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The Umpire Strikes Back by Ron Luciano

Ronald Michael Luciano (June 28, 1937 - January 18, 1995) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the American League from 1968 to 1980; he became known for his flamboyant style, simple love for the game, clever quotes, and humorous books he wrote about his umpiring career.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Luciano was born in Endicott, New York. Before getting into baseball, he was a standout lineman for the Syracuse University football team. He briefly played in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions.

Umpiring career

In his career, Luciano umpired in the 1974 World Series (he did not work behind the plate in the Series, as the Oakland Athletics closed out the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games, denying Luciano the opportunity to call balls and strikes in a Game 6), the 1973 All-Star Game, and the 1971, 1975 and 1978 American League Championship Series. He was the home plate umpire for Nolan Ryan's no-hitter on July 15, 1973.

He would frequently render an out call by pumping his arm several times or with a mock shooting gesture with his right hand.

Luciano had more than a few encounters with managers, but none more than Baltimore Orioles' manager Earl Weaver. When the two first met in a minor-league series, Luciano ejected Weaver from all four games. In the final game Luciano threw Weaver out during the pre-game meeting at home plate. After they both reached the majors, Luciano once ejected Weaver from both ends of a doubleheader. The anger between the two was so great that the AL decided to take Luciano off Baltimore games.

Retirement

Briefly after his retirement in 1980, he was a sports commentator with NBC. But Luciano became best known as the author of five books: The Umpire Strikes Back, Strike Two, The Fall of the Roman Umpire, Remembrance of Swings Past and Baseball Lite. His material was considered as clever and witty as his titles and the books did pretty well. The books contained mostly stories and jokes about his umpiring days.

Death

He was found dead at age 57 in his garage at his home in Endicott; it was later determined to be a suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. He was buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City, New York.[1]

Quotes

  • "Any umpire who claims he has never missed a play is . . . well, an umpire." - from his book "The Umpire Strikes Back."
  • "When I started, the game was played by nine tough competitors on grass, in graceful ball parks. But while I was trying to answer the daily quiz Quiz-O-Gram on the exploding scoreboard, a revolution was taking place around me. By the time I finished, there were ten men on each side, the game was played indoors on plastic, and I had to spend half my time watching out for a man dressed in a chicken suit who kept trying to kiss me." - after retiring
  • "I never called a balk in my life. I didn't understand the rule." - regarding the sometimes misunderstood balk rule
  • "The problem with Earl is that he holds a grudge. Other managers, if they disagree with a call, may holler and shout, but you can still go out for a beer with them after the game. Not Earl. He never forgets. Heck, he even holds your minor league record against you. Once, a couple of years ago, I made a controversial call at the plate. Earl charged out of the dugout, screaming that that was the same call I'd blown at Elmira in '66. That sort of thing can get to you." - From Phil Pepe and Zander Hollander's The Book of Sports Lists 3 (1981), p. 45, following his list of the five toughest managers he had to deal with. Weaver was the first four; No. 5 was Frank Robinson, of whom Luciano said, "He's Earl's protege."

References

  1. ^ Goldstein, Richard (January 20, 1995). "Ron Luciano, a Former Umpire In Big Leagues, a Suicide at 57". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/20/obituaries/ron-luciano-a-former-umpire-in-big-leagues-a-suicide-at-57.html. Retrieved 13 June 2009.  

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