Major League Baseball Umpire Info

Recently, while working on a project, I needed to find a list of all umpires who worked behind the plate at Boston Red Sox games at Fenway Park during a specific season. Retrosheet has umpire game logs on their site, which show all of the games worked by an umpire during a season. But I needed a list I could filter by team and game location.

I wrote a python script that uses the Retrosheet Event and Box Score Event files to build spreadsheets that include all of the umpire info for each game during one or more seasons. Since the Retrosheet files are organized by decade, the script can process a set of files and produce a single output file in .csv format that can easily be saved in Excel (.xlsx) or other spreadsheet formats.

The script and sample output files are available in GitHub:

The Brady Years

Now that Tom Brady’s NFL career has come to an end, it is time for a look back. His record-setting career was defined by an unprecedented seven Super Bowl titles and his longevity: 23 seasons as an NFL quarterback, 22 as a starter. Brady was selected in the NFL Draft in 2000, yet continued to play through 2022, outlasting all of his fellow draftees.

In honor of Brady’s retirement, here are two recaps of his career, first as a series of 12 charts, and a set of 12 drive charts that illustrate 12 of his greatest games.

Major League Baseball visits Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island has not had a major league baseball team of its own since the Providence Grays of the National League folded after the 1885 season, but other major league clubs have made brief visits to the state to play exhibition games. During World War II, from 1942 through 1945, 28 games were played in the state. These games fell into two categories: games against military teams, which were very common during the war, and contests held at the new Pawtucket Stadium against the minor league Pawtucket Slaters. The rosters of the major league teams would become diluted during the war due to 4,500 professional baseball players serving in the U.S. Military, but their visits still brought plenty of excitement.

You can read a recap of each game and view the box scores here:

Pawtucket Stadium, renamed as “McCoy Stadium” a few years later, officially opened 81 years ago today, July 4, 1942. It became the home of several minor league teams, including the Pawtucket Red Sox, who hosted an (almost) annual game against the Boston Red Sox from 1973 through 1999. The Pawtucket Red Sox moved to Worcester, Massachusetts for the 2021 season, and McCoy Stadium is now slated for demolition, to make way for a new high school for the city of Pawtucket.

80s Era Part Twelve: 1982-83 in Review

The latest in a continuing series on the 1980s NBA, the 1982-83 Season Review section is now posted. Julius Erving, with a big assist from Moses Malone, adds an NBA championship to his resume as the Philadelphia 76ers sweep the Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers are still waiting to win another.

You can read the full series by visiting The 80s Era Plus 40 page.

One example of how much the NBA has changed in 40 years: During the 2023 Finals the Denver Nuggets took more 3-pointers than the 1983 76ers attempted during their entire regular season. To be fair, the 76ers were next-to-last in the league in 3-point attempts that year; only the Lakers took fewer threes (96). Ironically, Andrew Toney of the 76ers used the 3-pointer more than most players, finishing the year tied for 7th in 3FGM (22) and 10th in 3FGA (76). But the rest of the team shot a woeful 3-for-33 beyond the arc.

Nuggets Win

Congratulations to the Denver Nuggets for winning their first NBA Championship. It has been a long road for Nuggets fans, especially for those who have been following the team since they debuted as the Denver Rockets in the ABA in the fall of 1967. Renamed the Nuggets for the 1974-75 season, the team won 60+ games in each of their final two ABA campaigns, but failed to win an ABA title.

The Nuggets lost to the New York Nets in the 1976 ABA Finals, then, along with the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, the four teams were absorbed into the NBA.

The early days of the ex-ABA clubs in the NBA were a mixed bag. The Nets were derailed by financial woes that forced them to sell Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers (an ironic twist, since the Nets had only been able to acquire Erving four years earlier due to the financial woes of the Virginia Squires franchise); Indiana, coming off their worst season in the ABA, did not finish above .500 until 1981 and qualified for the playoffs just twice between 1977 and 1989. San Antonio reached the conference finals three times over the next seven seasons but never won, while Denver captured back-to-back NBA Midwest Division titles before fading.

