Umpire’s All-Star Game experience like no other
Folks, we have a winner in the contest for best ever all-star memory.
“President Bush was there, and any time the president is at an MLB game, they use the umpires’ room as Ground Zero because they can isolate him well there,” Tschida recalled. “For two hours that afternoon, I sat in the umpires’ room with President Bush, Doug Harvey and Ted Williams talking baseball.”
I don’t know what would top that, unless Red Barber suddenly materialized and introduced everybody.
Williams, still spry in 1992, was a San Diego native and on hand to throw out the first pitch. George H.W. Bush was America’s No. 1 baseball fan. And then there was Harvey, the greatest umpire of the modern era and also a San Diego native.
“Ted Williams loved umpires,” Tschida said. “He’d always say, ‘You guys know who can play and who can’t play. You’re out there every day.’ It was the most inspiring experience just listening to those guys talk. Too bad the game wasn’t any good.”
The Tom Kelly-led American League team clobbered Bobby Cox’s National League team, 13-6. But everything else about Tschida’s first all-star experience remains memorable.
“What made it really special was that Doug Harvey, who was from San Diego, was in his last year,” Tschida said. “We knew it would be a big day for him. We were standing around at home plate, and they put something up on the scoreboard, and he got a standing ovation! That doesn’t happen very often.”
Not for umpires, anyway.
“T.K. managed the American League that year,” Tschida noted. “MLB made a VHS and I watched it later. I saw his pre-game talk. He had all those bombers: Griffey, Sierra, Canseco, McGwire. … And it was vintage T.K. He said this ‘Glavine guy’ was pitching and guys tend to over-swing. ‘So just stay back on him and see if we can win it in the first inning.’
“They got nine runs!”
Actually, they got 13, including four in the first inning.
“Another thing, this was before they had the Futures Game. They used to have the Old-Timers Game. I was checking into the hotel and I had my family and my wife’s family with me. We walked into the lounge area and there was Al Kaline, Bill Skowron, Harmon Killebrew and about 10 other guys, and Ted Williams was holding court.
“I walked up to the desk and turned around, and nobody was behind me. My parents and my in-laws were just frozen there. They couldn’t believe it. That was really fun.”
Flash forward 10 years to Milwaukee and the 2002 game. By then, Tschida had worked plenty of post-season games and had established himself as a top umpire. The 2002 experience was rather different.
“Torii Hunter’s catch (off the bat of Barry Bonds) took the stage early,” Tschida recalled. “But it was too bad because everything that could go wrong there went wrong. Their gala … Milwaukee has a spectacular museum/art center right on Lake Michigan. Well, it was muggy as all get-out, and any Midwesterner could tell we were going to get a thunderstorm.
“The gala started about nine. All these tents were set up outside, and people were dressed to the nines. As soon as we stepped from the parking ramp onto the street, the big drops came down. It was brutal. Everybody ran for their lives. I had had about 30 folks with me because it was in Milwaukee and we could drive down. We went and had pizza.”
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But that was nothing compared to the firestorm the following night when commissioner Bud Selig, in his hometown of Milwaukee, declared the contest a tie after 11 innings.
“I worked first base that game,” Tschida said. “All of a sudden it dawned on me. It was about the ninth or 10th inning, and I noticed that the bullpen catcher was coming in. I said to my buddy working right field, ‘We’re out of pitchers!’
“It was nobody’s fault. (Joe) Torre sauntered over to the on-deck circle and said to Bud, ‘I got nobody left.’ Then Brenly came over and said, ‘I got nobody left, either.’ He (Selig) felt embarrassed.”
Tschida, a Cretin-Derham Hall and St. Thomas grad, began umpiring in the majors full time in 1986 and retired after the 2012 season. He plans to attend Tuesday’s game at Target Field.
“My college-age daughter wants to go,” he noted.
Anyway, congratulations to him for winning the contest. The prize is knowing I’ll be envious for the rest of my life.