The umpires of 1955 Bowman

Umpire cards are practically as old as baseball cards themselves, with several appearing in the 1887-90 Old Judge (N172) set.

Umpires made it into a number of other sets over the next half century, but didn’t reappear in any major releases (apologies to Al Demaree Die-Cuts and Schutter-Johnson fans) until Dolly Stark’s inclusion in both 1939 and 1940 Play Ball.

Of course this was just prelude to the 1955 Bowman set, which dedicated an entire Baskin Robbins worth of umpires to its high numbers series.

The cards fronts followed the standard 1955 Bowman color television design, though I suspect few umps ever scored such close-ups on actual broadcasts. The card backs featured bios and a trivia question in place of stats. Umpire ancestry was often provided, which I’m sure young gum chewers appreciated quite a bit.

“What kind of name is Honochick?”

“He’s SEE-zetch, you moron! Don’t you read the backs?”

I don’t have any real theory on why Bowman went from zero umpires in its 1948-54 sets to 31 in 1955. Could the umps have been filler to replace unsuccessful player contracts? Was there a buzz in the Hobby over the 1953 Hall of Fame inductions of Bill Klem and Thomas Connolly? Was Bowman trolling collectors on its way out of business? Or were these umps just that darn interesting?

For now, let’s assume the latter, because, YES!, they were pretty darn interesting. In this article, I’ll attempt to offer the three most interesting things about each one.

BILL McKINLEY (IRISH)

  • First graduate of umpire school to make the big leagues
  • Former meat cutter
  • Victim of extortion attempt when men broke into a hotel room to photograph McKinley and fellow umpire Ed Runge with two women

J.A. PAPARELLA (ITALIAN)

  • Holds record for most games umpired during 154-game schedule (169 in 1950)
  • Holds record for most games umpired during 162-game schedule (176 in 1962)
  • Third base umpire for Eddie Gaedel game in 1951

EDDIE ROMMEL (GERMAN)

  • Two-time 20 game winner (1922, 1925) for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics
  • Card back notes that Rommel was “widely accredited as the discoverer of the knuckle ball”
  • First umpire to wear glasses on the field (along with Frank Umont) in 1956

LARRY NAPP (ITALIAN)

  • Professional boxer and boxing referee
  • Third base umpire for Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 World Series
  • Right field umpire for “The Catch” in 1954 World Series

JOHNNY STEVENS (SLOVAK)

  • Third base umpire for “The Catch” in 1954 World Series
  • College basketball referee
  • Godfather of retired NBA referee Steve Javie

EDWIN HURLEY (GERMAN-IRISH)

  • Behind the plate for Eddie Gaedel game in 1951
  • Appeared on “What’s My Line?” television show in 1953
  • Confiscated Mickey Mantle’s illegal bat in 1958…and kept it!

AL BARLICK (GERMAN-AUSTRIAN)

  • “He’s going to be the greatest umpire in baseball history.” — Bill Klem
  • First base umpire for Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers debut
  • Elected to Hall of Fame in 1989

JIM HONOCHICK (CZECH)

  • Starred in Miller Lite commercials
  • Home plate umpire when Dodgers finally won World Series in 1955
  • Outfielder for Baltimore Orioles (International League) in 1940s

RED FLAHERTY (NO ETHNICITY LISTED)

  • Left field umpire when Dodgers finally won World Series in 1955
  • First base umpire for Roger Maris’ 61st home run in 1961
  • First baseman and outfielder in Cape Cod League

BILL GRIEVE (SCOTTISH-IRISH)

  • Served in New York State Assembly, 1936-37
  • Second base umpire for last World Series title in Cleveland Indians history
  • 40-year railroad career

ED RUNGE (NO ETHNICITY LISTED)

  • Professional roller skater
  • Tried out with Washington Senators in 1936
  • Victim of extortion attempt when men broke into a hotel room to photograph Runge and fellow umpire Bill McKinley with two women

HANK SOAR (ENGLISH-SWEDISH)

  • Star defensive back and running back for New York Giants (NFL) from 1937-1946, teaming with fellow 1955 Bowman umpire Frank Umont from 1943-46
  • Caught game-winning touchdown in 1938 NFL Championship game vs Green Bay Packers
  • First base umpire for Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956

CHARLIE BERRY (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • The subject of his own SABR Baseball Cards article!
  • One of three NFL players (along with Walter French and Evar Swanson) with cards in the 1933 Goudey baseball set
  • Member of the College Football Hall of Fame

NESTOR CHYLAK (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Wounded in the “Battle of the Bulge”
  • First base umpire for Bill Mazeroski home run in seventh game of 1960 World Series
  • Elected to Hall of Fame in 1999

BILL JACKOWSKI (POLISH)

  • Home plate umpire for Bill Mazeroski home run in seventh game of 1960 World Series
  • Right field umpire for Sandy Koufax’s final game (1966 World Series, game two)
  • His umpire uniform sold for (only!) $250 in 2009

FRANK SECORY (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Outfielder with Tigers, Reds, and Cubs from 1940-46
  • First base umpire for Dock Ellis no-hitter in 1970
  • Third base umpire when Miracle Mets won 1969 World Series

ARTIE GORE (IRISH)

  • Former minor league shortstop
  • Professional basketball referee
  • Left field umpire for Joe DiMaggio’s final game (1951 World Series, game six)

FRANK DASCOLI (ITALIAN)

