We all understand the importance that umpires and referees play in the outcome of sports games. We have seen the defining calls that have turned games lopsided and while half the spectators agree on the call when it is in their favor; the other half now have someone to blame for their team’s woes. We have all been in that situation.
It was the early stages of the 1913 baseball season during a scoreless match between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies when Home-Plate Umpire Bill Klem did what he felt was the right call.
It was the 10th inning and the New York Giants had runners in scoring position with a chance to win the game. The Giants sent Frank McCormick up as a pinch hitter to finish the Phillies off. In those times, it was the Umpire’s job to announce a change in batters to the crowd.
What followed next is one for the record books. Umpire Bill Klem turned around so that he can announce Frank McCormick. Whether McCormick was ready to hit before or after Klem turned his back is irrelevant, because Philadelphia star pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander was eager to get on with it. Alexander pitched a fast ball which McCormick jumped on before Klem got back to calling balls and strikes.
The ball sailed into left field for a hit and the Giant’s Fred Merkle scored the winning run before a startled Bill Klem. McCormick was on his way to the celebration committee when Klem called him back to the batter’s box. He ordered both teams back on the diamond and explained that his introduction of Frank McCormick as a pinch hitter was deemed a timeout and that the ball was dead until he announced it was back in play. Umpire Bill Klem would have the last word and the play was officially nullified.
When everyone was back in position, Klem resumed his introduction of Frank McCormick and play continued. This time however, Alexander got McCormick to bounce into a ground out and the inning was over with the score still tied 0-0. The score did not change after 11 innings and was finally called due to darkness. It went into the record books as a scoreless tie and a game that Bill Klem and other baseball umpires would never forget.
The game set the record for the longest amount of time spent for the announcement of a pinch hitter!
Photo Credits: Wikipedia Commons