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The New York Time
Arthur Daley
December 20, 1954
The New York Times.
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December 20, 1954

The New York Time

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The New York Times.

Columnist Arthur Daley pays tribute to hustling Bill McGowan, who died last week after earning the ultimate in praise—the admission by hard-bitten ballplayers that he was the best umpire in the American League

The ballplayers always said that Bill McGowan was the best umpire in the American League. No higher praise ever could be given an umpire and perhaps that can serve as McGowan's epitaph. He'd have liked it that way because he was as devoted to his profession as Bill Klem had been. The American League had retired the ailing McGowan earlier in the week on a handsome pension. But Bill died before he had an opportunity to enjoy it.

The proudest moment of his life was in 1948 when the American League virtually admitted that he was its best arbiter. Once upon a time World Series assignments were the supreme accolade but they are on a rotating basis now and therefore meaningless. However, the junior circuit had the first and only play-off in its history in 1948 when the Indians and Red Sox tied for the championship. It was imperative that only the best of the Men in Blue handle that game. Significant indeed was the fact that Bill McGowan was named umpire-in-chief.

Bill was always an eager beaver, a hustler. And his enthusiasm never waned during his 30 seasons in the big leagues. But that's why he was so good though his overenthusiasm twice drew him suspensions, a rarity in itself. Even then, the ballplayers never said grumpily, "Served him right." Instead they said softly, "Too bad about Willie, isn't it?"


When McGowan entered the American League in 1925, he even brought his job into the hotel room with him, so unceasing were his efforts to improve himself.

"Y're out!" Bill would bellow, jerking his thumb peremptorily in front of the mirror. Then he'd try it again with a different inflection and a different gesture, experimenting with his techniques. Pretty soon his roomie, Roy Van Graflan, was doing the same thing.

"Y're out!" Van would scream, as the two of them practiced for hours on end. Finally a booming voice came echoing up from the hotel courtyard.

"Shut up!" howled a complaining nonsleeper. "Hey, don't you guys ever call anyone safe?"

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