Umpire Phil Ross Got Early Hints of Late Roy Halladay's Mixture of Impending Greatness, Inherent Politeness

Nov. 10, 2017

Author Offers First-Hand Remembrances of Eventual Cy Young Award Winner in Both Major Leagues

The following is a heartfelt, first-hand remembrance of the late Roy Halladay by Phil Ross, author of the BLUE HOMBRES book trilogy:

For what it's worth, here's my two cents regarding an exemplary individual who was universally well-liked and respected by his peers and fans, but lost his life taking one final chance too many while enjoying a risky, albeit legitimate, pursuit that had become his passion. How many of us can say that?

Roy "Doc" Halladay, who died tragically at age 40 in a crash of his amphibious aircraft on a solo flight earlier this week, should be automatically inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2018. Even though he wasn't close to the traditionally accepted threshold of 300 career wins, he pitched a perfect game, was a multiple All-Star, a champion in both major leagues, and one of ONLY SIX pitchers in history to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues, in addition to setting sterling examples on and off the field.

My fond remembrances of Doc are based on my own personal path-crossings with him while he was a pitcher/first baseman and I was a college and high school umpire when he played at Colorado's Arvada West High from 1993-95.

I recall the first time I did a Wildcats game when he was a sophomore, playing first base that day, and I was the base umpire. In retrospect, not only was he the best player whom I officiated in a two-decade umpiring career but also the most polite. That day, I told Roy's head coach, Jim Capra, "Your first baseman is the politest kid I've ever had -- 'yes, sir; no, sir; please; thank you'." "Caps," an Edgewater-bred Italian-American Catholic who more recently has coached at Colorado's Adams State University, his alma mater, smiled, looked at me, and retorted simply, "Mormon." Which made sense, even though I'm not Mormon, since every LDS church member I've ever encountered was polite and respectful despite philosophical differences.

The following season, I was behind the plate when Roy pitched a no-hitter against A-West's weak-hitting arch-rivals, the Arvada High Reds. I didn't realize it at the time as I walked toward the parking lot afterward with my umpiring partner, but an excited man with a scorebook -- whom I assumed was official scorer -- exclaimed, "Do you know you just called a no-hitter?" When I saw the line score in the next day's Sports Section, I felt good.

When I heard of "Doc" Halladay's fatal crash the other day on the car radio, I couldn't hold back the tears. As Billy Joel sang, "Only the good die young."

Former Sports Officials Ottewill, Ross Have Memory-Laden 'Reunion' Following 20-Year-Plus Hiatus

Jun. 29, 2017

Retired Commissioner, Umpire-Turned-Author Spend 2 Hours Sharing Time-Honored, Time-Worn Stories

Two old "Boomer Geezers," one 70, the other ready to hit the septuagenarian stage in September, hooked up for a two-hour, one-on-one trip down Memory Lane in a Southeast Denver pub earlier this week.

Both slowed in one form or another by the ravages of creeping old age, retired Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) Commissioner "Bullet Bob" Ottewill and longtime journalist Phil "The Thrill" Ross, author of the BLUE HOMBRES trilogy and BOTCHED BLOODING, slowly tossed back the lightest libations available while exchanging catch-up tales for two hours. Each had bestowed their respective nicknames on one another many years ago, for varied reasons -- most likely because of Ottewill darting up
and down basketball courts and Ross "bouncing around out there" (Bullet Bob's description) on Colorado college and prep baseball diamonds.

Once they had completed their latest mission, the world still was round and spinning around the sun.


Before working his first week in the Arizona Fall League from Oct. 11-15, 2016, Puerto Rico native Roberto Ortiz indicates he is ready to be the home plate umpire for a National League inter-divisional game on Oct. 1, in a season-ending series between the visiting Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Chatting in the lobby of Denver's Grand Hyatt with the then-31-year-old Blue Hombre is Phil Ross, the Colorado-based author of a trilogy on Latino MLB umpires. In the closing days of 2017 spring training, Ortiz was ticketed to be a regular call-up umpire -- or possibly a regular MLB crew member -- during the '17 season. As of the first week of June, he had just finished two consecutive weeks as a call-up on three different crews in New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Diego, before returning, until his next MLB call-up, to his role as one of the senior umpires in the AAA International League. Ortiz correctly predicted added call-up duties in 2017 and was destined for even more MLB call-ups in 2028.The book project's First Edition, BLUE HOMBRES: The Life and Times of Major League Baseball's Latino Umpires, debuted in August 2016. Phil also is the author of ONCE A TROJAN ALWAYS A TROJAN and the newly released BOTCHED BLOODING (details on News on Phil's Books page). (Photo by Maria Ross)

