- Billy Evans
name = Billy Evans
February 10 1884
January 23 1956
William George Evans (
February 10 1884– January 23 1956), nicknamed "The Boy Umpire," was an American umpire in Major League Baseballwho worked in the American Leaguefrom 1906 to 1927. He became, at age 22, the youngest umpire in major league history, and later became the youngest to officiate in the World Seriesat age 25.cite news
title = Billy Evans, Renowned Baseball Figure, Dies
work = The Youngstown Vindicator
January 24 1956]
Upon his retirement at age 43, his 3,319 career games ranked fifth in major league history; his 1,757 games as a home plate umpire ranked third in AL history, and remain the eighth most by a major league umpire. He later became a key front office executive for three teams and president of the minor league
In addition to his inside role in the sport, Evans authored countless articles,cite news
author = The Associated Press
title = Billy Evans Dies in Miami at 71; Major League Umpire 22 Years
work = The New York Times
January 24 1956] as well as two books, "Umpiring from the Inside" (1947) and "Knotty Problems in Baseball" (1950). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Famein 1973, the third umpire ever selected.cite web | author=The Associated Press | title=Billy Evans Obituary | publisher=baseball-almanac.com | url=http://www.baseball-almanac.com/deaths/billy_evans_obituary.shtml | accessdate=2007-03-10]
Evans was born in
Chicago, Illinois. When he was still a child, he relocated with his family to Youngstown, Ohio, where his Welsh-born father became superintendent at a Carnegie steel plant.cite web | first=David | last=Anderson | title=Billy Evans | publisher=Society for American Baseball Research | url=http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=1&pid=4203&bid=1222 | accessdate=2007-12-21] In Youngstown, the Evans family joined Westminster PresbyterianChurch, where Billy Evans attended Sunday school.cite news
first = E. Allan
last = Lightner
title = Recalls When Billy Evans Played Sandlot Ball Here
work = The Youngstown Vindicator
February 26 1956] As a youth, Evans was active in YMCAprograms and participated in a neighborhood baseball club called the Youngstown Spiders, a team named in honor of the regionally popular Cleveland Spiders. He was a standout athlete at Youngstown's Rayen School, excelling at baseball, football, and track. In 1902, Evans enrolled at Cornell University, where he played on a freshman team managed by veteran major league shortstop Hughie Jennings. After two years, his law studies and collegiate sports career came to an end, with the sudden death of his father.cite news
first = Jon
last = Baker
title = In Valley's History, Evans Was an Early Scrapper
work = The Valley Voice
page = | date =
July 1 2005] Evans returned to Ohioand accepted a job as a sports reporter at the "Youngstown Daily Vindicator". The paper's city editor, Sam Wright, hired Evans on the basis of writing experience he secured as a staff member of his high school yearbook and college newspaper. At the same time, Wright understood that Evans' varied experiences as an athlete provided him with an in-depth knowledge of sports.
In the early 1900s, while covering a baseball game between the
Youngstown Ohio Worksclub and a team from Homestead, Pennsylvania, Evans was approached by the manager of the local club, ex-major leaguer Marty Hogan, and asked to fill an umpire vacancy. According to Evans's obituary, the young reporter, who was on a date with a young woman, "wasn't interested until Hogan mentioned he would be paid $15 a week for officiating the game", a figure equivalent to a week's salary at his sportswriting job.
Evans' ability caught the attention of
Charlie Morton, president of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, and he was offered a full-time position as a league umpire. Evans accepted the job, on the condition that he could retain his position as a sportswriter. In 1906, he received a spectacular career boost from fellow Youngstowner Jimmy McAleer, an ex-major leaguer who was so impressed with the young man's ability that he recommended Evans to American Leaguepresident Ban Johnson. This gesture enabled Evans to move from a Class C Division minor league club to the major leagues.
