Ryczek: An umpire takes matters into his own hands

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on September 18, 2014:

On July 24, 1873, one of the most stubborn, confrontational men in baseball had an altercation with one of the toughest. The former was Robert Ferguson, and, since he had a bat in his hands, he emerged the winner that afternoon. Ferguson, captain of the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, was one of the leading figures of baseball during the 1870s, serving simultaneously as player, captain (a role equivalent to the twenty-first-century field manager), umpire, and president of the National Association (NA) of Professional Base Ball Players (the only major league in existence at that time).

Serving as president of the NA was mostly an honorary position, but playing and managing were as difficult as today, and umpiring games in the 1870s, if done diligently, was an arduous task. During the 1850s and well into the 1860s, the umpire was an esteemed personage accorded respect and deference, but by the 1880s, he was abused by players and fans alike and often found himself in need of police protection. By the 1870s, the transition was well underway.

Many of the umpires of the 1870s were players whose teams were not involved in the game, and Bob Ferguson was one of the best player-umpires. He knew the rules, he was incorruptible, and he didn’t back down from anyone.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/umpire-takes-matters-his-own-hands

Originally published: September 18, 2014. Last Updated: September 18, 2014.