I never wanted to be an umpire in the first place. When I was a ballplayer the thought never entered my mind. I wanted to play ball and then I wanted to become a manager. But in 1935, when I was with the Chicago White Sox, I was fooling around with Ted Lyons in the dressing room one day and I broke my thumb. I didn't bother to tell Jimmie Dykes, who was the White Sox manager then. I was getting toward the end of my career, and I hadn't been playing much anyway.
So, of course, the next day Dykes said, "Jocko, you're playing center today."
I said, "I don't think I can, Jim. I hurt my thumb and I can't grip the bat."
"How did you do that?"
"I dove for a ball in practice," I told him. "My thumb hit the ground, and I think it's sprained."
I don't know whether he believed me, but he said, "All right. I'll put somebody else in."
This was in St. Louis. We were playing the Browns a doubleheader in Sportsman's Park, and it was 114� that day. You could see the heat coming up out of the ground. It was terrible, like a brickyard. There were only two umpires assigned to the doubleheader, Harry Geisel and Red Ormsby, and during the first game the heat got to Ormsby and he passed out. They had to carry him off" the field. Geisel went behind the plate, but he needed somebody to umpire the bases, and I spoke up. I don't know why; I had never umpired before. But I said, "I'll umpire. I can't play anyway."
Dykes, who could be pretty sarcastic, said, "That's for sure." I said, "Yeah? Well, never mind. I'll umpire."
And I did. I went out and umpired the bases in my Chicago White Sox uniform. I had a couple of close decisions but no real trouble. The only argument I had was when Luke Appling of the White Sox hit what looked like a triple. Luke wasn't too fast and I was always very fast, so I ran along with him as he went around the base paths. I yelled, "Come on! Let's go! Get the trunk off your back." He was my teammate, and I was rooting for him to get the triple. Luke had an old country-boy accent and he was yelping, "I'm doin' the best I kin." He slid into third base, but they had him.
"You're out!" I said.