Friday, July 17, 2020

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway -The Umpire Was Blind!: Controversial Calls by MLB's Men in Blue by Jonathan Weeks

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for The Umpire Was Blind!: Controversial Calls by MLB's Men in Blue by Jonathan Weeks. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt for you as well as a guest post. There's also a tour wide giveaway to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: The Umpire Was Blind!: Controversial Calls by MLB's Men in Blue
Author: Jonathan Weeks
Publisher: McFarland
Publication Date: May 21st 2020
Print Length: 214 pages
Genres: Sports History, Non-Fiction
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.”

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.

by Jonathan Weeks
GAME 4 2009 ALCS
Yankees vs. Angels

Though highly respected around the majors, umpire Tim McClelland made two colossal blunders in this game. He was not alone in his embarrassment. In the fourth inning, umpire Dale Scott allowed Yankee rightfielder Nick Swisher to remain at second base after he was tagged out by shortstop Erick Aybar on a pickoff throw from pitcher Scott Kazmir (the play wasn’t even terribly close). Scott’s error was nullified when McClelland made an even bigger mistake later on. Swisher made it to third and should have scored on a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Johnny Damon, but McClelland called Swisher out, believing he had left the bag too early. Replays proved conclusively that McClelland made the wrong decision. Before the dust had settled, McClelland made another call that bordered on being ludicrous. With one out in the top of the fifth inning, the Yankees had Jorge Posada on third and Robinson Cano on second. Nick Swisher hit a tapper back to pitcher Darren Oliver. Oliver threw to catcher Mike Napoli, trapping Posada in a rundown. The Yankee backstop scampered to third as Cano arrived at the same station. Both runners were tagged while standing off the bag, but McClelland—in one of the most mystifying judgments in umpiring history—only called Posada out. The ruling had little effect on the Yankees 10-1 blowout win, but it raised serious questions about the competency of the major league umpiring staff. A writer from ESPN sarcastically referred to Game 4 as “the worst umpiring performance at an Angels game since Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun.”

GAME 1 1996 ALCS
Yankees vs. Orioles

Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees got a helping hand from umpire Rich Garcia. With one-out, Derek Jeter stepped up to face Orioles reliever Armando Benitez. Jeter launched a deep fly to right field. Baltimore outfielder Tony Tarasco settled under it and was about to make the catch when a twelve year-old fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and deflected the ball into the stands. Fans are allowed to keep balls hit into the bleachers, but are prohibited from tampering with live ones on the field. Spectator interference is called on such occasions with the play being ruled dead and the batter being awarded a discretionary number of bases. In this case, Garcia may not have had a clear view of the play as he declared Jeter’s drive a game-tying home run. The game went into extra innings and center fielder Bernie Williams hit a walk-off homer, giving New York a dramatic 5-4 win. The Yankees went on to capture the World Series that year. Garcia knew he blew the call, later commenting: “I didn’t sleep that night. I agonized the whole winter over it.” Had video review been in use back then, Garcia’s call would likely have been overturned.

Cardinals vs. Royals

On the verge of clinching the Series, the Cardinals carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth at Royals Stadium. Right-hander Todd Worrell took the mound for St. Louis and induced a seemingly harmless grounder off the bat of Kansas City’s Jorge Orta. First baseman Jack Clark fielded the ball and flipped to Worrell in plenty of time to nail Orta at first, but umpire Don Denkinger—in one of the most forgettable moments of his otherwise distinguished career—flat out blew the call. It was a disastrous turn of events for St. Louis as the Royals, aided by a dropped foul pop and a wild pitch, rallied to win the game, 2-1. They ended up capturing the Series with an 11-0 blowout in Game 7. Before the dust had settled, a pair of disgruntled St. Louis disc jockeys broadcast Denkinger’s address and phone number over the air. A slew of death threats and obscene phone calls followed. Asked about the use of video review many years later, Denkinger said: “The object is to get the call right. That’s a good thing. So I’m in favor of review. And if they had it back then (in ’85) no one would even know my name.”

Reds vs. Orioles

This game was tied at 3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, when umpire Ken Burkhart rendered one of the most flawed decisions in baseball history. With one out, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer issued a walk to Cincinnati’s Bernie Carbo. Tommy Helms followed with a single off of Palmer, pushing Carbo to third base. Looking to manufacture a run, Reds manager Sparky Anderson called upon Ty Cline to pinch-hit for light-hitting shortstop Woody Woodward. Cline hit a high chopper in front of the plate. A comedy of errors followed. Carbo bolted recklessly for home only to find Burkhart out of position and kneeling directly in the base path. Attempting to avoid the arbiter, Carbo executed an awkward, sprawling slide. Orioles catcher Ellie Hendricks fielded the ball cleanly and lunged toward Carbo, applying the tag with an empty glove (the ball was actually in his throwing hand). Burkhart, now facing the wrong direction with his back to the play, made a blind call, ruling Carbo out. Completing the farce, Carbo missed the plate when he slid, touching it accidentally when he confronted Burkhart about the call. Anderson soon joined the argument, commenting to the bewildered official: “I’d like to see the picture on that one.” “So would I,” Burkhart replied. The Reds ultimately lost the game and the Series. Burkhart’s mistake was so flagrant, it was later used in instructional videos to educate umpires on the fundamentals of proper positioning and alertness.
Jonathan Weeks will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. How much research did you have to do for your book?

    1. A lot, Bernie! It took me about a year to put this book together.

  2. I don't watch baseball. But I've never thought about how much abuse is thrown their way. I usually only pay attention to them when they're arguing with players or coaches.

    1. Believe me--It's a job you wouldn't want! Lots of pressure to be perfect.

  3. I liked the excerpt, sounds good.

  4. Your book sounds like a great read and thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. Thanks for hosting this stop on my tour. very much appreciate it!

  6. sounds like a fun one

  7. I really enjoyed the excerpt and think the book sounds good.

  8. Jonathan, Who sparked you love for baseball?

  9. I've enjoyed following the tour and reading all of the great posts, thanks for sharing!

  10. this sounds really interesting, thanks for sharing

  11. thanks this sounds like an interesting book

  12. This sounds like such an awesome book!!! My son is a huge MLB fan, and would love to read this!!

  13. Great excerpt, thanks for sharing it.

  14. Lovely good to come by and learn about your tour.

  15. Author what do you want the readers to take from this book?

  16. As the country starts getting ready for a delayed baseball season, this book would make interesting reading for many people.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com