|(May 30, 1932) In the most violent clash between an umpire and players in modern baseball history, George Moriarty duked it out with four pugnacious members of the Chicago White Sox.
It was a split decision.
Tempers were frayed throughout the Memorial Day doubleheader in Cleveland as the White Sox questioned Moriarty's eyesight and ancestry much of the afternoon. It reached a feverish pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning of the second game, with the White Sox ahead 11-9.
The Indians rallied and had the winning runs on base when Milt Gaston fired a 2-2 pitch to Earl Averill. Gaston thought it was strike three but Moriarty, umpiring behind the plate, called ball three. Averill belted the next pitch for a game-winning triple.
As the ump headed for the dressing room, the White Sox heckled and cursed him. Fearing for his safety, several Indians crowded around Moriarty and urged him to hurry before trouble broke out. "Don't try to rush me, boys. I'm not afraid of what these fellows will do," said the hard-as-nails, six-foot, 200-pound arbiter.
In a runway leading to the clubhouse, Chicago catcher Charlie Berry, a former football All-American, challenged the umpire to a fight. "I'll take on the whole White Sox club!" bellowed Moriarty. "I'll fight all of you one at a time."
Gaston threw down his glove and stepped forward. "You might as well start with me." So Moriarty did. He floored the pitcher with a solid right to the jaw.
White Sox manager Lew Fonseca, Berry, and another catcher, Frank Grube, also a former college football star, then piled onto the 47-year-old umpire. As Moriarty tumbled to the floor, the White Sox pummeled him and kicked him in the head. Several Indians tried to pull them off him, but Moriarty was so tough that he still got in his licks and shouted at his rescuers, "Don't interfere!" But they did anyway.
Moriarty was taken to the hospital and treated for a broken hand (from knocking out Gaston), spike wounds to his head, and bruises to his face.
Fonseca immediately claimed that Moriarty went out of his way to invite trouble: "The tipoff is that he left the field through the players' runway toward the clubhouse instead of going into the umpire's dressing room by the usual route. He spent the afternoon begging for trouble -- and he finally got it."
American League president Will Harridge scoffed at Fonseca's weak excuse, fined all four White Sox, and suspended Gaston for 10 days.
It was the only time that Moriarty was the loser in a brawl -- and it had taken three opponents to get him down. The White Sox had forgotten what a bruiser he was. Once, during his days as a third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, he had argued with the mean, feared Ty Cobb. As they readied for fisticuffs, Moriarty handed Cobb a bat and said, "This makes it even." Then he proceeded to beat the pit out of the Georgia Peach.
-- Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo
The Baseball Hall of Shame 2
The Baseball Hall of Shame 2, Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo
Copyright 1986 by Nash and Zullo Productions, Inc.
Published by Pocket Books (New York), 1986
available at AMAZON