Harry "Steamboat" Johnson brought to early baseball great integrity and a pugnacious style. Toughness - being able to "stand the gaff" - was essential during his long career as an umpire. From 1909 to 1935 Johnson umpired in exhibition games and minor leagues (except for the 1914 season in the National League) from Los Angeles to Toronto. When ...
Harry "Steamboat" Johnson brought to early baseball great integrity and a pugnacious style. Toughness - being able to "stand the gaff" - was essential during his long career as an umpire. From 1909 to 1935 Johnson umpired in exhibition games and minor leagues (except for the 1914 season in the National League) from Los Angeles to Toronto. When fans screamed "Kill the umpire!" he responded he'd rather die on a baseball field than anywhere else. With disarming directness and humor, Steamboat Johnson tells what it was like umpiring for various leagues (the wild Western was nicknamed "101 Ranch"), being on the road (lonely because umpires could not fraternize with players), and getting into all sorts of jams (he once took on Ty Cobb in a 1922 exhibition game between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals). "Standing the gaff" meant surviving the wrath of players - and of fans, who hurled insults and pop bottles. After a game, Steamboat would be escorted to his hotel by the police. Johnson instructs would-be umpires, answers questions from fans, and names the best players he ever saw.
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