joe D. grounded into a double play in his final at-bat of the day. Had Basil made the correct decision, “The Streak” would have been divided into two roughly equal halves—impressive, for sure, but not exactly the stuff that legends are made of.

The events of July 17, 1941, have attained an almost mythical quality. DiMaggio had pushed his streak to fifty-six games and was on his way to Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium in a cab when the driver, recognizing the iconic outfielder and his teammate Lefty Gomez, said ominously: “I got a feeling if you don’t get a hit in your first at-bat today, they’re going to stop you.” (Several versions of the quote exist) Flabbergasted, Gomez snapped: “Who the hell are you? What’re you trying to do—jinx him?”

…Gomez might have been on to something.

The jinx appeared in the form of Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, who made a pair of spectacular stops to rob DiMaggio. “The Streak” ended that day and “Joltin’ Joe” hit safely in his next 16 games. Many years after the fact, he claimed to have had an encounter with the mysterious Cleveland cab driver. “Now this is thirty years later,” DiMaggio asserted. “He apologized and was serious. I felt awful. He might have been spending his whole life thinking he had jinxed me, but I told him he hadn’t. My number was up.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Weeks spent most of his life in the Capital District region of New York State. He earned a degree in psychology from SUNY Albany. In 2004, he migrated to Malone, NY. He continues to gripe about the frigid winter temperatures to the present day. He has published several books on the topic of baseball. He would have loved to play professionally, but lacked the talent. He still can't hit a curve ball or lay off the high heat. In the winter months, he moonlights as a hockey fan.



Where did you find the inspiration to write this book?

I grew up watching baseball. If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that umpires have the power to dramatically alter the final score. I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself yelling at the television: “HE MISSED THE TAG!!” or “THAT WASN’T A STRIKE!!” I wanted to explore the topic of umpire controversies in-depth. Umpires have a tough job. A lot is riding on the decisions they make. And they take a lot of abuse from players, managers, and fans.

How long did it take you to research and write it?

I started researching this book back in 2018. Within a few months, I had gathered enough material to fill an entire book. For me, the researching part is the easiest since all you are doing is gathering facts. Assembling those facts in a coherent order is the real trick. The entire process of completing a non-fiction book, which includes the inevitable re-writes mandated by editors, takes close to a year—maybe been longer. By the time one of my books actually goes to press, I have usually moved on to another project.

Where do you normally write?

Ideas come to me all the time—in my sleep, in the grocery store, etc. I’m often unable to write these ideas down, though, and (sadly) many are lost. When I do formally sit down to write, I have an office in my house. 

What does your writing space look like?

My office is a man-cave. It’s full of autographed baseballs and photos of my favorite players. There’s a shelf of baseball books I have collected over the years. I’m not sure how many I actually have, but I would estimate that the number is close to two-hundred. I don’t always have to go on-line or to a library to do research for my baseball projects. I just grab a book from my bookshelf.  



Jonathan Weeks will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


July 6: Rogue's Angels
July 7: The Avid Reader

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  1. It sounds like an interesting book. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Who is your favorite character that is still writing?

  3. Thanks so much for hosting my tour. I appreciate the opportunity to share my work with readers.

  4. Thanks for taking time to share your book with us and it's always a pleasure in our family to learn about a new one.

  5. I enjoyed the excerpt, thanks for sharing

  6. I am recommending this book to my brother. He would love it.