Guest Post: Umpire Tim McClelland Retires After 33 Years in Baseball: Tied to the Yankees Forever

2015 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects
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The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you may know from the comments as Roadgeek Adam. Adam wrote about long-time umpire Tim McClelland and his ties to the Yankees. McClelland did not work due to a back injury last year and recently retired.

McClelland and Jorge Posada in the 2003 ALCS. (Getty)
McClelland and Jorge Posada in the 2003 ALCS. (Getty)

Veteran Major League Baseball umpire Tim McClelland has retired after 33 years in the game. Hired by the American League in 1981, the Michigan State University product umpired his first game on September 3, in a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Chicago White Sox (which also included the MLB debut of Jesse Barfield!) Tim McClelland had back surgery in 2014, which kept him out the entire season and had him considering retirement. Earlier this week, that officially happened.

McClelland is notably famous for the day of his first ever ejection, which we mostly know as the Pine Tar Game, July 24, 1983. We Yankees fans know quite well the story behind the Pine Tar Game, with Billy Martin questioning George Brett’s bat after a home run that would’ve given the Royals the lead. The bat supposedly had too much pine tar compared to the league rules, and after talking with fellow umpires Drew Coble, Joe Brinkman and Nick Bremigen, McClelland officially agreed with Martin and called Brett out (overturning the home run).

McClelland immediately ejected George Brett, who wanted a piece of the young umpire at that point. McClelland also ejected Royals manager Dick Howser, coach Rocky Colavito and pitcher Gaylord Perry for trying to get the bat away from the umpires (by using the bat boy) so it would not be brought to the umpire’s room and make a trip to the American League office, run by Lee MacPhail. As we know, MacPhail overturned the decision of McClelland and the Yankees lost the game 5-4. It would not be the last time McClelland’s had to deal with questionable bats, as in 2003, Sammy Sosa used a corked bat (“reserved for batting practice”) against the late Geremi Gonzalez of Tampa Bay. McClelland, now 20 years removed from the Brett incident, ejected Sosa, and the ground out RBI that Sosa made with the bat was reversed. (This is also the most recent time a person has been caught using a corked bat.)

McClelland also gained some notoriety in the 2009 American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels. First off, he was the third base umpire in Game 4 when Jorge Posada got caught in a rundown in the 5th inning between third base and home plate. Robinson Cano used this opportunity to advance to third, and both Posada and Cano were both tagged out by Mike Napoli. Instead, McClelland only called Posada out because he felt Cano was touching third base when he was tagged. The other call involved Nick Swisher leaving third base too soon when tagging up to advance to home. On that call, McClelland was quoted: “I’m not sure I believe the replay of that one.” In other words, he thinks that he’s right.

Tim McClelland was also the home plate umpire for the David Wells’ perfect game on May 17, 1998. He has also been a part of seven no-hitters, including Phillip Humber’s perfect game in 2012. In all, McClelland worked parts of 33 seasons, umpiring officially 4,236 games with 1,075 at home plate. He’s been part of five Division Series (1997, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006), nine Championship Series (1988, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and four World Series (1993, 2000, 2002 and 2006) as well as three All-Star Games (1986, 1998 and 2003).

As far as ejections, McClelland ejected 77 players, coaches and managers, including the four on July 24, 1983. He’s ejected people from the Yankees 12 times, including every single manager from Yogi Berra through Joe Girardi (except for Buck Showalter).

Honestly, losing McClelland is a big loss to Major League Baseball. While some people were very displeased with his ball and strike calling style, which is notoriously slow, he was one of the most respected umpires as voted by the players. I have major respect for the great McClelland, who I honored in my fantasy league this year, and he’s going to finish a career that is well-respected. I will miss the great McClelland behind the plate, and I am sure many others will as well.

2015 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects
Thursday Night Open Thread
  • Moncada’s Codpiece

    Solid write-up, well done. And hats off to a long-sustained career. I think any of us would enjoy spending three decades working on something we loved. Hopefully the injury won’t greatly impact life going forward.

  • doubla06

    I absolutely wish him all the best in his personal life, but dude took 15 minutes to make a call. The victim was my emotions.

  • Mandy Stankiewicz

    Nicely done. Also, click the play at 3B. Robbie; smooth criminal.

  • ScottinSJ

    Did anyone in the history of the game look more like an umpire than McClelland? Tall, strong jaw, authoritative bearing. I always felt when he was behind the plate that he would call a fair game.

    Good luck on your next chapter, Tim. The game will miss you.

    • https://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek/ Roadgeek Adam

      Being the tallest umpire at the time helps that, but I’d agree with you wholeheartedly.

    • blake

      I didn’t think of that but so true

  • Bryan B.

    Always like McClelland. Wish him nothing but the best.

    Now let’s get Laz Diaz to retire next.

    • They call me Murphy

      CB Bucknor, too

  • Game 3

    Good riddance.

  • Farewell Mo and Jeet

    I hated when he had home plate since there was absolutely no reason he had to be so slow calling balls and strike. John Sterling is probably thrilled

  • Alex Reddardriguez

    It’s not a big loss to baseball. I never liked him. My favorite announcer of all time, John Sterling, always complained that he could never tell whether McClelland called a pitch a ball or a strike. I know John always strives for accuracy so that’s why I never cared for McClelland. I think they need to go to robot umpires.

