Jocko Conlan

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Jocko Conlan
Jocko Conlan.jpg
Born: (1899-12-06)December 6, 1899
Chicago, Illinois
Died: April 16, 1989(1989-04-16) (aged 89)
Scottsdale, Arizona
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
July 6, 1934 for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1935 for the Chicago White Sox
Career statistics
Batting average .263
Hits 96
Runs batted in 31
Career highlights and awards
  • National League Umpire (1941–1965)
Induction 1974
Election Method Veterans Committee

John Bertrand "Jocko" Conlan (December 6, 1899 – April 16, 1989) was an American Hall of Fame 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.

Early life[edit]

Conlan was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was one of nine children. Conlan's father, a Chicago police officer, died when Conlan was three years old.[1] He attended La Salle High School in Chicago.[2]

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,[3] 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.[3]

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 was also known for making "out" calls with his left hand, instead of his right. Finally, Conlan was the last NL umpire allowed to wear the outside chest protector, instead of the inside protector that all other NL umpires were using by then.

Argument with Leo Durocher[edit]

Jocko Conlan and manager Leo Durocher were both considered colorful characters, and sometimes they would clash. Durocher liked to tell of a time that he was arguing with Conlan. He attempted to kick dirt on Conlan's shoes, but slipped and actually kicked Conlan in the shins. Striking an umpire calls for automatic ejection, but first Conlan "kicked him right back," a sequence that an alert photographer also captured and which was circulated for some time.[1] As Conlan was wearing shin guards, he was not injured by Durocher's kicks.[4]

Popular culture[edit]

Conlan's name was mentioned several times in a fictitious baseball game celebrated in the 1962 song "The Los Angeles Dodgers," recorded by Danny Kaye. The song referred to Conlan only by his last name, with the presumption that the listener would know he was referring to the famous umpire. That song is contained on the CD Baseball's Greatest Hits.

Later life[edit]

Upon Conlan's retirement, NL president Warren Giles said, "I know of no one who has been more dedicated to his profession, more loyal to the game in which he has been such a big party, and I hate to see him hang up his spikes."[5] Conlan was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Committee on Baseball Veterans in 1974.[5] He was the fourth umpire chosen, and the first NL umpire since Bill Klem in 1953. He died at age 89 in Scottsdale, Arizona.[5]

The book Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings (2004) includes short stories from former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. Conlan is prominent in many of these stories.

His son John Bertrand Conlan served as a U.S. Representative from Arizona from 1973 to 1977.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Conlan, Jocko and Robert Creamer (1997). Jocko. University of Nebraska Press. p. 26. ISBN 0803263813. 
  2. ^ "Jocko Conlan Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Retrosheet:Jocko Conlan". Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  4. ^ Biederman, Lester (April 17, 1961). "Durocher, Conlan Get Their Kicks in Coliseum Battle". Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Conlan, Jocko". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 

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