Fullerton Files: Umpires

These stories by Hugh Fullerton were included in a column titled "Umpires I Have Known" that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 26, 1905.

(Paragraph breaks added for easier reading. Headlines are as printed.)


Hurst Gives Pitcher

Briggs a Good Lesson.

I remember one game in Boston about the close of the season of '97. Boston and Chicago were playing, and it didn't make any difference, really, which team won.

Tim Hurst -- the only -- was umpiring, and in the ninth inning Boston was leading by one run.

Billy Clingaman was playing with Chicago, and, with a man on third and two out, he caught Collins napping, dumped a bunt out towards third, sent Bill Everitt scampering across the plate with the tying run, and beat the ball three steps to first base.

Hurst was scooting towards first, and, although Clingman was safe by eight feet, Tim waved him out and went racing off the field.

The entire Chicago team was in pursuit, maddened with the undeserved defeat. The crowd sat stunned for a minute and then began to go out.

As I came down the grand stand steps I caught sight of Hurst hurrying out, carrying his grip [suitcase], and he waved me a greeting.

In answer, I simply held my nose with a finger and thumb, to shut out the odor of his decision.

Tim looked up, and, shaking his fist, said in a stage whisper: "Ye greaspon [sic], ye. I had but eleven minutes to catch the boat train."


Herbert ["Buttons"] Briggs, the Cleveland youngster who broke into fast company because he struck out [Cap] Anson three times in a game at Little Rock in the spring of 1896, and who, rejuvenated, is pitching for Chicago again, had a run-in with Hurst in the first game that he ever pitched in fast company.

Briggs stood high in Anson's estimation and Anson wanted him to pitch in the opening series against St. Louis that season.

Briggs was fast, he had a speedy out curve, and a fast high one -- but he was wild and some of the other didn't want him to pitch. But Briggs pitched. He was chockful of self-confidence and freshness in those days, and all leagues looked alike to him.

He wound up into a knot, whirled, and shot the first ball across the heart of the plate, waist high, and so fast the catcher didn't even see it.

Before the ball fairly splashed into [Malachi] Kittridge's mitt, Briggs, with his arm still extended, yelled: "How's that?"

Hurst, who was umpiring, looked the youngster over from head to foot and then remarked calmly: "Under the circumstances, that is a ball. Had you not asked me it would have been a strike."

Briggs never kicked to Hurst afterwards.


This Umpire Pulls a

Book of Rules on Kicker.

One of the grandest umpires I ever ran across was a fellow named Ferris, who was principal of a school down in a small Indiana town where we played an exhibition game one time.

In those days, when the team didn't want to waste a real pitcher against a scrub team in an exhibition, they would put me in to pitch.

One day I would be [Bill] Hutchison, another [Clark] Griffith, and so on, while the real pitchers played penny ante in the hotel and made me work.

Of course all I did was to make the village teams hit the ball and let the fielders do the rest.

On that day I was elected to pitch because all the real pitchers were tired, and we felt confident of victory.

Ferris, the school teacher, was chosen to umpire, and he came on to the field armed with a new Spalding guide, so as to be ready to read the rules if there was any kick.

The first man up hit the first ball and rolled and easy grounder straight to me. I picked it up and, walking towards first base, tossed the ball over to [George] Decker, thirty feet ahead of the runner.

"Safe," yelled Ferris.

"How's that?" yelled Decker, right back at him.

"The runner is safe," decreed the umpire.

"Why, he was out thirty feet," expostulated Decker.

Ferris calmly produced the rules and said: "The rules say that the ball must be thrown to first base ahead of the runner. Your pitcher did not throw the ball. He pitched it."

That settled the argument.

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