Umbrella Man Revisited

by on March 21, 2008

This is one of my all-time favorite baseballisms from my buddy Jim McNulty of Milton Mass. Jim and I were college roomates together at Providence College in the early 80’s. Jim has a great way of telling a story and we will definitely get him to do a Baseballisms video when we get a chance. He’s got more stories than this – believe me!

As all baseball fans will do when they get together, a discussion on the topic of catching a foul ball / home run inevitably comes up. Jim told us the story of sitting in the front row behind home plate at Fenway Park, during a cold and rainy day game, as a high school junior in 1979. He described how a foul ball started to come straight down on top of him and his buddy Frank.

Most baseball fans have that split second thought that runs through their head — “that ball could be near me”, but most of the time it lands many rows away. But in rare instances that thought turns to “that ball is COMING RIGHT AT ME”. That was the case on this day.

Frank and Jim both reached high above attempting to snag the souvenir while Brewers catcher Ray Fosse zeroed in on the putout. Someone was going to cradle that ball and it was going to come down to whoever wanted it more … but all of a sudden from a row behind comes a smiling man with an open umbrella! What!?! The Umbrella Man deflects the ball away from the guys and it pops into Fosse’s glove.

Now you have to keep in mind, Jim is a great raconteur, and in those fun-filled days and nights during college we would kill ourselves with laughter retelling tales from our “youths”. When we first heard about Umbrella Man we had to call timeout and challenge the validity with exclamations of “no way!” So during Christmas break that freshman year, Jim went home to uncover proof positive indeed.

That’s Jim in the front row to the right of Fosse, looking back over his shoulder, flinching away from Umbrella Man. Not only can he confirm his story, he’s got himself a two part spread within an article written by Peter Gammons!

Part two still shows Umbrella Man with a giant grin on his face, and the disgruntled Jim and his buddy Frank looking on in disbelief.

An interesting side note as Jim tells it today, making the call from behind the plate that day was a minor league umpire on duty during the Umpire’s union strike at the start of that season.

And a little inside ribbing too … Jim has always told me that he was never too good at judging fly balls, so you have to wonder if Umbrella Man hadn’t intervened, who would have come down with the souvenir!?!

Jim – You’re the best! Thanks for sharing this baseballism with us …


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