Tales of the Yankee Clipper by Jonathan Weeks – Interview and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jonathan Weeks will award a randomly drawn winner a $25 Amazon/BN gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What would you tell a new author?

I’ve been asked this several times before and I always say the same thing: As an author, you have to have thick skin. It’s tough finding a publisher for your work and, even if you do, it doesn’t guarantee that you will sell many copies. It’s best to write for the sheer enjoyment of it. Don’t worry about becoming the next Stephen King or James Patterson. Write because you can. Write for yourself. And if your work ends up being published, DON’T read the reviews!

What scares you the most as an author?

As a non-fiction writer, there are actually two things that scare me. One is the idea that someone will publish a book on the same topic while my own book is in the production phase. I understand that books on identical topics can peacefully co-exist, but it’s discouraging when another author beats you to the punch. Another thing that scares me is live interviews. I have never been comfortable with public speaking in any shape or form. I used to do a radio show with a friend when I was in college. I was okay if I was reading off of a script, but was never completely relaxed when we would improvise.

What is the hardest part about writing?

That’s a tough question because there are so many difficult things about writing. For me, the hardest part has always been accepting the finished product. I am a harsh critic of my own work. And I tend to over-edit. There are days when I absolutely hate the work that I have produced and want to start over from the beginning. But I resist because I know that’s just me being me.

What is your ideal writing space?

I’ve found over time that I can write just about anywhere as long as I have a comfortable place to sit and there are few distractions. One thing I can’t do while writing is listen to music. Music is one of my passionate interests and, if it’s on in the background, it commands my attention. There’s no way I’m going to produce a coherent sentence in competition with song lyrics. I have tried listening to guitar instrumentals and classical music while writing but that distracts me as well. I prefer a quiet place.

There has probably never been a professional baseball player more of a puzzle than Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio had a talent for keeping his emotions suppressed and his innermost thoughts to himself. Few could say that they really knew him. And even the ones who did found him to be unpredictable. He was a walking contradiction. He was quiet, but not necessarily shy. He could be both gracious and abrupt, approachable or aloof depending on the situation. Although he came across as humble, he had a tremendous sense of entitlement. He was complex, secretive, inscrutable. There were many layers to the man who came to be affectionately known as the “Yankee Clipper.” DiMaggio always felt that his actions on the field should do the talking for him. And for the most part, they did. To many, DiMaggio personified elegance, style, and grace. An impeccable dresser, he was married to two glamorous actresses. On the field, he glided almost effortlessly, never having to dive for a ball and rarely (if ever) making a mistake on the basepaths. He became the living embodiment of the American dream and a symbol of the country’s so-called “greatest generation.” But as time marched on, DiMaggio grew increasingly distrustful of the people around him. It was understandable—inevitable even. The third book in Jonathan Week’s Yankees trilogy contains an abundance of anecdotes, statistics, and other little known facts about the Yankee Clipper.

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DiMaggio suffered a major scare during his 56-game hitting streak. On June 29, 1941, the Yankees traveled to Washington for a double-header against the Nationals (often referred to as the Senators). Joe had hit in 40 straight games and was poised to break the modern record set by George Sisler in 1922. His double in the opener tied Sisler’s mark. In the first inning of the evening game, Tommy Henrich was on his way to the plate when he heard DiMaggio shouting across the diamond. Joe couldn’t locate his favorite bat and wondered if Henrich had done something with it.

Joe was very attached to that particular piece of lumber, naming it “Betsy Ann.” He had been using it throughout the streak and worried that he might fall into a slump without it. A frantic search turned up nothing. The bat was gone. Forced to hit without “Betsy Ann,” DiMaggio flied out. Two innings later, he switched bats and lined out to short. In the seventh inning, Henrich gave Joe his own bat to use. Averting disaster, The Yankee Clipper lined a clean single to left field, claiming Sisler’s record for himself. Still, the loss of his favorite bat vexed him.

