Marty Springstead, Former American League Umpire, Dies At 74 (January 17, 2012)
Major league baseball umpires are beloved by their families and friends, but are generally not appreciated by the fans. When longtime umpire Marty Springstead died after suffering a heart attack on January 17th in Sarasota Florida, I felt sad that one of the more memorable baseball names that I heard throughout my childhood was gone. As a fan, I appreciated Marty Springstead’s umpiring skills and not just because he would consistently eject Orioles manager and longtime Yankee nemesis Earl Weaver from ballgames during the 1970’s and 1980’s, but because he was from the old school of umpiring and was not flamboyant.
Springstead umpired in the American League from 1966-1985. He went on to become an executive and supervisor of umpires from 1986-2009. He worked in three All-Star Games and three World Series. He also got to be behind the plate for two no-hitters, but missed the chance for a third. He would have been calling balls and strikes on June 1, 1975 when Nolan Ryan pitched his fourth no-hitter, but he took off to be with his wife who was having a baby. People who knew Springstead said Marty was funny and a great storyteller.
But managers who got under his skin would not see that side of him while he was on the field. Springstead was a very good umpire who took his job seriously and didn’t take flak from players, coaches or managers. Twice during his career Springstead led the league in manager ejections.
I was among the 10,670 long suffering Yankee fans who attended the ballgame shown in the photo below.
At Yankee Stadium on Saturday, August 26, 1972, the Kansas City Royals had already scored two unearned runs in the third inning, and were leading two to one. There were two outs and Yankees pitcher Rob Gardner had a 1-2 count on Kansas City Royals slugger John Mayberry with two men on base. It looked like Gardner would get out of the inning. The next pitch was delivered right over the middle of the plate. Springstead called the pitch low, ball two.
Yankees manager Ralph Houk was irate and in disbelief. Of course, on the very next pitch, Mayberry walloped a three-run home-run into the right field stands. The game was effectively over and the Royals would go on to win 6-3, pushing the Yankees to three and a half games out of first place.
Houk came out to the mound with Yankee catcher Thurman Munson to remove Gardner and bring in reliever Fred Beene. At this point, Houk began yelling some unprintable things at Springstead.
Springstead immediately tossed Houk from the game and that moment is captured in this photograph. Munson looks bemused and Houk shocked that his use of four letter words to describe Springstead’s eyesight would result in his ejection.
What happened next is what I vividly remember and wish there was a photograph of. Houk went into a rage. He took his cap and threw it across the field back towards the Yankee dugout. He then started furiously kicking the mound and the dirt was flying all over Spingstead’s shoes and pants. Houk continued yelling, took a break for a couple of seconds and then repeated his dirt kicking as Springstead just stood there. Houk then waved his arms like a madman as he exited to the Yankee clubhouse via the dugout. Springstead remained cool and took it all in grace and just wiped off his pants and shoes and returned to umpire the rest of the game.
This was typical of Springstead. He was a man who displayed dignity at all times and loved what he did.
Marty Springstead leaves behind his wife Linda, a son Bradley and a step-son Robert.