William George Evans
- Bats Unknown, Throws Unknown
- Born February 10, 1884 in Chicago, IL USA
- Died January 23, 1956 in Miami, FL USA
Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1973
That Billy Evans stumbled onto umpiring as a career only makes what he did while on the field that much more amazing.
By all accounts, Evans had no plans to become an umpire. Rather, as a young man in Ohio, he was far more interested in being a sportswriter and covering baseball than he was about working in the game. Yet, fate intervened and when Evans’ career finally did draw to a close, he found himself where few umpires have landed – in the Hall of Fame.
Evans, who died in 1956 just shy of his 72nd birthday, was just a young man at the turn of the century, working for a Youngstown, Ohio newspaper. He was covering a minor league game one afternoon when the manager of the Youngstown team sought him out in the stands. There were no umpires available and he asked Evans if he would like the job for a day.
Though Evans reluctantly accepted, he showed an affinity for the job. He continued to umpire games as a way to supplement his income, and his reputation benefited as much as his bank account. He eventually accepted a full-time position with the Ohio-Pennsylvania League but continued to work as a sportswriter as well.
Evans' reputation continued to grow until finally, in 1906, American League president Ban Johnson promoted him from the Class –C circuit directly to the American League. He was only 22, becoming the youngest ump to ever work in the Major Leagues.
Hard work and a sense of modesty were traits that quickly earned him a positive reputation around the league. Evans worked seven doubleheaders in an eight-day stretch in 1907 and often would remind people that he made mistakes on the field from time to time, that he wasn’t infallible.
Unfortunately for Evans, some fans didn’t appreciate the fact that he, or any other umpire, made mistakes. That frustration manifested itself on Sept. 16, 1907 while Evans was working a doubleheader between the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Browns. An irate fan threw a bottle that hit Evans in the head, fracturing his skull. The incident helped lead to the banning of bottles at Major League games.
Evans nearly died as a result of the injuries he suffered, but he was back on the field the following season. He continued to work as an umpire until he was 43 years, working a total of 3,319 games, 1,757 of which were as the home-plate umpire. He was also the youngest umpire to ever work a World Series game .
While his skills as an umpire earned him a place in Cooperstown, it was an incident with Ty Cobb for which he is probably remembered most. Cobb, arguably the meanest player to ever lace up spikes, contested one of Evans’ calls in a game late in the 1921 season. Reports indicate that Cobb threatened to beat Evans at home plate, a move that would have cost the Tiger star valuable playing time.
Knowing this, Evans suggested a post-game get together, and the two proceeded to square off under the stands following the game in question. Cobb got the better of Evans, putting a pretty good beating on him, for which he earned a one-game suspension. Evans was not punished though the beating he took was salved some by the respect he earned, not only from Cobb but from the other players and managers around the league.
Evans, who continued to write a very popular column during his career, retired from active duty after the 1927 season but remained an integral part of the game. He went to work as the general manager of the Cleveland Indians, turning the team into a first-division outfit during his eight years at the helm.
Following a stint as a scout for the Boston Red Sox, Evans worked briefly with the Cleveland Rams [football] before ultimately serving as the president of the now defunct Southern Association. He held that position for four years and also went on to serve as the general manager of the Detroit Tigers for four years. During his time in Motown he made the largely unpopular move of selling aging slugger Hank Greenberg to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
All the while, Evans never lost his love for the written word. He authored a pair of books [Umpiring From The Inside and Knotty Problems In Baseball] in addition to countless magazine and newspaper articles.
Evans suffered a stroke in late January 1956, dying two days later. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming, at the time, just the third umpire to be enshrined.By The Baseball Page
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- Billy Evans