“Of course the guy had to pick out the best one,” Joe told reporters after the game. “I had three of my bats on the ground in front of the dugout but he got the one I wouldn’t take money for…the bat was just right for me. I liked the feel of it. I hate to lose it.”

About a week later, “Betsy Ann” was delivered by courier to the Yankee clubhouse in a plain brown package. Behind the scenes, one of Joe’s assistants—a wise-guy named Jimmy “Peanuts” Ceres—had spent five days looking for the bat. As it turned out, the thief had ties to the Newark underworld (which was Jimmy’s domain) and also happened to be a braggart. When the thief’s identity was revealed, Jimmy paid the guy a visit with one of his associates. Specific details of how they persuaded the man to return Joe’s prized bat have never been disclosed.

About the Author: Jonathan Weeks has written several sports biographies and two novels, one of which was a posthumous collaboration with his father. He grew up in the Capital District region of New York State and currently works in the mental health field.

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Things to Know if You’re New to Writing by Jonathan Weeks – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jonathan Weeks will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


–When you consider the time it takes to develop, write and edit a manuscript then figure in the time spent on the submissions process, your pay rate usually comes out to less than $1 per hour once you have actually signed a contract. It’s best to write for the sheer joy of expressing your ideas as opposed to the prospect of getting rich.

–Anyone who writes is technically a writer. But not everyone who submits their work will end up being published. Rejection is intrinsic to writing. It’s a rough business. As writers, we take risks and put ourselves out there only to have our ideas shot down time and time again. Embrace the process. Learn from it. Don’t ever take it personally.

–The submissions process is a lot like playing the lottery. You can’t win if you don’t play. If your aim as a writer is to get published, then the only way you can completely fail is to stop writing. As long as you’re still churning out words and ideas, you are still in the game.

–Self-publishing is a sure-fire way to get your words in print. But if you don’t have connections and marketing skills, you won’t sell many books. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Kindle Direct Publishing is an attractive option to many. There are over 12 million books currently on Kindle. A majority of the self-published ones will sell less than 100 copies. If you intend to self-publish, make sure you have a realistic marketing plan.

–Know your audience. You can’t write in a vacuum. You should be reading other people’s work and paying attention to what types of books are selling. The tastes of readers change over time. Follow the trends. Adapt your work to fit the current climate. More than 70 percent of adults still read books. There’s a large audience out there. You just need to know how to grab their attention.

In the 1950s, America entered the television age. And Mickey Mantle, a country boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, was made for the moment. Signed by the New York Yankees as a teenager, he made his major league debut in 1951 as a right fielder alongside Joe DiMaggio. When DiMaggio retired at the end of the season, Mantle inherited not only Joltin’ Joe’s position in centerfield but also his stature as the face of the franchise. His boyish good looks, breathtaking power from both sides of the plate, and blazing speed on the basepaths made him an instant superstar. He won league MVP three times, came in second three times, was a 16-time All-Star, a Triple Crown winner in 1956, and a seven-time World Series champion.

Mickey Mantle’s career was the stuff of legend and in this book, Jonathan Weeks tells us why. Mantle’s extraordinary (and at times incredible) tales carry readers on an enthralling journey through the life of one of the most celebrated sports figures of the twentieth century.

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For more than a century, residents of the Tri-State Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas area have talked about a paranormal phenomenon known as the “Spook Light.” The light has been described by witnesses as an orb of fire about the size of a baseball or basketball. It flickers, dances, and spins—typically in an east to west pattern—while hovering above the treetops. When observers attempt to walk or drive toward it, it disappears.

According to popular legend, the “Spook Light” was first observed by Native Americans along the infamous “Trail of Tears” in 1836. Since then, a number of ghostly stories have circulated regarding its origin. One of the oldest tales centers around a Quapaw Indian maiden and her lover, who leaped to their deaths after the girl’s father forbade them from marrying. Another oft-told yarn involves the spirit of an Osage tribal chief who lost his head in battle and continues to search for it by lantern-light.