None of them reached the NBA Finals until the Spurs won it all in 1999. The ABA refugees then went on a run, with the Pacers (2000), Nets (2002, 2003), and the Spurs (2003, 2005, 2007) all getting to the Finals during the first decade of the 21st century.

But Denver had to wait until 2023 to finally win it all.

Philadelphia Wins Title – 40 Years Ago

Now that the Celtics have dispatched the 76ers in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, I feel more comfortable posting the latest article in the 80s Era + 40 series.

In September 1982 the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the reigning NBA MVP Moses Malone in an attempt to win the franchise’s second title since moving to Philadelphia in 1963. Malone would win the MVP again, and the 76ers won 65 games during the regular season before storming through the 1983 playoffs, posting a 12-1 record on their way to the championship. Philadelphia took advantage of down years by their two top rivals (the Celtics were tired of playing for the domineering Bill Fitch, and the Lakers were riddled with injuries) but they deserve to be celebrated as the best 76ers team of the 80s Era. The 40th anniversary of their last championship is coming up on May 31.

You can read the full series by visiting The 80s Era Plus 40 page.

1958 NBA Postseason Tour

I’m starting the new year with a minor update to a document I have been working on for about 5 years: A chronicle of a 22-game exhibition tour featuring two dozen NBA stars that took place after the completion of the 1958 NBA season.

A few days ago, I found a partial box score for the game on May 3, 1958, which was the last game on my “missing” list. The box score has some problems (see the .pdf at the link above for the details) but it is still satisfying to find it. For a few years, I wondered if this game, held in Houston, Texas, had actually been played at all.

It is easy to find newspaper accounts of most games on this tour, usually from wire services, but locating info on the May 3 contest was more difficult. The fact that the game was played on a Saturday did not help; Sunday papers traditionally had/have early deadlines, and “afternoon editions” are virtually non-existent on weekends. The final game of the tour was played on Sunday, May 4, so by the time the Monday papers were assembled, there was a newer game story to carry.

Program from the tour

1946 Nashua Dodgers

Sometimes my brain goes down an interesting rabbit hole. I have been re-reading David Halberstam’s book Summer of ’49, which details that season’s pennant race between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. While the climax is the Yankees’ pennant-clinching two-game sweep over the Red Sox on the final weekend of the regular season, Halberstam also provides a quick review of the Yankees victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series.

The book has reminded me of my affection for post-World War II era baseball; Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey; the Yankees and Dodgers rivalry; and the Red Sox almost mythic pattern of failure, both on the field and in their inability to overcome their prejudice against black athletes. While the Red Sox were painfully slow to integrate, New England did play an important role in the advancement of the cause.

In the first game of the 1949 Series, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher was Don Newcombe. His battery-mate was Roy Campanella, whose birthday was 101 years ago last week. Together with Jackie Robinson, the three African-Americans constituted a third of the Dodgers’ lineup at a time when only two other major league teams had integrated rosters. All three players had joined the Dodgers’ organization in 1946. Robinson received the most attention, since he was playing at AAA Montreal, while Campanella and Newcombe were assigned to the Class B Nashua Dodgers.

Photo of mural in Nashua, New Hampshire
(photo credit: Tracy Lee Carroll Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

The Nashua team was a member of the newly re-created New England League, featuring eight teams across four states: Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire; Portland, Maine; Cranston and Pawtucket, Rhode Island; and Fall River, Lawrence, and Lynn, Massachusetts. The Dodgers were one of four teams in the league with a major league affiliation; the Manchester Giants, Lynn Red Sox, and Pawtucket Slaters (Boston Braves) were the others.

