Umpire Phil Ross Got Early Hints of Late Roy Halladay's Mixture of Impending Greatness, Inherent Politeness
- Nov. 10, 2017
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
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.
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.
Crew Mates of MLB Blue Hombres Prep for Spring Training in 2017 World Baseball Classic
- Mar. 12, 2017
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
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.