- December 6, 1899
- 5' 7"
- 165 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-06-1934 with CHA
- Hall of Fame:
"Robinson seemed so honestly shocked over the call," Conlan said, "I figured I must have missed it. I didn't want any more like that." Rather than make another mistake, he left the field.
Conlan had a brief career as an AL outfielder but was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1974 as an umpire. His first stint of umpiring came by accident. When regular AL umpire Red Ormsby was overcome by heat during a 1935 Browns-White Sox game, Conlan, a Chicago reserve, filled in. The next year, he launched his new career as an ump.
He umpired in the NL for 25 years, starting in 1941. His trademarks were his quick grin, polka dot tie, and balloon chest protector. He was allowed to continue using the outside protector for five years after the NL adopted the inside protector for its umps because he was at risk from being hit in the throat by pitches.
John Bertrand "Jocko" Conlan (December 6, 1899 — April 16, 1989) was an American Hall of Fame umpire who worked in the National League from 1941 to 1965. He previously had a brief career as an outfielder with the Chicago White Sox.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Conlan began his major league career in 1934 as a center fielder for the Chicago White Sox. In 1935, however, Conlan was presented with an unusual opportunity. During a game against the St. Louis Browns, umpire Red Ormsby fell ill due to the heat. In those days, only two umpires covered typical regular-season games, and a player with a reputation for honesty might be pressed into service if one umpire became incapacitated. Conlan was asked to fill in, and took to it well. The following year Conlan made the transition from player to umpire complete, beginning in the minor leagues.
Conlan umpired in the National League from 1941 to 1965, officiating in five World Series (1945, 1950, 1954, 1957 and 1961) and six All-Star Games (1943, 1947, 1950, 1953, 1958 and 1962). He also umpired in the playoff series to decide the NL's regular-season champions in 1951, 1959 and 1962 (some sources erroneously credit him with umpiring in the 1946 NL playoff as well). He was the home plate umpire when Gil Hodges hit four home runs on August 31, 1950; he also umpired in the April 30, 1961 game in which Willie Mays hit four home runs. He retired after the 1964 season, but returned to work as a substitute umpire for 17 games in 1965.
Conlan was known for several trademarks: Instead of a regular dress tie like most umpires of the day wore, Conlan wore a natty bow tie for his career. Conlan was also known for making "out" calls with his left hand, instead of his right. Finally, Conlan was the last National League umpire allowed to wear the outside chest protector, instead of the inside protector that all other NL umpires were using by then.
Jocko Conlan and manager Leo Durocher were both considered colorful characters, and sometimes they would clash. Durocher liked to tell of a time that he was arguing with Conlan. He attempted to kick dirt on Conlan's shoes, but slipped and actually kicked Conlan in the shins. Striking an umpire calls for automatic ejection, but first Conlan "kicked him right back," a sequence that an alert photographer also captured and which was circulated for some time. The punchline to that story, as Durocher told it, was that Conlan, being the plate umpire on that occasion, "was wearing shin guards and plate shoes," so Durocher came off the worse for it.
Conlan's name was mentioned several times in a fictitious baseball game celebrated in the 1962 song "The Los Angeles Dodgers," recorded by Danny Kaye. The song only referred to Conlan by his last name, with the presumption that the listener would know he was referring to the famous umpire. That song is contained on the CD Baseball's Greatest Hits.
His son John Bertrand Conlan served as a U.S. Representative from Arizona from 1973 to 1977.
Conlan was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Committee on Baseball Veterans in 1974; he was the fourth umpire chosen, and the first NL umpire since Bill Klem in 1953. He is the only one of the eight umpires elected to the Hall of Fame to have played in the major leagues. He died at age 89 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The book Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings (2004) includes short stories from former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. Conlan is prominent in many of these stories.
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