I will not repeat the details of how Campanella and Newcombe came to be signed by the Dodgers – you can read all about it in numerous articles online, including their SABR BioProject stories, and in books such as Baseball’s Great Experiment by Jules Tygiel – but some highlights of their time in Nashua are:

  • By accepting Campanella and Newcombe on their roster, the Nashua Dodgers became the first integrated minor league team in the United States.
  • The club was managed by Walt Alston and run by Buzzie Bavasi, who would go on to fill similar roles with the parent Dodgers for decades.
  • Alston was so enamored of Campanella, a nine-year veteran of pro ball despite being just 24 years old, that Alston appointed him as his replacement in cases where he got thrown out of a game.
  • Bavasi, upon hearing Pip Kennedy, manager of the Lynn Red Sox, refer to the pair as n—–s after a loss, confronted Kennedy with the assistance of the more physically imposing Alston. This incident appears to be an outlier, and Campanella and Newcombe would later recall mostly positive memories of their time in New England.
  • Like Robinson, Campanella and Newcombe led Nashua to the league championship that season.

Campanella homered in Nashua’s season opener, a 7-4 loss to Lynn on May 8. Two days later, after a rainout, Newcombe made his debut, shutting out the Pawtucket Slaters at McCoy Stadium, 3-0. Alston, starting at first base in addition to managing, capped the Dodgers’ scoring with a home run to center field. Campanella went on to hit .290 that year with 13 home runs. Newcombe posted a 14-4 record with a 2.21 ERA.

In the playoffs, the Dodgers swept the Slaters in three games (Newcombe shut them out in the clincher and added an RBI double), then faced the Red Sox for the league title. The championship series began with a Sunday double-header, game one in Lynn, game two in Nashua, a curious scheduling choice necessitated by a desire to try to complete the series by that Thursday, and thus avoid conflicting with high school football games slated to be played on Friday in the home parks of both teams. The doubleheader resulted in a split, both games won by the road team, then the Dodgers won three of the next four games to win the series four games to two. Campanella hit .364 with two triples and a home run, while Newcombe won the fifth game and pinch-hit in two others (he had hit .311 for the season).

In 1947, Campanella moved on to Montreal, while Newcombe returned for one more season in Nashua before jumping to Montreal in 1948. By the time Newcombe was promoted to Brooklyn in 1949, Campanella had established himself as the team’s starting catcher.

Major league baseball in New England would not be integrated until the Braves called up Sam Jethroe in 1950, while the Red Sox waited until 1959 to activate Pumpsie Green. But New England’s contribution to the story of baseball’s integration should not be forgotten. The box scores from the 1946 New England League playoffs can be found here:

Larry Bird + 30

Larry Bird retired from the Boston Celtics 30 years ago this week, August 18, 1992. Bird was my favorite athlete when I was a kid. I’m not athletic, but I tried to emulate his work ethic in my schoolwork and other pursuits. I loved Bird’s shooting and passing ability, of course, but I also admired his self-confidence, something that I probably had too much of in my youth, and not enough of now that I’m middle-aged.

From the front page of the Providence Journal, August 19, 1992.

By the summer of 1992, it was clear that Bird’s back woes had rendered him a shadow of his former self. Most pro athletes experience a gradual decline as they age; Bird disintegrated. The sight of him lying on his stomach on the floor near the Celtics’ bench during games, struggling to keep his back loose, was heartbreaking.

During the playoffs that final season, Bird missed the Celtics’ first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, and Boston had built a 2-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the semifinals by the time he returned. Bird came off the bench for two games, then started Games 6 and 7. The Celtics lost three of four to end their season. Their lone victory was a 122-91 thrashing of the Cavaliers in Game 6, Bird’s final game at the Boston Garden (featuring 16 points, 14 assists, and 6 rebounds in 37 minutes). Finishing up against the historically mediocre Cavaliers in Cleveland two days later was hardly a fitting end to his career, but it did provide a bit of coincidental symmetry: Bird had made his NBA debut against the Houston Rockets on October 12, 1979, then played a home-and-home series against the Cavaliers. His last official NBA road game was played in the same building as his first.

The 1992 Olympics provided a more fitting postscript. Bird was hobbled throughout, but got to receive a gold medal alongside Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and a team full of superstars who had become famous by playing basketball in a league that he had helped to save.