Author Phil Ross, Sidekick Bob 'Gabby' Kellogg Observe Beefed-Up PCL Umpire Crew on Colo. Springs Visit, See Promising Young Foursome on Cusp of MLB Threshold, Enhanced by 'Floating' Addition of Dominican Umpiring Pioneer

May. 11, 2017

Regular 3-Man Complement of PCL Veterans Valentine & Cunha, Triple-A Rookie Vondrak Transformed into 4-Man Crew with Temporary Addition of de Jesus

Traveling south to Colorado Springs on May 11 for a rare 11 a.m. first
pitch on the school-children's-oriented Math Day at the host Sky Sox's Security Service Field, BLUE HOMBRES trilogy author Phil Ross and sidekick Bob "Gabby" Kellogg witnessed a lopsided result.

Despite a come-from-behind, 17-7 Pacific Coast League (PCL) victory by the invading Sacramento River Cats over the Springs squad, with the winners scoring 13 runs in the top of the seventh inning, the promising young three-man umpire crew, enhanced by the temporary addition of a fourth "floater," completed the high-scoring clash in 2 hours, 56 minutes.

With veteran PCL arbiters Junior Valentine, a 29-year-old Tennesseean, behind the plate and Northern Californian Billy Cunha at second base, plus Triple-A rookie and regular No. 3 partner Clint Vondrak, a Nevadan and youngest on the crew at 28, at third, the trio was joined for the Cats-Sox series opener by the Dominican Republic's Ramon de Jesus. The 33-year-old d de Jesus, assigned as a "floater" who spent most of the 2016 regular season on several Major League Baseball (MLB) crews, is the first umpire from his country ever to work an MLB game; he is among call-up umpires featured in Chapter 8 of Ross's first book of a trilogy, BLUE HOMBRES: The Life and Times of Major League Baseball's Latino Umpires.

The patient quartet of officials -- huddling to compare notes -- upheld a rare double-play call by crew chief Cunha at second base, after a rundown between second and third in the bottom of the second inning. With Sky Sox base runners Brett Phillips and Garrett Cooper, respectively, at second and third and no outs, Cooper scored on a tricky bouncer to Sacramento third baseman Juan Ciriaco. Instead of throwing out Springs batter-runner Yadiel Rivera at first, though, Ciriaco turned and fired to shortstop Juniel Querecuto at second to force the rundown. Phillips was tagged out by Querecuto diving back into second for the first out, as Rivera scooted into second standing up but became the other half of the double play when he fell off the base for a split-second. As Rivera was quickly tagged by Querecuto, an alert Cunha called him out, then the 34-year-old Cunha was vindicated in the umpire conference after the Sky Sox protested.

Following the contest, Ross and Kellogg caught up with the umpires and chatted about the arbiters' collective invitation from the author to contribute material to the trilogy's Book Two, BLUE HOMBRES 2.0: Major League Baseball's Latino Umpires and Their Crew Mates Embrace the High-Tech Revolution with Much Gusto. The second segment will be launched in conjunction with the MLB All-Star Break in July 2017.

On Whirlwind Day at and Around Denver’s LoDo/Coors Field, Real Gales, Gusts Swirl, As Colorado Author, Friend Regale New Denver Football Coach, MLB Umpires with Book Highlights

May. 10, 2017

Phil Ross, Good Buddy ‘Gabby’ Spend Pleasant Moments with Rookie Broncos’ Head Man Vance Joseph, BLUE HOMBRES-Mentioned Arbiters

It was a whirlwind Sunday – literally and figuratively – on May 7 in and around Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) for Colorado author Phil Ross and good friend Bob Kellogg, the latter known varyingly as Bullet Bob the Spartan Sport and “Gabby.” The wild-bearded Kellogg, a Detroit-area native who has called the Centennial State home since 1973, is a devoted Michigan State fan whose hirsute adornment makes him resemble late cowboy-movie sidekick Gabby Hayes.

En route to an eventual destination of Coors Field to watch a rain/lightning/wind-delayed 5-2 series finale win by the host Colorado Rockies over their National League West rival Arizona Diamondbacks, the Ross/Kellogg duo first visited with the four-man umpire crew at the arbiters’ downtown hotel.

