T.H. Connolly, Sr.
Chief of American League's Staff 23 Years Dead
NATICK, Mass., April 28 (AP) — Thomas H. Connolly Sr., dean of American League umpires, and the first to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, died today at his home. He was 90 years old.
Mr. Connolly was associated with the American League as an umpire for sixty years.
Survivors include four sons, three daughters and a brother.
Retired in 1954
When Mr. Connolly retired in 1954 as the American League umpire in chief, he ended an officiating career that spanned the lifetime of the league.
The small, trim man, who spoke in a blend of Irish broque and New England broad "A," was behing the plate in Chicago in 1901 when the American League players its first game, between Cleveland and Chicago.
Thereafter he officiated for more than thirty years on the various league diamonds and became umpire in chief in 1931.
Mr. Connolly was born in England and never saw a baseball game until his family moved to Natick, when he was 13 years old. To compensate for his lack of baseball knowledge, he assiduously studied the rule book. He eventually became the country's leading authority on baseball rules.
As an umpire, Mr. Connolly ranked with the greates of his profession - Bill Klem, Billy Evans, Tim Hurst and Sil O'Loughlin. Although he may have lacked the color of a Bill Klem, Mr. Connolly was perhaps the perfect umpire. He commanded great respect, although he rarely ejected a player from the game.
"You can go just so far with Tommy," Ty Cobb once said of him, "Once you see his neck red it's time to lay off."
Had Clash With Speaker
About thirty-five years ago, is an argument over a close play, Tris Speaker accused Mr. Connolly of being prejudiced against him and his team, the Cleveland Indians. That turned Mr. Connolly's neck a bright red.
"Tris," he said, calmly, "You're out of the game. And if you don't change your thinking, you'll be out of baseball."
For the next three months Speaker tried without success to apologize to Mr. Connolly. On the day of a crucial September game between the Indians the Philadelphia Athletics Speaker tried again.
"I know you don't want to talk to me," he said, "but this game means so much to my team that I would like you to do us this favor of umpiring behind the plate today."
Mr. Connolly, who at that time rarely called balls and strikes, agreed.
Once, when he was asked to list the qualities of a good umpire he replied:
"If they're otherwise all right, what you have to teach them is poise. And another thing I tell 'em is not to have rabbit ears. Never mind the wrecking crew in the dugout. Just go about your job of calling 'em on the field."