Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Doc Younker

I mentioned a couple of months ago about former Vancouver Mounties trainer Doc Younker, a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who attended the SABR meeting in Vancouver. Little did I realise he had been a Western International League umpire. Or a grocery guy.

Here's a piece on him from the Tri-City Herald, May 20, 1952, by sports editor Don Becker.

Harold Younker who gave up calling out grocery lists to sing out on balls and strikes may not know how lucky he is to break into the umpiring business in Class A league. The former Pasco groceryman really got a big break when League President Bob Abel plucked him to work the WIL circuit. Most umpires, like ball players, have to come up the hard way by starting out in the low minors and then proving their ability.
Younker got his big chance when George Behringer quit. Right, now he will be on probation for perhaps a month or so until he has proved his ability. That will depend on the reports from the umpires working with him and to some extent what the club managers have to say, providing Abel asks them.
It's quite a process this getting to be an umpire. The most single important thing about umpiring, at least in our opinion, is a thick skin. They have to take some pretty rough treatment from managers and players when a disagreement arises and you can't just thumb them out of the game. At least not in this class of baseball where a team only carries 17 players. Boot out a couple of key players and you might just as well hand the other team the ball game. Consequently the umps, must of necessity, allow a much wider latitude than they would, say in the Coast or Major Leagues.
Younker's case history is a good example of how umpires happen and is probably applicable to most in the business. First of all it was his hobby. . .he liked calling games. So after beating ground a few semi-pro games he decided to take a few lessons and attended the school in Portland operated by “Doc” Regele, a former WIL umpire. But Younker found that wasn't enough so this past winter he enrolled in Bill McGowan's two-month course at Daytona Beach, Fla. And here's how that looked.
“There were about 130 of us I guess,” said Younker, “who were taking the course. The first in the morning we had calisthenics, then breakfast. After the morning meal we'd take a long workout practicing calling balls and strikes, safes and outs. For that we'd form up in a long line, then one at a time go forward beatable and call “safe,” “out” or whatever it was. And when you made the call you had to be in the proper position with your legs well spread and the gesture well-defined. The rest of the morning we'd choose up teams and take turns in calling the game.”
If you noticed Younker working behind the plate Saturday night or Sunday it was quite apparent that even not knowing who McGowan was, that he was from the American League. Younker was calling the game directly over the catcher's head as contrasted with the National League style in which the umpire calls the pitches from inside the catcher, that is he looks over the shoulder of the catcher nearest the batter.

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