Monday, January 22, 2007

Umpire Bob Meinert's Memories

Recently I received an e-mail from Bob Meinert, who served as an umpire in the Kitty League in 1949 and 1950. Umpires are often overlooked in the study of minor league history, yet their roles in the National Pastime should be recognized just as much as the players and managers. They have memories to share, too; thank you, Bob, for sharing yours.

"I attended Bill McGowan’s umpiring school in Florida and was assigned to the Kitty League. I was living in Chicago at the time and drove down to Hopkinsville to meet Shelby Peace. He was a fine Southern gentleman. Ricky Onorato and I were paired to work together and our first game was in Fulton. KY. That’s when I met Ivan Kuester, the fire-breathing manager of the Fulton Railroaders. Being raised in Chicago and attending many of the Cub games, I was shocked to see an all-dirt infield and the lighting left a lot to be desired. We made it through the opening night.

"We stayed in Fulton with Mrs. Phillips who provided room and board for all the umpires working the games in Fulton for $2.50 a night. She was a wonderful person and treated us like part of her family. We had similar arrangements in the other towns but none like Mrs. Phillips.

"We worked Union City and Jackson staying in Fulton and driving back and forth to take advantage of our great room and board. It was then on to Mayfield, Cairo, Hopkinsville, Madisonville, Owensboro and Clarksville.

"Owensboro had the best ball park with Madisonville a close second. The other town’s parks were not as good as the Little League parks of today but we just carried on as though we were in the Major Leagues!!

"Rained out games were very rare. It could rain all day and if it stopped prior to game time a gasoline truck would pull on to the diamond and spray the infield with gas. It was then ignited and burned off. After that the sand truck would come in and sand the diamond. Quite a site to see for someone who watched Major League baseball growing up.

"Games were played seven days a week with the rare exception of very heavy rains. We played all night games except Sunday was an afternoon game. Those were hot days. Rudy York always enjoyed being thrown out on Sundays. He didn’t like the heat. He had two problems. Because he was the catcher and getting older he chose not to get in the normal catching position. When I would ask him to get down, he would say, this is as far as I’m going. Do the best you can. His other problem was throwing runners out stealing second base. He would say to me, he’s stealing on the pitcher. The fans would get on his case and you can imagine what he said about them."

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