Strange But True: Arguing with the Umpire

Back in the 1950s a gentleman named Jack McKeon was the player-manager for Missoula, Montana, of the Pioneer Baseball League. McKeon, a funny fellow, enjoyed needling umpires because he knew the fans liked to watch him argue with the officials. In one game he almost drove umpire George Sosnak crazy with a whimsical prank.

McKeon was catching, and he accidentally tipped the batter’s bat as he swung. Sosnak called interference and awarded the batter first base. McKeon knew he had been guilty of interference, but he heard the fans booing the call and decided to have a little fun.

The catcher ripped off his mask and snarled at the umpire. “That was a good call, George. I certainly did tip the bat!”

The umpire wasn’t sure he had heard what McKeon had said. The catcher continued with the charade, much to the fans’ delight. He waved his mask, kicked the dirt, and stuck his face against the umpire’s.

“I said it was a good call!” he yelled. “You’re right, I did interfere with the batter.”

The umpire stared blankly, then said, “Are you feeling all right, McKeon? Are you sick or something?”

“I sure am!” McKeon began to stamp his feet in mock anger. “Can’t a guy have a little fun for the benefit of the hometown fans?”

The bewildered umpire tried to turn away, but McKeon followed him around in circles, still acting to entertain the fans. The booing grew louder.

“McKeon, do you want the fans to kill me because you’re having fun?” asked the disgusted umpire.

Now McKeon began to tear at his hair. “They won’t hurt you, George,” he assured the arbiter. “Don’t be a spoilsport. Let’s have some laughs.”

Finally Sosnak had enough. “McKeon, you quit clowning this minute or I’ll throw you out of the game,” he warned.

“You can’t throw me out for saying you made a good decision,” McKeon retorted.

“I’ll toss you out for delaying the game,” Sosnak threatened.

McKeon returned to his position reluctantly. The Missoula fans never did learn what McKeon had said to the umpire.

From The Giant Book of More Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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1 Comment

  1. This is the same Jack McKeon who went on to become a manager and general manager of several MLB teams including the Marlins, Royals, A’s, Padres and Reds and was working as recently as 2011.  He’s 90 years old now.

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