An Umpire’s Gift From the Heart
Posted by athomeatfenway on February 24, 2012
Belmont, Massachusetts is a Boston suburb of 24,000 souls, once famous for its greenhouses and for being the home of the John Birch Society. A 15 minute hop on the MBTA Red Line from nearby Alewife passes through Harvard and over the glistening Charles, depositing commuters into the heart of Boston.
The heart is very much at the center of this story. The Human Heart.
In 1949, a 12 year old boy living with his family on Slade Street in Belmont lost his Mom to a sudden stroke. To protect his privacy, I’ll call this boy Little Johnny.
Little Johnny also suffered from polio. His Mom was gone. His Dad was not around. If ever there was a challenging start to adolescence, this was it.
Mildred (nee Flaherty) Gore would throw open a window on the front side of her Slade Street home when her husband, Artie, the National League Umpire, had a night game. She would lean out the window and call into the afternoon air, “Kids ! Play further down the street. Artie has a night game and he’s trying to catch a nap !”
The kids complied. They liked the affable Artie. He was known to walk his 5’9”, 170 pound frame up Slade Street with pockets full of game used, official National League Ford Frick baseballs, handing them out to the neighborhood kids.
Gore was down to earth. He paid his dues to get to the Majors, spending 10 years in the bushes. After MLB unceremoniously ejected Artie from the game after 10 Big League seasons, he became a New Hampshire Sherriff, a working man’s job if ever there was one. He is buried in Wolfeboro today.
Artie Gore took a liking to Little Johnnie. To raise his spirits, the Umpire began to pass official game balls into the dug outs, getting the players to sign them. In all, Gore gifted Johnnie 8 baseballs, including a team signed ’52 Dodgers ball; a team signed ‘51 Yankees ball; a team signed ’50 Red Sox ball including Harry Agganis; another signed by Ralph Kiner and his wife, tennis star Nancy Chaffee; one personalized single signed Joe DiMaggio ball; a team signed ’51 NY Giants ball; another signed by Gore himself and Umpire Scotty Rabb only; plus one unsigned official N.L. game ball with the stamp of William Harridge, the heartless man who fired Gore in 1956 for being too old at age 49.
Artie & Millie would eventually move to Lexington, the same town where the early shots of the Revolution were fired.
He left behind a grateful boy, who grew strong and served his country as a Green Beret, and today works as a State Marshall, casting off any presumptions about the limitations one should have about a 73-year-old man.
Little Johnny is no longer little. He is tall and white haired. Big John, he is called now. He has a military bearing. His daughter is a friend of mine and it was through her that her Dad & I connected and I came to examine the baseballs. The signatures flew off the ball with iconic memories of baseball history. Ted Williams. Harry Agganis. “Mick Mantle”. “W Mays”. Jackie Robinson. Pee Wee Reese. Duke Snider. Roy Campanella. Bobby Thomson. Sal Maglie. Al Dark. Phil Rizzutto. Joe DiMaggio. Yogi Berra. Johnny Sain. Johnny Mize. Casey Stengel.
Johnnie had tucked away the balls in attics and basements for decades until they were presented to me for review this week, each one kept in a plastic sandwich bag.
Today, Big John has a decision to make. Sell them or keep them. The memories are strong, but without young baseball fans in his family he isn’t sure what to do. I’m sure he’ll follow his heart to the right decision.
For those of us who collect anything, we know we can’t take it with us. So we have to make plans. We all will depart and be separated from the people and things we love.
But none of us sell or will away our warm memories of childhood. We get to keep those. Big John will forever hold the thoughts of sunny days, 60 years ago, when a kind Umpire cheered him with 8 special gifts.
Artie Gore’s NL Umpiring career spanned 1947 to 1956 and is marked by 3 historically significant events.
First, Gore debuted in the MLB in Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. He stood near 1st Base that day. It is the same day that a rookie named Jackie Robinson smashed the big white lies that blacks weren’t smart enough or energetic enough or brave enough to play baseball with whites. Jackie and Artie debuted together.
Second, Stan Musial pitched in only one game during his 22 year MLB career. On Sept. 28, 1952, Stan The Man ran from the outfield to the pitcher’s mound, taking the ball from Harvey Haddix. Haddix had just walked Tommy Brown leading off the 1st inning. Haddix took his glove to the outfield. Musial induced a ground ball to 3rd, where it was mishandled by Solly Hemus. With 2 on and no out, Manager Eddie Stanky sent Musial back to the outfield and placed Haddix back on the mound. Harvey elicited a double play and a K to finish the inning. Artie Gore viewed these rare proceedings from his spot near 1st base.
Third & last, the abrupt and unkind dismissal by William Harridge of Arthur Joseph Gore from the role of National League Umpire solidified the belief among Umps that people of their profession had no job security whatsoever. Gore’s dismissal, like the first shots fired in Lexington, ignited a revolution, albeit a smaller and much slower one, that led to the formation of the Umpires Union 14 years later. That Union stayed in place until Richie Phillips unwise gamble and the resulting decertification in 1999.
Thanks to fellow SABRites that emailed to me nuggets and sources on the career of Artie Gore. These fine fellows are Rod Nelson, Joe Hoppel and David Vincent. Learn about the phenomenon of S.A.B.R. at