UMPS CARE Charities usually host a golf tournament this time of year to raise funds for hospital programs, college scholarships, and youth programs. But the tournament was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it wasn’t a total loss. UMPS CARE held a virtual event on Sunday evening
UMPS CARE Charities usually host a golf tournament this time of year to raise funds for hospital programs, college scholarships, and youth programs. But the tournament was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it wasn’t a total loss.
On Sunday evening UMPS CARE hosted a virtual meeting with Hall of Famer Joe Torre, former manager Ron Gardenhire and former umpire Gary Darling, president of UMPS CARE, and John Hirschbeck. Former Major Leaguer Harold Reynolds of MLB Network hosted the event. Current referee Jim Reynolds paid a brief visit and spoke about the many hospital visits that referees typically make during a season.
But most of the talk was about baseball. Gardenhire talked about how much he learned about the game when he played for Torre in 1981 when they were both with the Mets, while Torre recalled his eight years with Hank Aaron, who passed away on January 22nd.
Torre recalled how Aaron struggled to hit the Cardinals’ former left-hander Curt Simmons, who was known to throw an Eephus pitch. But one day in St. Louis, Aaron hit a home run on the roof of the Busch Stadium, but was called later because catcher Bob Uecker noticed that Aaron was out of the racket’s box. Referee Chris Pelekoudas agreed and called Aaron out. Aaron didn’t argue and smiled all the way back to the dugout.
“He always hit doubles, triples and homers,” Torre said of Aaron. “I struck behind him for eight years. It was amazing. He and Willie Mays were there [high] Great player level. “
During the virtual session, Darling and Hirschbeck showed that referees are actually human. During his first year as a referee in 1986, Darling admitted he was in awe of then-Astros thrower, Nolan Ryan.
“Nolan Ryan was a little intimidating. … He was difficult to work with, especially when Andy Ashby caught him, ”Darling said.
Hirschbeck, who refereed for 34 years, talked about how he and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson never got along when Robinson was serving in the Puerto Rican Winter League in the 1970s. Former umpire Wally Bell always wondered what was going on between the two of them. When Robinson became Vice President of Field Operations at MLB in the early 2000s, he became Hirschbeck’s boss. The relationship became friendly.
“He was like my uncle who comes into the locker room,” said Hirschbeck. “He tried to be on the referee’s side. He treated me great. OK, we’re friends now. “
Hirschbeck also talked about losing his two sons to a rare genetic brain disease. He was playing golf on Saturday when someone asked him how many children he had. Hirschbeck replied: “I have two daughters and two angels.”
Hirschbeck recalled how then American League president Bobby Brown allowed Hirschbeck to take time off to be with his sick children.
“[Brown] just said, ‘John, you take care of yours [wife] and children. When your ready to go back to work, your job is here. “I thank God every day that I was lucky enough to be in this unique family, the baseball family,” said Hirschbeck. “We fight like a family, but when it comes down to it, it’s a family.”
Hirschbeck’s tragedy helped him understand why UMPS CARE is needed.
“You go through this time when you think, dear God, why me? Why we? “” He said. “But then you come to an agreement and say,” Why not me? What makes me or the Hirschbecks so special that I don’t have to go through what these poor families have to go through? ‘So we know firsthand. … The UMPS Care program is fantastic. I hope you keep doing what you do forever. “