You can go just so far with Tommy", Ty Cobb once said, "Once you see his neck red it's time to lay off."
In his thirty-four year career, Tom Connolly enjoyed the best seat in the ballpark, witnessing history as one of the American League's earliest and most distinguished umpires. He umpired the very first American League game in 1901, by himself (!), as well as officiating the Grand Opening Days of four landmark ball parks (Fenway, Shibe, Comisky and Yankee Stadium) eight World Series and numerous Opening Day games. Firm and fair, Connolly also occasionally threw out a misbehaving Hall of Famer (Cobb, Speaker and Ruth).
In more than fifty years as an AL umpire and supervisor, he established high standards and solidified the reputation for integrity of umpires in the major leagues, earning him the honor of election to Cooperstown in 1953, along with friend and fellow umpire Bill Klem. Connolly was born in England in 1870, moving with his family to Natick, Massachusetts when he was 13 years old. Attending his first baseball game was love at first sight. He studied the rule book diligently and within a few years was umpiring for local games.
While working in YMCA games, he was discovered by major league umpire Tim Hurst, who found a spot for him in the New England League, where he umpired from 1894 to 1897. In 1898 the NL brought him up to the majors, but he was upset by the league president's reluctance to back up umpires' decisions on the field, and resigned in the middle of the 1900 season. In 1901, he signed with the Ban Johnson's new American League. Johnson gave the AL umpires much more support than they had previously received, demonstrating that attacks upon umpires would not be tolerated and their judgment would not be questioned.
Connolly began his career by showing that he was willing to remove players from the field – he ejected 10 in his first season – he came to earn great respect from the players, and once went 10 full years without needing to throw one out of a game.
Weighing less than one-hundred forty pounds and standing 5' 7", did not stop Connolly from stepping in front of Babe Ruth during an incident in Ruth's most turbulent year, 1922. Ruth, who was being heckled by a relentless fan, started to climb into the bleachers but was stopped by Connolly who reportedly said, "You should be ashamed of yourself." Connolly ejected Ruth from the game, the last time Ruth was ever thrown out.
In 1931, new AL president Will Harridge was concerned about widespread complaints that the quality of umpiring in the league had deteriorated, and Connolly retired from active field work to become the league's first supervisor of umpires. Traveling throughout the league to work with other umpires and ensure that everyone's work was meeting the same high standards, he remained in that post until 1954, and came to be known as the nation's foremost expert on baseball rules.
This collection features Connolly's personal rule book, his Hall of Fame pin and a pendant given to him by the winning team of the 1910 World Series, the Philadelphia A's, as well as his personal American League field passes.
Connolly, a fan as well as umpire, often took baseballs from milestone games and had them signed to mark the occasion. There are baseballs signed and dated by President Woodrow Wilson, Vice President Calvin Coolidge and General John J. Pershing from season opening games; balls from Everett Scott's ironman streak of 1000 and 1307th game, his last, that would be broken by the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. Other balls included are a1925 Washington Senators signed ball, including Walter Johnson; a stunning signed Ruth/Gehrig ball; a single signed ball from A's manager Connie Mack; an umpires signed ball, possibly from the 1920 World Series, and the most amazing ball of all, the first pitch thrown from the 1912 Grand Opening of Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox and to nearly a century of high excitement.
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