Dale Ford umpired first base at CAK's Spring Fling state tournament game on Wednesday. Every time an issue came up, the home plate up checked with Ford to make sure he made the right ruling.
That's because Ford, a native of Jonesborough, Tennessee, has 26 years of major league umpiring experience.
He's giving back to the game now after a career that included umpiring the 1986 and 1997 World Series and the 1988 and 1999 All-Star Games.
“I had a good time in the big leagues and I was very blessed," Ford said.
"I’m the middle kid of 13. About halfway between Jonesborough and Gray, we grew up on a little farm out there and believe me we were poor. To come from a place like that and not give something back after being in the big leagues all those years, you’re doing the wrong thing if you don’t give something back.”
His big league experiences include a Reggie Jackson tantrum, Robin Ventura charging Nolan Ryan and many run-ins with ornery managers Billy Martin and Earl Weaver.
"Everything in the big leagues is a four-letter word," Ford said. "Most of those guys have like a 25-word vocabulary and 24 of those are four letters. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to deal with that."
EJECTING EARL WEAVER DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
Ford once ejected Orioles manager Earl Weaver during the national anthem.
It started the previous night when Ford was working first base and tossed Weaver in the seventh inning after he came out to argue four times.
Ford called Weaver, "Rooney," after Mickey Rooney, because he was short.
"He came out there the fourth time, I said, 'Rooney, you've been out here more than I have tonight, why don't you just stay 'cause I know I can manage better than you,'" Ford said. "He said, 'I'll be out here every time I don't get one of these calls.' I said, 'no you won't, once you get to that door right there behind the dugout just keep on trucking 'cause you're done for the night."
The next night, Weaver was standing right next to Ford while a large woman sang the national anthem.
"Out of the corner of his mouth he said, 'Dale, how many plays are you gonna screw up tonight?' I said, 'Rooney, it don't matter 'cause when this fat lady's done, you are too,'" Ford said.
"I said, 'if you try to kick dirt on me 50,000 people are going to think you've gone nuts because nobody knows I dumped you but you and me.' When she got through finally, he looked up and he says, 'are you serious?' I said, 'as a heart attack, get out of here.'"
Nobody knew that Weaver had been ejected, so in the second inning the bat boy brought Ford a note from broadcaster John Miller.
"It said, 'Dale, where's Rooney?' I put one word, 'guess' and sent it back. I turned around and they're yelling and giving me a thumbs up and stuff, they loved it."
REGGIE JACKSON'S TANTRUM AFTER FORD EJECTED HIM