  • Fired by National League president Warren Giles during 1961 season, ironically for noting Giles was not sufficiently supportive of umpires
  • First base umpire when Dodgers finally won World Series in 1955
  • “I’ll tell you how tough a job an umpire has. When I got back home that year a guy comes up to me and says, ‘Frank, you blew that call. I saw it. I was 10 feet away.’ I asked the guy how he could have been sitting 10 feet away when the box seats were at least 40 feet away? ‘I was watching on television,’ the guy says.” — Frank Dascoli on controversial safe at home call that resulted in Roy Campanella’s ejection from key game during 1951 pennant race

TOM GORMAN (IRISH)

  • Pitched four games for New York Giants in 1939
  • Home plate umpire for Bob Gibson’s record setting 17 strikeout game in 1968 World Series opener
  • Buried with his ball-strike counter sent to a full count

LEE BALLANFANT (BELGIAN-IRISH)

  • Minor league infielder from 1915-25
  • Third base umpire when Dodgers finally won World Series in 1955
  • “I can truthfully say I never did like umpiring. I stayed with it because I had to eat.” — Lee Ballanfant

DUSTY BOGGESS (SCOTCH-IRISH)

  • Minor league third baseman, catcher, and shortstop from 1921-33
  • Disqualified from high school baseball competition when it was found he was also playing professionally under the pseudonym Bogus!
  • Scout for Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Steelers

LON WARNEKE (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Three-time 20-game winner with Chicago Cubs (1932, 1934, 1935)
  • One of five subjects (along with Dick Bartell, Phil Cavarretta, Charlie Grimm, and Al Lopez) with cards in 1936 World Wide Gum and 1955 Bowman
  • County Judge for Garland County, Arkansas, from 1963-72

BILL ENGELN (GERMAN)

  • Former batboy for St. Louis Browns
  • Attacked by two women after a controversial third strike call in contest between Portland Beavers and Seattle Rainiers
  • Traveled with San Francisco Seals to Hawaii for their 1946 Spring Training

JOCKO CONLAN (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Outfielder, pinch-hitter, and pinch-umpire for Chicago White Sox in 1934-35
  • Owned flower shop in Chicago
  • Elected to Hall of Fame in 1974

FRANK UMONT (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Guard for New York Giants (NFL) from 1943-47, teaming with fellow 1955 Bowman umpire Hank Soar from 1943-46
  • First umpire to wear glasses on the field (along with Eddie Rommel) in 1956
  • Home plate umpire for 1971 All-Star Game

BABE PINELLI (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • 8-year major league career as infielder with Reds, Tigers, and White Sox
  • Finished 13th in NL MVP voting in 1924
  • Behind the plate for Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 World Series

HAL DIXON (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Former minor league pitcher
  • Third base umpire for first ever National League game on West Coast (Dodgers at Giants on April 15, 1958)
  • Worked the first World Series game on the West Coast (1959 World Series, game three)

LARRY GOETZ (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Umpire on the left in famous Norman Rockwell painting “Tough Call” (or “Bottom of the Sixth”)
  • Took up umpiring as hobby while working in Cincinnati post office
  • “When I’m right, no one remembers. When I’m wrong, no one forgets.” — Larry Goetz

A.J. DONATELLI (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Held prisoner by the Nazis for 15 months
  • On the cover of the first Sports Illustrated with Eddie Mathews and Wes Westrum
  • Created the Major League Umpires Association in 1964

CAL HUBBARD (SCOTCH-IRISH)

  • Played in the NFL from 1927-36
  • Only member of Baseball and Pro Football Hall of Fames
  • Voted greatest NFL tackle of all-time in 1969 by Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee

BILL SUMMERS (NO ETHNICITY INDICATED)

  • Called Jackie Robinson safe on steal of home in 1955 World Series
  • Noted on card back as “gifted after-dinner story-teller”
  • Professional lightweight boxer

Well that’s all I got for the 31 umps of the 1955 Bowman set: 4 NFL players, two 20-game winners, a hotel room scandal, war heroes, two classic magazine covers, beer commercials, a television game show, and countless boos in some of the most famous baseball games ever.

Then again, maybe those weren’t chants of “kill the umpire” after all. Could it be the fans are really on their feet, raining bottles onto the field, hollering “collect the umpire?” Well, that’s what some guy at Bowman heard anyway, and the rest is history.

Author: jasoncards

I mainly enjoy writing about baseball and baseball cards, but I've also dabbled in the sparsely populated Isaac Newton trading card humor genre. As of January 2019 I'm excited to be part of the SABR Baseball Cards blogging team, and as of May 2019 Co-Chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Research Committee.

10 thoughts on “The umpires of 1955 Bowman”

  1. This is great.
    Not sure which is my favorite factoid: “40-year railroad career,” “I never liked umpiring but I had to eat,” or “Buried with his ball-strike counter set to a full count.”

    I’ll throw in my own favorite umpire factoid: Jim Honochick has a street named after him in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Can’t be too many umps who can say that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great work! I’m with you on those umpires filling in gaps for players lost to Topps.

    After 1955, I believe Red Flaherty appeared on two more action cards later in his long career.

    1961 Topps #437, Series 6 Check List : Action scene in Comiskey, with good chance that Red’s the home plate ump watching an outfield throw to third on Aug 9.

    1971 Topps #330, 1970 World Series Game 4, “Reds stay alive” : I believe the Topps card editor created a visual pun by showing Red watching a Cincy player catch an infield pop. It was the last of Red’s four World Series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very nice, Jason. Did not know Larry Goetz was in the Rockwell painting. I do know he, too, was one of three umps (first in the NL) who wore glasses early in’56 — Hard to believe it was that late!

    Liked by 1 person

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