John Bertrand "Jocko" Conlan (December 6, 1899 – April 16, 1989) was an American baseball umpire who worked in the National League (NL) from 1941 to 1965. He had a brief career as an outfielder with the Chicago White Sox before entering umpiring. He umpired in five World Series and six All-Star Games. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 by the Veterans Committee.
Playing Career Edit
Beginning his professional baseball career in 1920, Conlan spent 13 years as a minor league player.Statistics are incomplete, but Conlan was known to have played with Western League teams in Wichita until 1923. He was in the International League for the next several seasons, playing for the Rochester Tribefrom 1924 to 1926 and for the Newark Bears from 1927 to 1929. He spent a season with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association and then returned to the International League with the Montreal Royals in 1931 and 1932.
Conlan began his major league career in 1934 as a center fielder for the Chicago White Sox. In 1935, however, Conlan was presented with an unusual opportunity. During a game against the St. Louis Browns, umpire Red Ormsby fell ill due to the heat. In those days, only two umpires covered typical regular-season games, and a player with a reputation for honesty might be pressed into service if one umpire became incapacitated. Conlan was asked to fill in, and took to it well. The following year Conlan made the transition from player to umpire complete, beginning in the minor leagues.
Umpiring Career Edit
Conlan umpired in the National League from 1941 to 1965, officiating in five World Series (1945, 1950, 1954, 1957 and 1961) and six All-Star Games (1943, 1947, 1950, 1953, 1958 and the first 1962 contest). He also umpired in the playoff series to decide the NL's regular-season champions in 1951, 1959 and 1962 (some sources erroneously credit him with umpiring in the 1946 NL playoff as well). He was the home plate umpire when Gil Hodges hit four home runs on August 31, 1950; he also umpired in the April 30, 1961 game in which Willie Mays hit four home runs. He retired after the 1964 season, but returned to work as a substitute umpire for 17 games in 1965.
Conlan was known for several trademarks: Instead of a regular dress tie like most umpires of the day wore, Conlan wore a natty bow tie for his career. Conlan further distinguished himself by making "out" calls with his left hand instead of his right. He was also the last NL umpire allowed to wear the outside chest protector, instead of the inside protector that all other NL umpires except Beans Reardon were using by then.
Manager Casey Stengel said that he admired Conlan's performance both as a player and as an umpire. He managed Conlan with the Toledo Mud Hens and described a time when Conlan broke his leg sliding into third base. He scored a run before telling anyone that he had been hurt. Though he was hitting .292 when he got hurt, Stengel gave him half of a $1,000 bonus he was supposed to get for batting .300. Stengel later said, "And as a reward for the $500 bonus I once gave him, he used to chase me oftener than anyone than any other manager in the league. But I admired him for his courage as a player and an official."