Hildebrand as an umpire, 1915
September 6, 1878|
San Francisco, California
|Died: May 30, 1960
|April 17, 1902, for the Brooklyn Superbas|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 28, 1902, for the Brooklyn Superbas|
|Runs batted in||5|
George Albert Hildebrand (September 6, 1878 – May 30, 1960) was an American left fielder and umpire in Major League Baseball who played 11 games for the 1902 Brooklyn Superbas and later umpired in the American League from 1913 to 1934. He is often credited as having invented the spitball while playing in the minor leagues. He was the umpire in four World Series (1914, 1918, 1922, 1926), and his 3,331 games as an umpire ranked third in AL history when he retired.
Born in San Francisco, California, Hildebrand began his playing career in 1898. He was playing for Providence in the Eastern League in the spring of 1902 when he discovered the effect moisture had on a pitched ball; he encouraged pitchers Frank Corridon and Elmer Stricklett to try the technique, and Stricklett was believed to be the first to use the pitch in a major league game in 1904.
Hildebrand worked much of his umpiring career in a team with Brick Owens. His most controversial decision came in Game 2 of the 1922 World Series, when he ended the game on account of darkness after 10 innings with the score tied 3-3, even though it did not begin to get dark until a half-hour later; it was widely believed that the game could have continued for a few more innings. It was later reported that third base umpire Bill Klem had expressed to Hildebrand his concern about a long game, recalling Game 2 of the 1914 Series, which had ended in almost complete darkness after 14 innings. There was such heavy criticism of Hildebrand's decision to end the game that commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered the game proceeds ($120,000) to be donated to charity.
Hildebrand was behind the plate on June 21, 1916, when Rube Foster of the Boston Red Sox pitched a 2-0 no-hitter against the New York Yankees. He was also behind the plate on July 10, 1932 when Johnny Burnett of the Cleveland Indians collected a record nine hits in an 18-inning game against the Philadelphia Athletics.
After retiring from baseball, Hildebrand ran a hotel in Brawley, California, and then went into business in Los Angeles. He died of heart failure at age 81 at Reseda Hospital in Reseda, California, and was survived by his wife Sue and son Albert. He was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.
- "Hildebrand, A.L. Umpire for 22 Years, Dies at 81". The Sporting News. 1960-06-08. p. 48.
- Coberly, Rich (1985). The No-Hit Hall of Fame: No-Hitters of the 20th Century. Newport Beach, California: Triple Play. p. 43. ISBN 0-934289-00-X.
- Dittmar, Joseph J. (1990). Baseball's Benchmark Boxscores. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. pp. 56–58. ISBN 0-89950-488-4.