Last night, Bruce Froemming was honored for setting the record for the most consecutive years of service by an active umpire in baseball history.
"I congratulate Bruce on this terrific achievement," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "Bruce has not only worked longer than any active umpire in the history of baseball, but has worked with great skill and with great passion. He has had a remarkable career that is appreciated by all of us in baseball."
Bill Klem is the only umpire with more games worked than Froemming. The Hall of Famer was on the field for 5,374 games in his career.
My favorite Bruce Froemming story comes via this interview by Bruce Amspacher with pitcher Milt Pappas, who in 1972 had a perfect game with two outs in the 9th with Froemming behind the plate:
BA: On September 2, 1964 you nearly pitched a no-hitter, taking it into the eighth inning against Minnesota. Eight years later to the day, September 2, 1972 you pitched one of the greatest games in history. What happened in the ninth inning?
Pappas: I was pitching for the Cubs at Wrigley Field against the San Diego Padres. I retired the first 26 batters in the game and I needed one more for a perfect game. There had only been seven perfect games [in the 20th century] up to that time.
Larry Stahl was sent up to pinch-hit and I got two strikes on him immediately. Randy Hundley [the Cubs' catcher] called for a slider. Ball one. Slider. Ball two. Slider. Ball three. Slider. Ball four. Stahl walks and the perfect game is gone.
BA: Were any of the last four pitches strikes?
Pappas: Any one of the four could've been called a strike and the last two were definitely strikes. [Umpire Bruce] Froemming came out to the mound after Stahl walked and I called him every name that I knew in the English language. When I ran out of names in English I started calling him names in Greek.
BA: Weren't you afraid of getting kicked out of the game?
Pappas: There's no way in hell that he was going to kick me out of the game. Not that game. Not if he wanted to get out of Wrigley Field alive. Everybody was too mad at him. The players, the fans -- everyone. So I went back to pitching and got the final out on a pop-up to second base to preserve the no-hitter.
BA: Then what happened?
Pappas: Believe it or not, the next day Froemming comes over to me and asks me to autograph a baseball for him. So I autographed it for him and then made a suggestion as where he might want to put it. He was incredulous. "You're not still angry at me, are you?" he asked.
"You have no idea what you did," I told him. "You blew it! You had a chance to call one of the few perfect games in the history of baseball and you blew it."
"Show me an umpire who ever called a game without making a mistake," he answered.
I couldn't believe he said that! He missed the point.
Then I ran into Larry Stahl. Stahl said that he wanted me to get the perfect game so after he got two strikes on him he decided not to swing anymore. "Why didn't you say something?! Why didn't you back out of the box and give me a wink or something?!" I asked him. I would've been happy to give him a fastball down the middle if I knew that he wasn't going to swing at it.
BruceFroemming.com says this was Froemming's first year and he needed to assert himself as "the boss" and there was no way he was going to let pitches that were clearly strikes get in the way of Froemming's "claim to fame".
In 2001, he was suspended for 10 games for calling an Umpiring Administrator a "stupid Jew B-t-h". I have a feeling he'd get a little more than 10 days if he said that today.
Froemming who was once asked about his eyesight said, "The sun is 93 million miles away, and I can see that." Uh... yeah, so can I Bruce, any my eyesight sucks.
Anyway... from all of us here at AO. We say, "Heckuva career Bruce... at least you didn't toss anyone for laughing at you."