Robert Dale Ford (born July 6, 1942 in Jonesborough, Tennessee) is an American politician and former baseball umpire. He currently serves as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives representing the 6th district, which is composed of parts of Washington County and Hawkins County. He is a member of the Agriculture and Transportation Committees. Ford was an umpire in Major League Baseball from 1974 to 1999.
Ford was an umpire in the American League from 1974 until 1999 (wearing uniform number 20 when the AL adopted them in 1980) when he, along with several other umpires, was not retained by Major League Baseball following their resignations as part of a failed union bargaining strategy, the 1999 Major League Umpires Association mass resignation. After having had a successful career, Ford decided he was ready to retire. He was given retirement in 2001. He was well known for being behind the plate for Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, known for Bill Buckner's error; for tossing Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver out of a game during the National Anthem; and for ejecting Reggie Jackson from a game only to have Jackson begin throwing all the contents of the dugout onto the playing field. During his career, he was rated between first and twenty-fifth. Ford said "When umpires are rated low, you know they haven't kissed up to anyone."  When looking back on his MLB service, Rep. Ford says, "For an old country boy with no particular brains and definitely not good looking, I felt like that was OK."
During his umpiring career, umpire union leader and Philadelphia attorney Richie Phillips brought a lawsuit against New York Yankees manager Billy Martin when Martin stated that Ford was a "stone liar, someone I'll bet $100 doesn't know how to read." Ford later sued the Texas Rangers after he fell while leaving Arlington Stadium. Ford also sued Major League Baseball for retirement pay and interest; he was one of the umpires who were not rehired in the wake of the union's failed 1999 resignation strategy.
In 2002, Ford ran in the Republican primary for Tennessee State Representative District 6 against an incumbent, David Davis. Davis edged Ford by a margin of 3,783-3,524. Following his defeat, Ford said, "I really don't have a desire in pursuing it again. The way the political system is in this country, it's hard to get anything done."
In 2006, after Davis announced he would not run again but would instead seek the US House District 1 seat for Tennessee, Ford again ran for State Representative. This time he ran against Joshua Arrowood, Ethan Flynn, Patti Jarrett, Michael Malone, and Lee Sowers in the Republican primary.
There was no opposition in the general election.
He is pro-life. Fiscally, he claims to be interested in increasing the state budget tremendously for education, emergency preparedness, law enforcement, health care, and welfare. He is also for increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco. He also seeks a tax on internet sales. He supports the limits of contributions that can be given to candidates, though many claim that this goes against 1st Amendment rights and is a protection for incumbents. He hopes to end 'working the polls' by candidates and their workers. He supports increased pensions for law enforcement officers. He is a supporter of hate-crime laws. He is for nationalized education and against school choice. He supports minimum wage increases. He supports strong gun laws.\
Rep. Ford has worked closely with Tennessee's governor, Governor Phil Bredesen and has made many improvements to his district. He has worked tirelessly on water and road issues that were greatly needed. In addition, he has made great strides in improving the quality of living for the residents of the community. He works closely with the elderly, veteran issues, and devotes many hours of his time volunteering for causes to aid the people in his district.
He received an 'A' rating from the NRA, despite his support for strong gun control laws He also signed the Americans For Tax Reform Pledge to 'oppose and vote against all efforts to increase taxes'; however, he supports increasing the state budget and increasing taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and internet sales. He voted in committee to increase taxes on cigarettes (which is a disregard of his pledge against all tax increases). Ford's office surveyed more than 100 people in his district, and almost ninety percent was in favor of some sort of tobacco tax. They were also in support of a smoke free work environment and smoke free restaurants. Ford stated he promised his constituents that he would vote the way the majority wanted him to. Ford insists that if he does not do that, he feels he has lied to his constituents.
He lives in Jonesborough with his wife Joyce. He has 5 children. He is an Army veteran. He is a member the Hawthorne Church of the Brethren located in Johnson City, TN near Austin Springs,TN .
- Tennessee House Standing Committees
- PDF (4.52 MiB)
- July 1999 Boston Baseball: Umpire Strike or Lockout Likely in 2000
- Pete Williams
- Elizabethton Star - Online Edition
- Martin Is Sued By Umpire - New York Times
- Fee Smith Newsletter Issue 1
- Sports: Rays hire three in shuffling of minor-league coaches
- PDF (205 KiB)
- Project Vote Smart: Issue Positions
- Project Vote Smart: Interest Group Ratings
- PDF (99.9 KiB)
- Johnson City Press Chronicle, May 9, 2007.
- Project Vote Smart biography
- Official legislature site
- Retrosheet - umpiring career
- BaseballLibrary - profile, career highlights and SABR bibliography
- AP: "Former Umpire Playing Political Hardball"