November 12, 2019

Dale Scott: The Umpire Experience

November 2, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Umpires are truly overlooked for their contributions to baseball. Their ability to arbitrate games and interpret rules is done at an amazingly high success rate. Even their humanity during times when they make mistakes, or at a minimum, decisions that not all agree with, can bring an exciting and unexpected element to the game. One of the best umpires to ever strap on a face mask was Dale Scott, who had a distinguished 31-year career and it should come to nobody’s surprise if his name is eventually in consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Born in 1959 in Oregon, Scott grew up loving baseball. In addition to playing, he first started umpiring as a 15-year-old in high school. Like many other careers, one thing led to another and before he knew it he had a full-time job umpiring in the minor leagues in 1981 when he was just 22.

Young umpires must be able to handle the rigors of the grueling minor-league travel, along with adapting to dealing with players and managers of varying pedigrees and notoriety. The way Scott zoomed through the ranks was a testament to his skill and adaptability.

In 1985, he umpired one game at the major league level. By the following year he was there to stay—on his way to a 32-year career. He started in the American League but was calling games in both leagues as of the 2000 season. Along the way, he officiated in three World Series, six League Championship Series, 12 Division Series and three All Star Games.

Scott also was behind the plate for a number of no-hitters, had run-ins with legendary managers and also became a crew chief in 2001. He gained national attention by publicly coming out in 2014 and was named to the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Unfortunately, Scott had to retire in 2017 after suffering a series of concussions on the job. He and his husband Michael, who has been with him since 1986, still live in Oregon. He leaves behind a baseball legacy that is not easily matched and should be an excellent candidate for consideration for enshrinement in Cooperstown one day. Keep reading for some of his recollections about his career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I was a Dodger fan growing up, especially the 1974 NL Pennant winner. My favorite player was Steve Garvey since that was my favorite position.

How did you come to get into umpiring and when did you know it would be a viable career?: I started umpiring in the spring of 1975. I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. It became a career when I was hired to work in minor league baseball. But you don’t know or think of it as a viable career until you make it to the major leagues since your “career” could be over at any level in the minor leagues. You don’t know if you’re going to make it all the way to the top until you actually get that call.

What is life like for a minor league umpire versus a major league umpire?: It’s the same game of baseball but they’re a world apart. Obviously, the money and benefits are a huge discrepancy, not to mention job security…something you don’t have at any minor league level. But the difference in media intensity and scrutiny; in travel both in transportation (all first-class airfare by contract); but also the types of hotels you’re consistently staying at; in clubhouse amenities (including having your uniforms and gear, that are in a big bulky trunk, air freighted from city to city). In Triple-A you carry your gear, a real headache, getting all of your equipment comped including undergarments for both cold and warm weather, in trips home on off days (you don’t get too many off days in the minor leagues and rarely can afford to fly home) not to mention you get four weeks during the season off in the big leagues, and of course the consistent level of play you see day in and day out.

What do you remember most about your first major league game?: It was a one game call up on August 19, 1985…a make-up game from a rain out earlier in the season. I was in Omaha and flew (all of maybe 20 minutes) to Kansas City to work third base. I was very nervous but of course trying not to show it. George Brett was playing third and when he came out to start the game he said ‘hello Dale.’ I said hello back. He then said, ‘your first game?’ I actually looked down then said, ‘do I have a wet spot or something, how did you know it’s my first game?’ He laughed, ‘no wet spot, I just hadn’t seen you around!’ We both got a pretty good chuckle out of that.

Which hitter and pitcher that you personally saw were the most talented?: I’ve seen many outstanding hitters and pitchers in 32 years of service. To name a few hitters: Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr., Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, just to name a few. Pitchers: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Justin Verlander, and many more.

What is the one game you umpired that you will always remember most?: So hard to pick one game when you have worked almost 4,000 regular season and 91 post season games. If I had to say one, it would be my first World Series; Game 3, October 20, 1998, New York Yankees at San Diego. My first post season plate game, Seattle at New York Yankees Game 2, October 4, 1995 (15 innings) and World Series Game 3, Arizona at New York Yankees, October 30, 2001 are both right up there.

Were managers like Earl Weaver and Billy Martin really as intense as their legacies?: I didn’t have Weaver much; only one season (1986, my first). I was the last umpire to eject Billy Martin, on Memorial Day, 1988 in Oakland. He ended up throwing dirt on me and was suspended three games. He came back for a few weeks and then was fired, never to manage again. Both men were extremely intense and not easy to umpire, as they always had something to say… especially when you’re a rookie or rather new on the staff.

Did you consider coming out publicly earlier in your career?: No, in fact I did everything I could to conceal my sexuality as I tried to carve my own path as a MLB umpire. Things and society changed and by the time I came out publicly in December, 2014, there was same-sex marriage in several states (including California where Mike and I got married in our backyard on November 2, 2013) and earlier that year MLB hired Billy Bean as Ambassador of Inclusion in a major outreach in professional baseball to be inclusive. It just seemed that I was being pretty hypocritical by not being honest after all the progress that had been made. My coming out was not a shock to the umpires on the staff nor the people I worked for on Park Avenue. It was however news to teams, fans and the media. I’m happy I did make that decision and I’m proud to be the first active male official in the five major sports (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey and Soccer) to come out publicly.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your umpiring career?: In retrospect, nothing. I had a great career, making it to the big leagues at age 26, working three World Series and three All Star Games, crew chief for 16 of my 32 years, I have no regrets.

Do you ever think about the possibility of your potential induction in the baseball Hall of Fame?: Not at all. I think in the history of baseball, some 150 years, there are only 10 umpires in the Hall. I personally think there should be more and have several names that deserve it, but the Hall is very stingy even considering umpires, let alone voting them in.

Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew or on Facebook.

He has also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) on baseball that are available on Amazon

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