The “Spook Light” is commonly seen along a desolate stretch of road near the town of Quapaw, which is located just six miles from Mantle’s hometown of Commerce. The Yankee slugger grew up with these campfire tales and, like many teenagers of the era, enjoyed the associated benefits. By the time he was in high school, the deserted route known as Spooklight Road (or “The Devil’s Promenade” to some) had become a popular make-out spot. In his 1985 autobiography, Mantle remarked, “If you happened to be waiting at the Spook Light and you happened to have a girl with you, it was a pretty good place for necking.” Mantle’s first social outing with his future wife, Merlyn, was a triple date to Spooklight Road. The youngsters piled into Mantle’s 1947 Fleetline Chevy, which he had purchased with his Yankee signing bonus. Though Mantle was paired with another girl that night, he ended up asking Merlyn out on a date after he “struck out” with her friend.

The “Spook Light” continues to be an enduring legend despite scientific research conducted during Mantle’s teen years. In 1945, it was proposed that the phenomenon was caused by the refraction of vehicle headlights over a range of western hills. The following year, an Army Major named Thomas Sheard stationed a vehicle in the region he believed the so-called “Spook Light” was emanating from. He instructed the driver to flash the vehicle’s headlights at a designated time after dark. Observers in the vicinity of Spook Light Road were able to see the flashes. In 1965, Popular Mechanics magazine recruited professors from the University of Arkansas to investigate even further. They confirmed that distant headlights on Route 66 were being distorted by waves of heat, producing the phenomenon.

Those who still cling to paranormal explanations maintain that the “Spook Light” was seen long before the invention of automobiles and is, therefore, an unrelated phenomenon. The first verified written account of the eerie spectacle didn’t appear until 1935. Multiple sources have claimed that a booklet on the topic was released in the 1880s, but concrete evidence of it has not been uncovered. Detailed information about the ethereal orb—complete with driving directions to Spook Light Road—appear on the Joplin, Missouri official website.

About the Author: Jonathan Weeks spent most of his life in the Capital District region of New York State. He earned a degree in psychology from SUNY Albany and currently works in the mental health field. He has written several sports biographies and two novels, one of which was a posthumous collaboration with his father.

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Interesting Facts About Babe Ruth by Jonathan Weeks – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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–Ruth’s father was accidentally killed by a family member. George Ruth Sr. owned a number of taverns in Baltimore. While tending bar one day, a fight between two of his brother-in-laws erupted on the street outside. Ruth Sr. attempted to separate the two men, but ended up slamming his head on a curb and sustaining a fatal skull fracture.

–Ruth’s first wife, Helen, was killed in a house fire. The two were separated but still legally wed at the time. Since the fire took place under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Ruth was implicated as a suspect along with Helen’s boyfriend—a Boston dentist named Edward Kinder. In the wake of a formal investigation, both men were absolved of any guilt.

–Ruth worked tirelessly over the course of his career to interact with fans. In October of 1933, he actually visited a leper colony during a barnstorming tour of Hawaii. He did so against the wishes of his handlers.

–Ruth purchased a number of fancy sports cars during his playing days. He had little regard for the rules of the road, parking his vehicles wherever he pleased, driving them too fast, and smashing into things repeatedly. In 1917, he collided with a trolley car in Boston, derailing it. In July of 1920, he drove his expensive Packard off the road with his wife and several teammates in it. The vehicle flipped over, but no one was seriously hurt. In June of 1921, Ruth was stopped for speeding and arrested. Police officials released him from jail in time to appear in an evening game.

–Though Ruth was generally good-natured, he demonstrated his hot temper a number of times on the field. In 1922, he was thrown out of a game for tossing dirt at umpire George Hildebrand. After getting booed by fans, he climbed into the stands to confront two men who were heckling him. Unable to reach them, he jumped onto the roof of the Yankee dugout and challenged anyone in the crowd to a fight. There were no takers.

