Schechter: Babe Pinelli, far from a one-pitch posterity

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on March 15, 2017:

Ending his career with a bang, Babe Pinelli’s last game behind the plate was Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. In part 7, Schechter explains how the hot-tempered third baseman heeded the advice of legendary umpire George Moriarty, who recommended curbing his temper before embarking on a career calling balls and strikes.Posterity has long since declared that Babe Pinelli will be remembered solely for his controversial call of strike three on Dale Mitchell to finish off Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. But that would be unfair. For one thing, the implication is that because it was Pinelli’s final game, consciously or subconsciously he widened his strike zone to end his career with a bang. Stephen Jay Gould, for instance, maintained that Mitchell was right to say the pitch was outside, but “Pinelli was more right. . . . Pinelli, umpiring his last game, ended with his finest, his most perceptive, his most truthful moment.”

In fact, that was Game 5 of the Series, and Pinelli worked two more games on the bases before retiring. More importantly, this remarkable man should be celebrated for a baseball career that lasted four decades, including 22 years as a Major League umpire. After a difficult childhood, he did well to make any kind of life for himself, much less an important one.

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Originally published: March 16, 2017. Last Updated: March 16, 2017.