It’s a Tough Job
June 23, 1917: Brick Owens gets clobbered. Clarence Bernard Owens was a Major League Baseball umpire. He worked in the National League in 1908 and from 1912-13 and in the American League from 1916 through 1937. He was famous for officiating in the World Series in 1918, 1922, 1925, 1928, and 1934 (serving as crew chief for the last two). He also worked the All-Star Game in 1934 behind the plate for the last half of the game. Born in Wisconsin in 1885, he hoped to pursue a career in baseball. On July 4, 1901, he accidentally shot himself in the left hand, ending his hopes of playing professionally. He was supposed to play in a sandlot game and instead of staying home, he went to the game and when the umpire quit early in the game due to a dispute, Owens took over the position. The next year, his family moved to Chicago and he again umpired games for fifty cents per game. He soon raised his fee to a dollar and when he was noticed by minor league executive Al Tearney, he began to coach minor league games for $5 each.
These minor league games were far more contentious than those played in sandlots. At age 17 he was offered a position with the Northern League for $75 a month but got into so many fights that when he met the president of the league, Harry Pulliam, wanted to know if Owens had been in a train wreck. At one game, after calling a final player out on strikes, the player dropped his bat and got into a fight with Owens. A fan jumped from the stands, picked up the bat, and hit Owens over the head with it. The attacker’s father paid Owens $750 to not file assault charges. Owens got his nickname when angry fans began throwing bricks at the umpire and one struck him in the head. He was not seriously injured and returned to his position just a few days later.
On this day, the Washington Senators were playing against the Boston Red Sox. Babe Ruth was pitching. The first batter for Washington stepped up to the plate with Owens standing behind the plate as umpire. Ruth threw four pitches. All were called balls and the player was walked to first base. Ruth, never known for his calm demeanor, was irate. When he let his displeasure be known to the umpire, Owens threw him out of the game. Before leaving, Ruth punched Owens. Ernie Shore replaced Ruth and picked off the runner who had made his way to first base. He then retired the next 26 Washington batters. Shore regarded it as a perfect pitched game. Statisticians did not.
Shore was from North Carolina and played his first Major League Baseball game on June 20, 1912 with the New York Giants. He did not resign and was off for the 1913 season before Boston picked him up. He played for the Red Sox from 1914-1917 and then once again had a year off. The New York Yankees picked him up for 1919-1920. He won 65 games and lost 43. Since he did not strike out the first batter on this day, the game is credited as a no-hitter rather than a perfect game. Ruth was fined $100, had to make a public apology, and was suspended for ten games.
I didn’t mean to hit the umpire with the dirt, but I did mean to hit that bastard in the stands. – Babe Ruth
I never questioned the integrity of an umpire. His eyesight? yes. – Leo Durocher
Despite all the nasty things I have said about umpires, I think they’re one-hundred percent honest, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how they arrive at some of their decisions. – Jimmy Dykes
An umpire is a loner. The restraints of his trade impose problems not normally endured by players, coaches, management, press and others connected with organized baseball. He is a friend to none. More often he is considered an enemy by all around him – including the fans in the stands who threaten his life. – Art Rosenbaum
Also on this day: Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinied.
Clackity clack – In 1868, an improved typewriter was patented.
Lorena and John – In 1993, domestic violence made the world headlines.
Banff – In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act of Canada was passed.
Iced – In 1953, Zamboni received a patent for an ice cleaner.