–Much has been made of Ruth’s alleged “called shot” off Cubs pitcher Charlie Root in the 1932 World Series. Few people are aware that he called one of his October shots four years earlier. Facing pitcher Bill Sherdel of the Cardinals in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series, the Babe engaged in some semi-friendly banter at the plate, bragging that he was going to deposit the next hittable pitch into the outfield seats. He made good on the boast, laughing all the way around the bases and waving mockingly to the St. Louis crowd.

–The use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball has generated a lot of controversy over the past several decades. But it is not a new problem. In the 1920s, team trainers began injecting players with a substance made from sheep’s testicles, which was said to increase stamina. Ruth agreed to give it a try, but he became severely ill after a single injection and abruptly ended the experiment.

More than seventy years after his death, Babe Ruth continues to fascinate generations of fans. His exciting adventures on and off the field have become essential reading for students of baseball and pop culture. While most Ruth biographies are filled with mundane facts, Lore of the Bambino is the equivalent of a greatest hits compilation. Ruth’s extraordinary (and at times incredulous) tales carry readers on an enthralling journey through the life of the most celebrated sports figure of the twentieth century. All of the most popular anecdotes (such as the Babe’s alleged “called shot” in the 1932 World Series) are thoroughly covered along with many lesser known narratives.

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In the annals of baseball history, there has never been anyone quite like Babe Ruth. He transformed the game from a slow-moving battle of wits to an explosive exhibition of raw power. He could alter the final score with a single swing. When he retired in 1935, he owned dozens of statistical records. And his 714 homers were more than double the output of the next closest competitor.

Beyond the ballfield, Ruth was approachable, engaging, and jovial. He mingled with fans, autographed a myriad of baseballs, and befriended sportswriters. In an era when heroes were desperately needed, he fit the bill. He understood what he meant to people (especially children) and went out of his way to bring them joy.

As a role model, he was imperfect. He broke rules, got suspended, and struck out more than any other player of the era. But when the game was on the line, he almost always rose to the occasion, doing it in dramatic fashion. Over time, he became part god and part mortal—a mythical man-child who called his own shots and propelled baseballs farther than any player before or after him. He got more attention than U.S. Presidents and was just as newsworthy as a world war or economic depression. Everyone wanted a small piece of him. And everyone who met him had an interesting story to tell.

About the Author:A lifelong sports fan, Weeks has published several non-fiction books on the topic of baseball. Additionally, he has two novels to his credit–one of them a posthumous collaboration with his father. His latest project: Best of the Bruins: Boston’s All Time Great Players and Coaches, is due out in 2021.


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Young Players on the Rise in Boston by Jonathan Weeks – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Though none of them appear in my latest survey of the Bruins brightest stars, the following players may be featured in future volumes:


He isn’t drawing frequent comparisons to Bobby Orr or Ray Bourque just yet, but McAvoy may be Boston’s defenseman of the future. In his 2017-’18 debut, he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. McAvoy has excellent speed, handles the puck well and is capable of laying devastating hits on opponents. In 2019-‘20, he reached a career-high of 27 assists—pretty impressive for a twenty-two year-old.


Born in St. Louis, Frederic played both football and hockey in high school. During his days at the University of Wisconsin, he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He led the Badgers with 17 goals and 15 assists during his sophomore campaign. In 2018, he signed a contract with the Bruins. Called up for the first time in 2018, he has become a regular in the Boston lineup. A spirited player with great speed, the Bruins believe he may be destined for bigger and better things.


A Colorado native, Carlo played for the University of Denver before aspiring to the NHL. Entering his fifth season with the Bruins, he has accrued a plus-58 rating so far. He is one of Boston’s top shot blockers. Solidly built at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, he handles himself well on the ice. Though he doesn’t appear in the scoring column terribly often, he has elevated his offensive game over the past two seasons. He was twenty-four years-old at the start of the 2021 season.


