Sunday, April 30, 2006

April 30th, 1905

Cy Rigler Signals Strike

This is a story that doesn't quite ring true for me--it's a little too neat--but that's (obviously) not going to stop me from reporting it, because even if it is apocryphal, we'll just consider it a creation myth. The story has it that Rigler was umpiring home plate at a minor-league game in Evansville, Indiana and had a group of friends in the stand. (As an aside, that's an interesting thought all on its own, an umpire who brings fans to the game. I assume they're attending for the sake of watching the game, rather than watching their friend call balls-and-strikes, but who knows?) At some point either prior to or during the game his friends observed that they were sitting too far away to hear Rigler's calls and therefore didn't know in many cases if the pitch was a ball or strike.

Rigler thought about this and, according to legend, became the first umpire to raise his right arm on strikes. Thereafter his friends in the outfield bleachers could now see the call on a pitch without having to strain to hear the call. The technique soon spread throughout the country as umpires realized this was a far superior way to announce calls than bellowing "BALL!" or "STRIKE!" more than two-hundred times a game. By the time Rigler made it to the Majors as an Ump the practice was standard.

Rigler would go on to a distinguished MLB career; he umpired in ten World Series, the second-most all time and was just a few weeks removed from being promoted to NL Supervisor of Umpires when he died following complication from surgery for a brain tumor. His ultimate legacy however, remains an afternoon in Evansville and a raised right arm.

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