As the geographically diverse umpire quartet of crew regulars Vic Carapazza of South Florida, northern New Jersey’s Phil Cuzzi, Southern California’s Mark Ripperger, and the temporary crew chief, Mark Wegner of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, prepared to depart for the game site, they accepted signed, comp copies of BLUE HOMBRES, First of a Trilogy, published in August 2016, and 2013 debut book ONCE A TROJAN ALWAYS A TROJAN from the author. All four are mentioned in the newer book, as is their regular crew chief, Tom Hallion, who was attending to personal matters in another state.

After a swift pedicab ride with multi-talented driver/musician Johnny of Bash Bros. Pedicab to the ballpark, Ross and Kellogg bumped into new Denver Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph; wife Holly; and their daughter, Nataly, 15, and son, Stone, 11, outside the Coors Field main gate. Asked by Ross whether he had read Neal Thompson’s HURRICANE SEASON, New Orleans native Joseph said he had. Then, Ross – always willing to give fellow author friends’ well-written, entertaining works a plug – also recommended Thompson’s other titles: LIGHT THIS CANDLE, a biography of astronaut Alan Shepard; DRIVING WITH THE DEVIL, an unofficial history of NASCAR; and A CURIOUS MAN, the most-definitive biography of the late Robert Ripley, creator of Believe It or Not.

The baseball game – which drew a crowd of nearly 40,000, with Wegner behind home plate and Ripperger, Cuzzi and Carapazza from first to third bases – was delayed more than an hour in the eighth inning by an electrical storm accompanied by a heavy downpour and a series of small, swirling gusts.


Depiction of the front cover of the First Edition for Book 1 in a trilogy, BLUE HOMBRES: The Life and Times of Major League Baseball's Latino Umpires. Each color or variation symbolizes some societal aspect from around the Caribbean Rim, whose island or coastal countries have provided ancestral roots for the dozen-plus Latino MLB umpires since 1974. Blue represents not just the basic hue of the umpiring craft, but also the Caribbean Sea and thundering rivers; Red, the enormous array of natural resources the region produces into fuel and other products, mirroring the sun's searing heat; Beige and Brown, standing for the sumptuous sands lining the beaches of the lands like Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, all providers of umpire talent for the U.S. big leagues; Green, indicative of massive rain forests, lush jungles and other flora; and White, whose inherent purity reflects the snow-topped peaks of the towering Andes. (Cover design by Brandon McElhinney)

Crew Mates of MLB Blue Hombres Prep for Spring Training in 2017 World Baseball Classic

Mar. 12, 2017

Vanover, Blaser Among Those Making Calls in Annual Winter Event

Among the umpires in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, in preparation for Major League Baseball spring training, are MLB veterans Larry Vanover of Kentucky, Colorado's Cory Blaser, Washington state residents Tripp Gibson and Quinn Wolcott, Georgia's Dan Iassogna, Illinoisan Dan Bellino, Michigander D.J. Reyburn, Arizona resident Ted Barrett, New Mexico's Doug Eddings, Kansan Todd Tichenor, California-based Brian Knight and Minnesotan Mark Wegner. Vanover and Barrett were MLB crew chiefs in 2016, then resumed those roles in the 2017 season. The annual classic is played in a number of countries on several continents each March. Each game in the international classic includes four-man umpiring crews, pairing two major leaguers with two professional umpires from other countries with MLB aspirations.

Blue Hombres from 3 Countries Combine to Officiate Caribbean Series Finale

Mar. 11, 2017

Umpires from Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico Call Puerto Rico's 1-0 Clincher Over Host Mexico

The four Blue Hombres umpires who worked the 1-0, 10-inning win by Puerto Rico over Mexico in the Caribbean Series championship finale on Feb. 7 in Culiacan, Mexico, included the Dominican Republic's Domingo Polanco and Santo Castillo, behind the plate and at first base, respectively, and Cuba's Ernesto del Risco at second, and Mexico's Leonel Garcia at third.


Colorado author Phil Ross is garbed in a T-shirt from his college collection -- one from the Houston Baptist University Huskies which replicates the bright orange of the reigning Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. With a new "tee" from his alma mater, Cal State East Bay, Ross now has 52 shirts from 33 colleges in 21 states in his collection. No. 50, a gift from the school, was personally delivered by CSUEB Magazine Staff Writer Natalie Feulner in conjunction with an Oct. 10, 2016, interview with the author in his Colorado home. (Photo by Christina Kirwin)


Bearing a quizzical look and wearing another college collection T-shirt -- from national small-college football titlist Colorado State University-Pueblo -- topped off by his Vietnam Era Veteran cap, and with a more serious look, Colorado Author Phil Ross wonders who is on the other end of the camera that is suddenly capturing his inquisitive visage. (Photo by Christina Kirwin)

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