Hailing from Massachusetts, Grzelcyk was a major star for Boston University, where he served as team captain in his junior and senior years. His overtime goal lifted the Terriers to their thirtieth Beanpot Tournament victory. Currently in his fourth full season with the B’s, Grzelcyk is a tireless grinder and is gradually finding his scoring touch. He had 20 points in 37 games with Boston during the 2021 regular season. He avoids the penalty box in spite of his physical play.


Clifton grew up in Matawan, New Jersey. He attended Quinnipiac University, where he was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic Team during each of his four seasons. Originally drafted by the Coyotes, he was signed by the Bruins in May of 2018. He played his first full season with Boston in 2021, finishing among the team leaders in hits and blocked shots. In spite of his modest size (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), he plays a very physical game. He has received glowing praise for his “attack mentality.”


Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, Swayman helped the U.S. team to a Bronze Medal in the 2018 World Junior Championships. He spent three years at the University of Maine, where he was named to three consecutive All-Star teams. In 2020, he was among the most decorated college players, capturing Hockey East Goaltender of the Year and Player of the Year honors. He also won the Mike Richter Award, which is given to the NCAA’s top collegiate goalie. After his junior year of college, he was signed by the Bruins. In April of 2021, he was called to Boston to substitute for Jaroslav Halak, who tested positive for Covid-19. In 10 starts, Swayman compiled a 7-3 record with a 1.50 goals against average. His quick reflexes and superb puck-tracking skills have impressed coaches and teammates. Fans in Boston are already talking about him becoming the successor to future Hall of Famer Tuukka Rask.


Born in Val-d’Or, Quebec, Lauzon was selected by the Bruins in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Upon finishing his junior hockey career with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, he joined the Bruins’ minor league affiliate in Providence. As of 2021, he appears to have found a permanent home in the NHL. Lauzon is a big guy at 6-feet-2, 210 pounds and he hits hard. He doesn’t hesitate to block shots or trade punches with opponents if he is challenged. Extremely mobile on defense, he has an active stick and remarkable on-ice vision. Those qualities have earned him the respect of Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy. At twenty-three years of age, he may have a very bright future ahead of him.

Among the “original six” NHL clubs to survive the Great Depression, the Boston Bruins have a vibrant history. Entering the 2020-’21 campaign, the team ranked fourth all-time with six Stanley Cup championships. Some of the most gifted players in NHL history have skated for the Bruins over the years. Best of the Bruins: Boston’s All-Time Great Players and Coaches tells the individual stories of the players and coaches who have helped make the Bruins perennial contenders for close to a century. Profiles of current players are included in this sweeping survey.

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Brad Marchand

In spite of the team’s efforts to protect him, Marchand has repeatedly engaged in outrageous behavior on the ice. His most reprehensible acts include a low-bridge hit on Sami Salo of the Canucks that left the Vancouver defenseman with a concussion and a spearing penalty incurred for deliberately hitting Tampa Bay blue-liner Jake Dotchin in the crotch with his stick. Entering the 2019-‘20 campaign, Marchand had half a dozen suspensions to his credit in addition to multiple fines.

In spite of his incorrigible antics, Marchand has been an indispensible member of the Bruins top scoring line, which also features David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. The trio, which has been dubbed “The Perfection Line” by sportswriters, averaged well over 200 points per year between 2016-’17 and 2019-’20. Marchand was the team’s top point producer in three of those seasons. Not only does he score goals in bunches, but he scores them in timely fashion. In November of 2019, he set a franchise record with his 26th short-handed goal. And by January of 2020, he had attained a rank of #6 among the Bruins all-time leaders in game-winning goals. His efforts earned him a pair of Seventh Player Awards in 2011 and 2016. But outside of Boston, he is largely viewed as a criminal.

