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Tom Knight's Diamond Reflections: Umpire Recalls Dodgers’ Hijinks

By Tom Knight

Brooklyn Baseball Historian

 

The last time I saw Stan Landes was in 1983 in Milwaukee. Big Stan put in 18 seasons as a National League umpire. He and Gil Hodges were buddies in the U.S. Marines during World War II. The native New Yorker began his N.L. career in 1955.

 

Landes told the story of a Dodgers’ game in Milwaukee against the Braves. Duke Snider hit what he thought was a home run just below the top of the right field fence. The ball was in play, but Snider went into his home run trot. Braves’ shortstop Johnny Logan just stood, nonchalantly, at second as outfielder Hank Aaron rifled the ball to the bag. Logan put the tag on the surprised Snider, who was called out by Landes.

 

After a few choice words, the center fielder was given the thumb by the umpire. Coach Jake Pitler ran out from behind first base and he too was sent to the showers.

 

After the game, some “unknown Dodgers” sent a phony telegram to Pitler, signed, “Warren Giles, N.L. President,” advising him that he was being fined $500 for his “vicious attack upon umpire Landes.”

 

Pitler was frantic and could not understand why he was being penalized so severely. He thought of appealing to Landes and, after a sleepless night, he was determined to confront the umpire before that day’s game. Just before that happened, the Dodgers’ players informed Pitler that it was all a gag! Pitler did not think it was very funny, but was greatly relieved to find out that he was not out $500!

 

Landes had several “run-ins” with former Dodgers’ catcher Bobby Bragan when he was managing at Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. There is a celebrated photo of Bragan being banished by Landes after coming out onto the field to protest while sipping a soft drink through a straw!

 

Once, when Bragan was with the Pirates, the Pittsburgh bench was getting on the umpire pretty heavily. Landes ordered pitcher Vernon Law from the bench. Law, a quiet, likeable man, never caused any trouble. The puzzled Bragan came running from the dugout. 

 

“Why Law?” the manager inquired. “He’s the nicest guy on the club; why are you throwing him out?”

 

“Because he is a nice guy and I don’t want him sitting with all that riff-raff!” Landes replied.

 

Bragan was not a bad guy. He spent his entire life in baseball and, at one time, he was president of the Texas League and defended his umpires 100 percent, even asking for higher pay for the men in blue. Years later, after his Dodgers’ days, Bragan was back in Brooklyn to be inducted into the Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Fame. Duke, Jake, Bobby and Stan are all gone now, but the memories linger on!

 

« « «

 

On Sept. 7, 1931, Van Lingle Mungo broke in with the Dodgers by blanking the Boston Braves, 2-0, on three hits, while fanning 12. He also chipped in with a triple and a single at bat.

 

On Sept. 23, 1942, Larry French of the Dodgers beat the Phils on a one-hitter, 6-0. Nick Etten, who had the hit, was wiped out in a double play and French only faced 27 men. It was French’s last game in the majors, as he went into the U.S. Navy. He became an officer and remained in the service after the war and had a full Navy career. For 14 years, he was one of the best lefthanders in the game. His best years were with the Pirates and Cubs. Lifetime, he won 197 games and lost 121.

February 2, 2012 - 2:00pm


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