Not long ago, cherry lights on police cars lit up all over Baltimore. Apparently, a bank robbery was in progress in the middle of the night. Actually, Eckman and one of his sponsors were filming a commercial about their new convenient plastic bank cards. Pistols drawn, the first policemen arrived at the bank in their cruiser and saw Eckman standing in the glare of the TV lights. An officer picked up his mike and, in his best Balleemore accent, called in, "Hey now, it ain't no robb'ry. It's just Cholly Eckman down here playin' wid his card."
The first novel about baseball was The Fairport Nine, written by one Noah Brooks in 1880. Therein is the first reference to a baseball umpire in fiction:
"Just as the White Bears were going to the second inning, great drops of rain began to fall, and the storm which Captain Sam had been dreading all day was upon them. The girls put up their parasols and umbrellas, and expressed their intention to stay and see the game through, rain or shine. But the umpire, Mr. Sylvanus Tilden of North Fair-port, called the game, which was accordingly postponed until the next day."
Chuck Connors, the actor, has two distinctions in sports. He broke the backboard warming up before the first NBA game ever played in Boston, and he figured out how to show up a baseball umpire on the field and get away with it. "Umpires got to be stupid to begin with or they wouldn't be in that job," Connors says. "Even if they're right, they're wrong."
In the summer of 1946, when Connors was playing with Newport News (Va.) in the Piedmont League, Lynchburg loaded the bases with one out. The next Lynchburg batter hit a low line drive that Connors, playing first, snared just off the ground. The runners were all moving, so Connors threw the ball to second to easily double up the runner there and end the inning. Connors and his teammates ran off the field. Unfortunately, the umpire had ruled that the batted ball had hit the ground, so Connors had only gotten the out at second. The three other Lynchburg runners came around to score. "I started screaming my lungs out," Connors says. "I got thrown out of the game. After the game I was still boiling. I made up my mind to get even. I told myself: I'm going to get that guy somehow, someway."
A month later the same umpire was handling a Newport News home game when Connors got his chance for revenge after the umpire called a fourth ball on a batter on the visiting team. Wayne Johnson, the pitcher, and Gil Hodges, the catcher, both blew their tops. Connors saw his opportunity. He came running in from first base, arms waving, and stuck his mouth right up into the umpire's face.
"I started screaming at him—intensely but low," Connors says. " 'Don't listen to the fans,' I told him. 'Don't listen to the ballplayers. You're right! You called that bleeping pitch right.'
"I'm making big gestures, waving my arms, using great muscular animation with my mouth. To anyone in the stands, it has got to look like I'm eating him out. 'In the meantime,' I told him, 'I want to apologize for screaming at you the last time. You were right then. I'm a little egotistical and insecure, and I wanted to make a good play then. You were right.' "