Asked about his tarnished professional image, Marchand told a reporter: “It’s tough. I’ve tried for awhile now to get away from that role and I just can’t seem to escape it. I think obviously if you look back on the last few years, I’ve turned into a decent player and it’s tough to be branded with that name consistently. Obviously, it’s from my own doing but it’s tough to escape it. Devil’s advocate there, it’s what I had to do to get into the league so I’ll never say that I wouldn’t go back and play the same way.”

About the Author:A lifelong sports fan, Weeks has published several non-fiction books on the topic of baseball. Additionally, he has two novels to his credit–one of them a posthumous collaboration with his father. His latest project: Best of the Bruins: Boston’s All Time Great Players and Coaches, is due out in 2021.


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UMPIRES OF THE OLD SCHOOL: TIM HURST by Jonathan Weeks – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jonathan Weeks will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

At 5-foot-5, the diminutive Hurst was known to some as “Tiny Tim.” But true to the words of an iconic Star Wars character, he proved that “size matters not.” The pugnacious Hurst was known to keep players under control with both words and fists. Hailed by a writer from the The Sporting Life for “having the finest brand of keen-cutting, kill-at-a-thousand-yards sarcasm of any umpire in captivity,” his fiery temperament would eventually drive him out of baseball.

Born to Irish parents in Ashland, Pennsylvania, Hurst learned to fight at an early age. His father worked in the wholesale liquor business then purchased a horse and wagon to deliver coal. Young Tim was expected to help support the family and, as a youth, he picked slate for a local mining establishment. Rounds of fisticuffs were common among workers during lunch hours and Hurst was sometimes in the mix. His love of boxing led to multiple stints as a fight referee in the years that followed.

At twenty-two years of age, Hurst became a professional umpire in the Central Pennsylvania League. He called plays in the Southern League and Western Association before taking a job as manager of the Minneapolis Millers. The Millers came close to winning a championship on his watch, but Hurst failed to endear himself to club executives and ended up being replaced. In 1891, he joined the umpiring crew of the National League.

Hurst was well-suited to the rowdy days of early baseball. Hall of Fame arbiter Bill Klem recalled: “[Hurst] was so tough that if a ballplayer did not like one of his decisions and challenged him on the field, Tim would say ‘OK, we’ll stop the game and go right under the stands and settle it now.’”

With a reputation for making highly accurate decisions, Hurst had an interesting way of maintaining order behind the plate. “Never put a catcher out of a game,” he told a New York Herald reporter. “If the man in back of the bat is sassy and objects to your calling of balls and strikes, keep close behind him while doing your work and kick him every time he reaches out to catch a ball. After about the third kick, he’ll shut up.”

Sometimes Hurst’s feisty temperament led to amusing results. According to historian Fred Lieb, Hurst made a call that went against Cincinnati’s third baseman, Arlie Latham, one day. Latham tore off his glove and kicked it in protest. It landed at the feet of Hurst, who promptly kicked it right back to Latham. The festivities didn’t end there. According to Lieb: “taking turns, Arlie and Tim booted the glove all the way to the outfield fence.”

On a number of occasions, Hurst’s outbursts were less than entertaining. In 1897, he was arrested in Cincinnati after he picked up a beer stein that had been tossed onto the field by an angry fan and whipped it back into the stands. The projectile hit a local fireman named James Cartuyvelles, opening a deep gash over his eye. Several years later, Hurst got into a physical altercation with New York Highlanders manager Clark Griffith during an on-field dispute. Though Griffith denied being punched when questioned afterward, his swollen lip lent little credence to that claim. Both men were suspended for five games.

