The New York
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
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.
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?"
IN THE MIRROR
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.
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.
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.
up!" howled a complaining nonsleeper. "Hey, don't you guys ever call