Major league umpiring career
At 22 years of age, Evans was the youngest umpire in major league history; furthermore, he was among those very rare umpires who broke into the major leagues with little previous professional experience. He was regarded as the only umpire of his era who never had played professional baseball himself. After making his debut at Highlanders' Park in
New York City, he went on to umpire for six World Series: 1909, 1912, 1915, 1917, 1919 and 1923. Working in an era during which most major league games used no more than two umpires (and sometimes only one), Evans single-handedly umpired seven double-headers in eight days during the 1907 season. He was the base umpire for Charlie Robertson's perfect gameon April 30, 1922.cite web | title=Charlie Robertson Perfect Game Box Score | publisher=Baseball-almanac.com | url=http://www.baseball-almanac.com/boxscore/04301922.shtml | accessdate=2007-12-25]
Unlike many umpires, Evans never made claims to infallibility. "I missed a lot of decisions", he once said. "At the time of making such a decision there was no doubt in my mind as to its correctness. However, a second or two later I felt that I erred and wished I could change my original ruling". Evans' humility and impartiality did not always protect him from abusive fans. As sports writers Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf observed, "roughness on the field seemed to elicit the same in the stands".Okrent and Wulf (1989), pp. 52–53.] On
September 16, 1907, in the midst of a doubleheader between the St. Louis Browns and Detroit Tigers, Evans suffered a skull fracture when a bottle hurled by an angry spectator knocked him unconscious.cite news
title = Umpire's Skull Fractured - Spectator at Detroit-St. Louis Game Throws a Bottle
work = The New York Times
September 16 1907] " The New York Times" described the incident as "one of the most disgraceful scenes ever witnessed on a ball field".
Evans became known as an innovator during more than two decades with the American League. One obituary observed that he "introduced something new to officiating by running down to a base where a play was made so that he would be on top of it". This approach became a standard practice among major league officials. He was also aware of the increasing demands placed on umpires and strongly advocated formal training for baseball officials. Furthermore, in a game that retained much of the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of earlier decades, Evans "substituted diplomacy for belligerency and proved an arbiter could control a game without threats of physical violence".
At the same time, he was unwilling to "back down" when physically threatened. In September 1921, Evans was involved in a bloody fistfight with
Ty Cobb, who contested one of Evans' calls. Baseball historian David Anderson noted that the trouble began when Cobb threatened to "whip" Evans "right at home plate", a move that would have led to Cobb's immediate suspension. Evans supposedly invited Cobb to the umpire's dressing room for "post-game festivities", and before long, the two men were brawling beneath the stands as players from both teams looked on. According to some accounts, many of Cobb's Detroit Tigersteammates "rooted" for Evans. After the fight, Cobb was suspended for one game, while Evans attended the next several games wearing bandages. Both men had agreed before the fight that they would not report it to league officials, but word of the incident eventually reached the league president, Ban Johnson.Okrent and Wulf (1989), p. 53.] According to sports writers Okrent and Wulf, Johnson responded to news of the incident "with uncharacteristic humor", saying "only that he was sorry that he missed it".Okrent and Wulf (1989), p. 53.]
For the duration of his career as an umpire, Evans also remained active as a sportswriter. From 1918 to 1928, he served as sports editor of Newspaper Enterprise Association and produced a syndicated sports column titled, "Billy Evans Says".cite web | title=Billy Evans | publisher=BaseballLibrary.com | url=http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Billy_Evans | accessdate=2007-12-22] His staff featured well-known sportswriters Jimmy Powers and Joe Williams.
Evans retired from umpiring following the 1927 season to become the general manager of the
Cleveland Indians, earning a substantial annual salary of $30,000. Baseball historian Bill Jamesobserved that Evans was the first front-office executive of a major league team to be officially called a "general manager".James (2003), p. 128.] In this capacity, Evans was credited with taking the Indians from a second division to a first division team. He served as general manager for the next eight years, until budget cuts forced him out in 1935. Rumors circulated that Evans's decision to leave the Indians was also motivated by a disagreement with the Indians' manager, Walter Johnson, over the suspension of third baseman Willie Kammand the release of catcher Glenn Myatt. Johnson allegedly accused Evans of "disloyalty", while Evans reportedly replied that he refused to be a "yes man". Evans soon found work as chief scout and head of the Boston Red Soxfarm system, but left on October 8, 1940after the team sold Pee Wee Reeseto the Brooklyn Dodgers over his objections.
