Do You Know Who Was the first Black Umpire in Major League Baseball?

Emmett Ashford MLB debut took place on April 11, 1966 Home Opener where the Washington Senator were playing Cleveland.  His first major hurdle was getting into the stadium.   Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was scheduled to throw out the first ball, and the service needed to be convinced that a black man was there to umpire the game.   Ashford was a colorful (no pun intended) man.  

Ashford was born in Los Angeles on November 23, 1914.  Ashford’s father abandoned the family so Emmett and brother Wilbur were raised by their highly motivated mother who worked as a secretary for the California Eagle, a black newspaper.  Ashford excelled at Jefferson High School, rising to co-editor of the school paper, the Jeffersonian, and becoming a teen journalist for the California Eagle.  When he graduated in 1933 he was the senior class president, the first black student so honored.

Ashford was 51 when he made his Major league debut as an umpire.  he told Ebony after the game. “Of course, I was a little nervous at first, but wild horses couldn’t have kept me out of there. I waited 15 years for this and now I’m finally there.”   When Ashford turned 55 in December 1969, he had reached the American League’s retirement age of 55 for its umpires, a rule occasionally bent.  he was given one more year, but after the 1970 season Ashford announced his retirement. 

His umpire career: Umpire in Southwest International League, July 1951-July 1952; Arizona-Texas League, August-September 1952; Western International League, 1953: Pacific Coast League, 1954-1965; American League, 1966-1970; All-Star Game, 1967; World Series, 1970.

Come and check out this event honoring Emmett Ashford presented by the Baseball Reliquary and Allendale Branch Library in Pasadena:

When:  SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 3:00 PM

Where:  Allendale Branch Library, 1130 South Marengo ave., Pasadena, CA

Emmett Ashford’s daughter, Adrienne Cherie Ashford, will discuss her father’s extraordinary career and legacy; will sign copies of her biography, Strrr-ike!!: Emmett Ashford, Major League Umpire; and will show video clips of her father working games in the 1970 World Series. Ashford’s biography will be available for $15.00 per copy.

I throughly enjoyed last Saturday’s Baseball Reliquary  event at the West Covina Library on the LA Blue Bum series by Stephen Seemayer.  I loved the Brooklyn Dodger trivia!  I also won the book  “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball.  Check out Steve’s exhibition at the West Covina Library. 

Looking forward to this Saturday’s event.   

ref:  www.baseballreliquary.org  www.sabr.org , Baseballblackheritage.com

14 Comments

I REMEMBER EMMET ASHFORD WELL….HE BROUGHT AN ENTERTAINING VIM,VIGOR,& EXUBERANCE TO THE GAME.

Alex,
Wish I could have seen Emmett Ashford. We will see film of his umpiring on Saturday. Can you make it?

One of these days one of these Baseball Reliquary events will be close to you. There is an upcoming book that is being released in a few months about the Mexican American Baseball players in the Inland Empire.

Good stuff, Emma.

Thanks Rob!

I actually remember Emmet Ashford! Enjoy the event with his daughter.

Thanks Jane. Looking forward to meeting his daughter.

EMMA….I could make it there….but I need a ride at least to El Monte to take the Silver Streak back.

How about to the Gold line?

Awesome, Emma. Baseball has so much history that helped shape this country. I think that baseball’s impact is forgotten most of the time.
–Mike

Awesome! I had no idea! Thanks, Emma, for sharing yet another poignant historical point of our great game!
–Jeff

That’s a great post. I have to admit that I’ve never really given the question of first black ump any thought before. Really informative. Thanks!

~Russel http://wrigleyregular.mlblogs.com/

Alex,
Sometimes there is an impromptu going out to dinner afterwards. Not sure when is the last Silver Streak bus.
.
Mike,
I love all that rich baseball history.
.
Jeff,
you are so welcome. I get so engrossed in the baseball history that I just keep on reading and reading that I forget everything else.
.
Russel,
Yeah, we tend to forget about the umpires, myself included.

Sounds like a great event, Emma! I hope you had a good time. I will definitley check out the book. I’m going to have to check out these Reliquary events. It looks like the next one is in Pasadena too.
— Kristen

Kristen, there is going to one in Arcadia. Terry has had a baseball book raffle the last two events. I won a book both times. I went to dinner with Terry and his wife Mary afterwards. The restaurant used to be called Lasorda. Now is called Carmines.

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