    • ScottinSJ

      How about robot commenters? Can a human’s voice be replaced? Care to offer yourself up as a test case?

    • The Great Gonzo

      Anything that gets Sterling worked up is OK in my book. He needs some excitement in his life, non-house evacuating variety of course.

  • blake

    He drove Kay crazy…..I love him for that

    • vin

      Fair enough, but it was pretty damn annoying.

  • RetroRob

    Excellent work, Roadgeek!

    His slow calls were frustrating, but I always thought he was one of the better umpires.

    Brett should have been called out. I mean, it’s nonsense that he should have been called out, but there was that rule on the book, and it was enforced against Thurman Munson who lost a hit (and I believe an RBI) on that very same rule. It should have stood and then the rule changed. Yes, I’m totally biased as a Yankee fan on this one and having watched the game as it happened!

  • Wicomico Pinstripes

    Very well done, dude. I’ve always enjoyed your umpire analysis in the series previews, but this was extraordinary. Again, excellent job!

    • https://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek/ Roadgeek Adam

      I post them in the first series of the game because the lineup can change before gametime.

      • Wicomico Pinstripes

        Ah ok, thanks. I couldn’t remember exactly, but for some reason I thought it was the series previews. Where do you get your statistical data on umpires? Brooks?

        • https://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek/ Roadgeek Adam

          Various sites, Brooks is one. Some is eyeballed stuff as well.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Really proud of ya, Adam! Awesome job!

    #montclairstrong

  • just_add_bacon7

    McClelland was behind the plate in Game 5 of the 2000 Series. Being there in Shea is still one of the best nights of my life.

  • Havok9120

    Oooooh, I’m glad Mike decided to go ahead and post this. Nice work, Adam.

    I’m looking forward to you continuing your umpire breakdowns in the series preview threads. They’re always a nice read.

    • https://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek/ Roadgeek Adam

      I literally got a response from him 4 minutes after I emailed it.

  • dkidd

    those two images sum up my all-time favorite yankee

    awesomely fiery competitor
    awesomely terrible baserunner

    • blake

      There was a piece written yesterday Jason Keidal on how Posada doesn’t belong in monument park.

      I couldn’t disagree more…..Jeter was the captain but most acknowledge that Posada was a huge emotional leader during the dynasty and the years that followed. Not to mention a great offensive catcher…..they don’t have as many rings without Jorge IMO and I certainly think he belongs.

      That was a special time for the yanks….don’t have a problem with recognizing the key players involved……it’s not like there is a ton of players playing now that are gonna further clutter it up out there or anything

      • Pete22

        Key AB against Pedro in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Huge.

      • dkidd

        posada’s blooper off pedro is my favorite moment from the dynasty years

        sounded like the stadium was going to collapse

      • Brendan Bowen

        Hip Hip Jorge. Miss those days chanting with the bleacher creatures.

  • Deep Thoughts

    Before he fed Winfield dirt to–and then foolishly threatened–George Steinbrenner, Howie Spira occupied himself with a massive gambling problem. He claims to have bet both sides of the Pine Tar Game…and lost twice.

    He initially had money on KC to win the game, but after Brett’s home run was disallowed he lost that bet. Then he bet on the Yankees to win the restarted game, and lost that bet too.

    As the mobster who ran who the sports books for the Lucchese and Colombo families put it, “This motherf***ing Jew could fuck up a wet dream.”

    http://deadspin.com/5853591/the-last-act-of-the-notorious-howie-spira

    • The Great Gonzo

      That is awesome. Never heard that story.

    • http://www.google.com/ Tanuki Tanaka

      This is why you don’t second guess things.

  • The Great Gonzo

    First off: well done RGA!

    Secondly: the most surprising thing… geremi Gonzalez died?

    • https://www.flickr.com/photos/roadgeek/ Roadgeek Adam

      Struck by lightning in 2007.

  • Bluyork

    I recall that Nettles eyeballed Brett’s bat and knew the rule. He pointed it out to the ump and the dugout (foggy memory at this point)

  • Centaur Hips

    Great job! You’re the best source out there on umpires. Look forward to seeing the rest of the ump analysis.

  • The Shanesaw

    Great job on the article man

  • http://www.google.com/ Tanuki Tanaka

    Good read. The manager-ejections is an interesting fact.

  • Walter E. Kurtz

    McClelland looks as though he could play a great Wyatt Earp, and become an actor in movies needing lawmen, judges, and cowboys ;) Great career, I hate to see some of those guys leave the game. Kept himself in shape, and his dignity as well, ahem, Joe West……..

  • ropeadope1

    Excellent work Mr. Moss. When you dropped the hint of a forthcoming guest article, I had no idea you were to be the author! As others have stated, I too look forward to and appreciate your umpire analysis at the beginning of each series. Using this article as a launching pad, you should request (if you haven’t already) that Mike post your series umpiring commentary as a stand-alone column, as opposed to your incorporating the write up into the opening game thread.

  • YankeeB

    A fine umpire. Did not escalate confrontations and went about his business in a professional and dignified manner. The anti-Joe West, if you will. Perfect, no, but certainly one of the best of his generation. Excellent article.