Shifting sports, Evans returned to Cleveland to become general manager of the Cleveland Rams for the 1941 season. Although the team struggled on the field, it was a financial success, but after failing to come to terms on a new contract, Evans left and spent the next year writing before accepting the position of league president of the
Southern Associationon December 3, 1942.
During his four years leading the league, the Association thrived despite many other leagues shutting down due to
World War II. In his first year, attendance increased by nearly 300,000,Fact|date=December 2007 and while it dipped slightly in 1944, the threshold of one million people attending league games was again reached the following year. [cite book |last=Spink |first=J. G. Taylor (ed.) |authorlink=J. G. Taylor Spink |title=Baseball Guide and Record Book 1946 |year=1946 |publisher= The Sporting News|location=St. Louis |pages=p. 189 |chapter=Attendance Figures for 1945 ]
December 16, 1946, Evans accepted a contract offer from the Detroit Tigers to become their general manager. One of his first moves was dramatic – selling aging superstar Hank Greenbergto the Pittsburgh Pirates. Over the next four years, the team had two runnerup finishes to the New York Yankees, but after dropping in the standings during the 1951 season, Evans announced his resignation on July 28in favor of Tiger legend Charlie Gehringer.
Despite long absences from his residence in Cleveland, Evans was known as a devoted husband and father. He married the former Hazel Baldwin in 1908; the couple had one child, Robert, who became the sports director of a radio station in
Miami, Florida. Evans maintained close ties with family members and died while visiting his son in Miami.
Despite his success, Evans remained accessible to friends from his early days in Youngstown. Shortly after Evans' death, a former high school classmate, E. Allan Lightner, recalled that his late friend "was still the fine clean character that he was in his high school days in Youngstown". Lightner recalled that, shortly after his final conversation with the retired umpire, Evans sent Lightner an autographed photo of himself with former Detroit Tigers manager
By 1952, Evans had unofficially retired, then was injured in an automobile accident in
Monroe, Michigan. After recovering, he remained in good health until January 21 1956, when he suffered a massive strokewhile visiting his son. Evans died two days later at the age of 71. Funeral services were held in Cleveland. Evans' remains were interred at Knollwood Cemetery, in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.
Evans' contributions to baseball have been widely recognized. In 1973, he became the third umpire elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Evans is honored for the high standard of professionalism he set during his career as an official, and he is credited as a tireless advocate of formal training for umpires. Ironically, as David Anderson observed, Evans might have been denied the opportunity to serve as an official in the major leagues "if the present day umpire school system existed during the Dead Ball Era". Anderson noted that Evans' description of the basic qualities required of an effective umpire holds up even today: "Good eyes, plenty of courage – mental and physical – a thorough knowledge of the playing rules, more than average portions of fair play, common sense and diplomacy, an entire lack of vindictiveness, plenty of confidence in your ability".
* James, Bill (2003). "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract". New York: Free Press. ISBN 1743227220.
* Okrent, Daniel; Wulf, Steve (1989). "Baseball Anecdotes". New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195043960.
* [http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=1&pid=4203&bid=1222 SABR biography]
* [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Billy_Evans BaseballLibrary] - biography, career highlights and [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/sabr/tbi/E/Evans_Billy.tbi.stm SABR bibliography]
* [http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/E/Pevanb901.htm Retrosheet]
* [http://www.thedeadballera.com/Obits/Evans.Billy.Obit.html "New York Times" obituary] at TheDeadballEra.com
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