Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23, 1911: Bill Klem Decks Roger Bresnahan

     On June 23, 1911, things got a bit rowdy in Cincy, as Umpire Bill Klem decked the Cardinals manager Roger Bresnahan following an 8-7 loss against the Reds. The incident began as the Cards made a furious charge at tying the ballgame by scoring four runs that brought the club within one run of tying the ballgame. They were down to their final out, but had the Redlegs on the ropes, with Bobby Keefe doing everything he could to hold onto to the lead. The Cincinnati hurler had a runner sitting on third, and Cardinals third baseman Mike Mowery at the dish. Keefe fired two called strikes passed the batter. Bresnahan thought the pitcher balked on the second of the two, so he went into a tirade that ended with a haste, as the ump closed his right fist and let him have it. Before he knew what happened, the Cardinals skipper was being separated from Klem before he could return a retaliatory blow.

     By all accounts, Bresnahan did not so much as use foul language toward Klem, or raise a hand to him. The skipper immediately said he would be wiring the National League President Tom Lynch, and hoped that Klem would be dismissed as an umpire in the league. That was not going to happen. Bill Klem was known as one of the best in the business when it came to calling balls and strikes, and this one incident would not lead to any sort of banishment. It did lead to a $50 fine, which may not sound like a lot, but that $50 would equate to more than $1,200 today. Bresnahan was not disciplined, however, Lynch made it be known that charging an umpire after a game would not be tolerated, and the next skipper to do so would be made an example of.

   At the end of that season Bresnahan and Klem seemed to bury the proverbial hatchet, as the Cardinals skipper made it be known that he would be happy to have him work a Fall series between the Birds and the Browns in St. Louis. That never came to be, as Klem went onto work the World Series. While they did seem to put that one to bed the two had other run ins in the years to come. When Bresnahan was with the Cubs in 1915, he expressed anger with Klem, saying he did not know what he had against him. It does seem they let things go, as they stood side-by-side in 1944 with Bresnahan's arm around Klem, while helping raise $56 million in bond sales to contribute to the war effort.

   This one incident hardly altered the legacy of Bill Klem.  In fact, he is a legend of the game who is represented in Cooperstown, New York. He held a post on the diamond from 1905 to 1941. He could be a hard-nosed no nonsense type of guy, however, he was also known as a fair umpire who helped the game develop through making calls using hand signals, as well as helping other umpires know where to stand in order to be able to make the right calls during a game. Like Klem, Bresnahan was also destined to be represented in the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and like Klem he helped revolutionize the game by becoming the first catcher to wear shin guards and other protective gear that would evolve into the gear the men wear today. They each made their mark. It just seems that Klem really made a mark on Bresnahan on that day in June of 1911.

"Baseball is more than a game to me. It's a religion." ~Bill Klem

Both Klem and Bresnahan have SABR bios which you can check out by clicking on the links below.

Klem: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/31461b94

Bresnahan: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/90202b76

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