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Dallas Parks

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Dallas Finney Parks

  • Height 6' 2", Weight 205 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Dallas Parks was an American League umpire from 1979 to 1982, then came back briefly as a replacement umpire when the league's regular umpires went on strike in 1991 and at the start of the 1995 season. He was one of 8 minor league umpires hired by the two leagues during the 1979 umpires strike who were kept on staff after the conflict was resolved. These umpires faced ostracism from members of the Major League Umpires Association after the conflict, and most, like Parks, did not last long in the majors as a result.

Parks turned to umpiring after his career as a player was ended by a torn Achilles tendon he suffered during a pick-up basketball game in college. After attending the Bill Kinnamon umpiring school in Florida, in the same class as Durwood Merrill, Steve Palermo and Ed Montague, Parks started his career in the Florida State League in 1972. After one year, he was assigned to the Carolina League in 1973, but resigned instead. He came back a year later, this time in the Southern League, then was promoted to the International League a year and a half later, his rapid rise indicating how well he was regarded at the time. After three and a half years in AAA, he was one of the top-rated officials in the minors, and accepted the American League's offer to step into the breach when the regular umpires went on strike at the start of the 1979 season. His time in the majors was not a happy one, because of the hostility of his colleagues, who considered him a scab, and he resigned after the 1982 season.

On August 29, 1982, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner issued a press release criticizing Parks's ability as an umpire following a two-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays on August 27-28 at which Parks had officiated. The release included statements such as: "Judging from his last two days performance, my people tell me he is not a capable umpire. [...] For umpire Parks to throw two of our players out of ballgames in two days on plays he misjudges is ludicrous". The release went on to say that Parks was a "scab" but that this was not a personal insult, just a statement of fact, and that Parks "had had it in" for the Yankees ever since Steinbrenner had called him that. Parks was outraged and sued Steinbrenner and the Yankees for defamation; the defendants were found guilty by a lower court, but appealed to the New York Supreme Court, claiming that the press release was a constitutionally-protected expression of pure opinion. The case was heard in 1986, and when a ruling was issued the following year, the court agreed with the defendants, stating that there was a long tradition in baseball of "razzing the umpire" and that the press release was a part of that. Judge Betty Weinberg Ellerin quoted General Douglas MacArthur in her decision: "(he) is reported to have said on his return to American soil that he was proud to protect American freedoms, like the freedom to boo the umpire."

There was indeed a long history of animosity between Parks and the Yankees, as back in 1979, Yankees manager Billy Martin had stated - after having been ejected from a game by Parks - that baseball had hurt itself by hiring the replacement umpires and that "The sooner we get rid of these scabs the better off baseball will be." There is a famous picture of a manic Martin kicking dirt on the legs of the stoic Parks during a game, a picture which has been reprinted many times. Parks was also one of the umpires at the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" that same year.

After resigning from the American league, Parks remained involved in sports, running the Fayetteville Swampdogs, an amateur baseball team in North Carolina, and then becoming Director of sales for the Fayetteville FireAntz, a local minor league hockey team, in addition to returning twice to serve as a replacement umpire.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Kirk Johnson: "Heckling Umpires: It's Legal", The New York Times, July 24, 1987. [1]

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