|Don A. Denkinger|
August 28, 1936 |
Cedar Falls, Iowa
|Weight||185 lb (84 kg).|
Donald Anton Denkinger (//; born August 28, 1936) is a former Major League Baseball umpire who worked in the American League from 1969 to 1998. Denkinger wore uniform number 11, when the AL adopted uniform numbers in 1980. He is best remembered for the controversial call he made at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.
Denkinger attended Wartburg College where he was on the wrestling team. He became interested in umpiring while serving in the Army from 1957 to 1959. He began umpiring in the minor leagues in 1960, joined the AL staff in April, 1969, and became an AL crew chief in 1977. In 1975, Denkinger was one of the first American League umpires to switch from the outside chest protector to the inside chest protector, which was used in the National League for decades before finally being adopted in the AL in the late 1970s. All umpires who entered the AL starting in 1977 had to use the inside protector; AL umpires on staff prior to 1977 were grandfathered and could continue to use the outside protector. Denkinger's last game using the outside protector was Game 4 of the 1974 World Series.
He umpired in four World Series: 1974, 1980, 1985 and 1991, serving as crew chief the latter two years. Denkinger also umpired in the All-Star Game in 1971, 1976 and 1987, calling balls and strikes for the last game. He officiated in six American League Championship Series (1972, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1988, 1992), serving as crew chief in 1979, 1982, 1988 and 1992, and in the 1981 and 1995 AL Division Series. He was the home plate umpire for the one-game playoff that decided the AL's Eastern Division champion in 1978; the New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox.
He is one of seven umpires who have worked in two perfect games; he was the second-base umpire for Len Barker's perfect game on May 15, 1981, and the first-base umpire for Kenny Rogers' perfect game on July 28, 1994. He was also the home plate umpire for Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter on June 11, 1990.
Denkinger was the first base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals led the Kansas City Royals by 3 games to 2 and had taken a 1–0 lead in the 8th inning. Jorge Orta, the leadoff batter for the Royals hit a slow roller to first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed to Worrell covering first base. Denkinger called Orta safe, even though television replays and photographs clearly showed that he was out by half a step. The Royals went on to win Game 6 by the score of 2–1. Denkinger believed he had made the right call until he later met with Commissioner Peter Ueberroth after the game and had the opportunity to see the replay himself. He said he was waiting to hear the ball land in Worrell's glove while watching the bag for Orta's foot and due to the crowd noise he never heard Worrell catch the ball. As crew chief of the 1985 World Series umpiring unit, Denkinger was scheduled to work behind home plate in Game 7, a fact that further upset the Cardinals and manager Whitey Herzog.
In the immediate aftermath of the 1985 World Series, Denkinger received many hateful letters (including death threats) from Cardinals fans. Two St. Louis disc jockeys went so far as to reveal Denkinger's telephone number and home address. Denkinger claimed that the letters continued on through 1987 (before Denkinger got into contact with Major League Baseball Security, who in turn contacted the FBI), when the Cardinals were ramping up for another World Series appearance (this time against the Minnesota Twins). The breaking point[clarification needed] for Denkinger was when he received a particularly menacing letter (with no return address) in which the writer tells that if he sees Denkinger in person, he would "blow him away" with a .357 Magnum.
Two years later, he was behind the plate for the All-Star Game, and he was again named crew chief for the 1988 ALCS, 1991 World Series, and 1992 ALCS. He is one of only four umpires to have been selected as crew chief for the ALCS three times.
More than 20 years after the 1985 series, Denkinger has regularly appeared at sports memorabilia shows (including ones in St. Louis) willing to autograph photos depicting "The Call." Denkinger even owns a painting featuring himself, Todd Worrell, and Jorge Orta involved in the play, claiming that he keeps it to remind himself that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. In September 2005, he was a guest speaker at a 20th anniversary dinner celebrating the Cardinals' 1985 team, benefiting the Whitey Herzog Youth Foundation.
- Gleeman, Aaron (2009). "Denkinger calls postseason umpiring 'kind of a disaster'". NBC Sports. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
- Page 2 Staff (2001). "The List: Worst calls in sports history". ESPN. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
- Royals win to force Series into 7th game
- DiGiovanna, Mike. "When sports crowds get loud, game outcomes get altered There's a long history of crowd noise affecting game outcomes. Monday's incident, when". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
- Shouler, Kenneth (2007). "Fans Behaving Badly". Cigar Aficionado. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
- BaseballLibrary.com – profile and list of articles
- St. Louis Sports Online: "Hey! Somebody's Gotta Like the Guy..." – 1998 article on Denkinger's retirement, defending his career
- Retrosheet page