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Note: This page links to Hall of Fame umpire Tom Connolly. For the third baseman/outfielder who played from 1915 to 1915, click here.
Thomas Henry Connolly
- Bats Unknown, Throws Unknown
- Height 5' 7", Weight 170 lb.
You can go just so far with Tommy. Once you see his neck red it's time to lay off. - Ty Cobb, on how to deal with umpire Connolly
Tom Connolly was an umpire in the National League from 1898 to 1900 before moving over to the new American League in 1901. As an ump, he worked the first games at Fenway Park, Comiskey Park, Shibe Park, and Yankee Stadium.
Born in England in 1870, Connolly's family moved to Natick, MA, when he was 13 years old. Tom continued to make Natick his home for the rest of his life. Tom had played cricket in England, and in the USA became a batboy for a local baseball team. Knowing nothing of the American sport, he studied the rule book. Afterwards, he didn't want to play baseball, but armed with his knowledge of the rules, he desired to umpire.
He never lost his European accent, but gradually it merged with a developing Massachusetts one.
He began his umpiring career with YMCA games in Natick. In 1894, he began work in the Eastern League. National League umpire Tim Hurst suggested his name to league authorities, and he worked there for a couple of years, but then missed much of the 1900 season after disagreements with National League president Nicholas Young. He spent the rest of the season working in the New York State League.
Connie Mack recommended him to the fledgling American League, although it was on the basis of reputation rather than having seen Connolly actually umpire. Ban Johnson promised the umpires that the league would back them, and given Connolly's history, that appealed to him. He would umpire on the field for the American League for over 30 years.
It being a new league, Connolly set all manner of "firsts" as an umpire. One notable first is that he worked in the first World Series between his American League and his former employer, the National League. In the early days of the American League, he was the sole umpire on the field. During his career, he saw the number of umpires go from one to two to three, which he approved of, and then, over his opposition, to four.
From June 1931 to 1954, he served off the field as Umpire in Chief. As part of his job, Connolly served as a sort of Human Resources department, interviewing many new umpire candidates. He was a short, slender man with great dignity. He dressed formally, saying that he represented an important part of American life.
Connolly is famous for going ten years without ejecting a player, but his style was developed only after a learning process. In his first year, he kicked out ten players, partly because Ban Johnson reprimanded him for not taking strong action when Jesse Burkett punched an opposing manager. One player he did kick out later was the young Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox, who later became a friend and would visit Connolly in the off-season. Another player, Joe McGinnity, supposedly spit in his face.
As a mature umpire, he even gave advice to players who were taking razzing from the opposing dugout - something that he himself had experienced frequently. One such player he helped was the rookie Eddie Plank.
When he retired, he was given a pass to baseball games, and often attended games at Fenway Park. He said Walter Johnson was the greatest pitcher he had ever seen, and in spite of having been friends with Babe Ruth, said that Ty Cobb was the greatest non-pitcher because of his multiple talents.
- David Anderson: "Thomas Henry Connolly", in David Jones, ed.: Deadball Stars of the American League, SABR, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2006, pp.388-389.