In addition to his violent outbursts, Hurst was known to generate prolific streams of profanity. In 1900, multiple NL owners requested that he be banned from their ballparks due to his “ungentlemanly language.” The final straw for Hurst came on August 3, 1909. During the second game of a doubleheader between the A’s and White Sox in Philadelphia, Hurst made an uncharacteristically erroneous call on Eddie Collins. Collins was evidently safe at second base, but Hurst ruled him out, believing there had been some sort of interference on the play. When Collins protested, Hurst resorted to reprehensible behavior. In the colorful language of Philadelphia North American sportswriter, Jimmy Isaminger: “…the umpire distributed a mouthful of moistened union-made tobacco in the direction of youthful Eddie, who immediately called Tim’s attention to the Board of Health ordinance which prohibits expectorating in public places.” Fans went ballistic, throwing cushions and bottles in Hurst’s direction after the game. It took police nearly half an hour to safely escort the embattled arbiter out of the stadium.

After a full investigation of the spitting incident, Hurst was fired by AL President Ban Johnson. He had already tested Johnson’s patience earlier in the season when he traded punches with infielder Kid Elberfeld. Few sportswriters were terribly surprised by the outcome. A correspondent from The Sporting Life remarked: “Umpire Tim Hurst’s excessive pugnacity has at last landed him outside the major league breastworks—as had long been expected.”

Cast out of baseball, Hurst turned to other sports as a promoter. He later made a living selling real estate. In 1915, he died suddenly after a bout with food poisoning. He had been ill for some time before then though his condition was not considered terribly serious.

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.

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…The World Series opened in Pittsburgh with a convincing 4-1 Washington victory. The Pirates bounced back in Game 2, surviving a late Senators rally to win, 3-2. The third meeting took place in the nation’s capital, where the sale of more than thirty-six thousand tickets necessitated the construction of temporary bleachers at Griffith Stadium. Braving the elements on a cold, breezy Saturday afternoon, President Calvin Coolidge was among those in attendance.

The two teams pecked away at each other through six innings, scattering runs here and there. Facing right-hander Ray Kremer, the Senators loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh. First baseman Joe Judge—a fixture in the Washington lineup for over a decade—drove in Earl McNeely with a sacrifice fly. Right fielder Joe Harris followed with a single, putting the Senators up, 4-3.

Looking to protect the lead, Washington player/manager Bucky Harris implemented a defensive switch, moving Rice to right field from center to accommodate McNeely, who had been inserted as a pinch-runner. Firpo Marberry, the game’s first prominent relief specialist, was summoned from the bullpen. The Senators appeared to be safe from harm when Marberry struck out shortstop Glenn Wright and first baseman George Grantham in succession. But things got interesting when catcher Earl Smith came to bat.

Smith’s .313 average during the regular season was second best in the majors among players with at least ninety-five appearances behind the plate. A spirited brawler who rarely backed down from a challenge, Smith drove Marberry’s 2-2 offering to deep right field, where Rice sprang into action. The wide-ranging outfielder sprinted toward the ball and made a back-handed stab in front of the temporary bleachers. Unable to stop his forward momentum, he tumbled over the barrier into the stands and disappeared from view. What happened in the next few seconds remains uncertain.

In those days, umpiring crews consisted of four men with one being assigned to each infield station. Attending to second base that day, veteran arbiter Cy Rigler rushed to the scene to make the call. Several seconds passed before Rice reappeared. Years later, an eyewitness remarked that “it was longer than a TV station break with eight consecutive commercials.” Another spectator—a man named Norman Budesheim—claimed that Rice dropped the ball before he landed and then jostled with fans for possession. Whatever the case, Rice had the ball in his glove when he finally rose to his feet. Rigler signaled for the out and, after a lengthy discussion, his decision was supported by the rest of the crew.

On the heels of the Senators’ 4-3 win, more than 1,600 fans wrote to commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to relay their side of the story. Some even sent notarized affidavits attesting to the fact that Rice had dropped the ball. Going straight to the source, Landis summoned Rice to his hotel the following day and asked him point-blank if he had made the catch. The tight-lipped Hall of Famer replied guardedly: “Judge, the umpire said I did.” Landis mulled this over for a few seconds and responded: “”Sam, let’s leave it that way.”

About the Author: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.

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