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Derryl Cousins

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Derryl Cousins

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Derryl Cousins was a major league baseball umpire from 1979 to 2012, ending his career as a crew chief.

Cousins played in the minors from 1967 to 1972, beginning with the Statesville Tigers of the Western Carolinas League, where he hit .243 in 88 games as a catcher. He started the 1968 season with the Rocky Mount Leafs of the Carolina League, then was assigned to the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms in the same circuit, which was an unaffiliated team, but which included a number of players under contract with the Kansas City Royals, who would only officially begin their existence as an expansion team the following year. He hit .235 with no power in 53 games between the the two teams and was let go after the season. He made a short-lived comeback with the Reno Aces of the California League in 1970, a Cleveland Indians farm team, and hit .225 in 9 games with his only professional home run.

His career as a player over, he turned to umpiring, getting his first professional job in the Midwest League in 1973. He moved to the Carolina League in 1974, the Texas League in 1975, and by 1976 he was in the Pacific Coast League. Recognized as one of the top umpires in the minor leagues, he was offered a very difficult choice at the start of the 1979 season: either accept a job offer from the American League as a replacement for the striking umpires from the Major League Umpires Association, or stay in the minors with no guarantee of ever again getting a chance to move to the big time; indeed, some of the top-rated minor league umpires who passed up the invitation from the majors that fateful spring never were invited to join the major league staff. Cousins was one of those who accepted the offer, and as one of the best of the fill-in umpires, he was one of four replacement umpires offered a permanent job when the conflict was settled a few weeks later.

The four umpires were considered as "scabs" by many of their peers, and were famously ostracized, having to stay in different hotels than their crew mates and never speaking to them except on the field. Two of the four quit or were fired early, but Cousins and his fellow American League umpire John Shulock persevered. The two eventually became crew chiefs, and were well respected by players and many of their fellow umpires, even though a few of the more militant ones never let them forget they had once crossed a picket line. However, when the old umpires union was dissolved after the 1999 season, he was allowed to join the new World Umpires Association. Cousins served for 34 years, joining the major league umpiring staff when the two league staffs were merged in 2000. Overall, he umpired 4496 regular season games, the seventh most all-time. During his career, he was on the same crew as Joe Brinkman for 2123 games, the most ever by an umpiring tandem. He was in the Division Series five years and the League Championship Series seven years. He was an umpire in the 1988, 1999 and 2005 World Series, and the 1987, 1998 and 2008 All-Star Games. He was behind the plate for the last of those three mid-summer classics, which lasted a record-tying 15 innings. He retired after the 2012 season, and was the longest-serving major league umpire at the time.

Cousins was the home plate umpire for Tom Seaver's 300th career win on August 4, 1985 at Yankee Stadium. he would later be one of the base umpires for the last game ever played at Yankee Stadium, at the end of the 2008 season. He was the home plate umpire for the final game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

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