Bruce Neal Froemming
September 28, 1939
|Years active||1971-1999 (NL), 2000-2007 (MLB)|
|Employer||National League, Major League Baseball|
Bruce Neal Froemming (; born September 28, 1939) is Major League Baseball Special Assistant to the Vice President on Umpiring, after having served as an umpire in Major League Baseball. He is the longest-tenured umpire in major league history in terms of the number of full seasons umpired, finishing his 37th season in 2007. He first umpired in the National League in 1971, and from 2000 to 2007 worked throughout both major leagues. Early in the 2007 season, Froemming tied Bill Klem for the most seasons umpired (Klem's final season, 1941, included only 11 games as a substitute). Previously, on August 16, 2006, Froemming umpired his 5,000th game between the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, making him the second umpire to reach that milestone; Klem retired after 5,374 games.Froemming now stands third on the all-time list of games umpired, having been passed when Joe West officiated his 5,164th Major League Baseball game on August 14, 2019. On April 20, 2007, he umpired at first base in the Cleveland Indians-Tampa Bay Devil Rays game, passing Klem to become - at age 67 years 204 days - the man then believed to be the oldest umpire in major league history; Hank O'Day holds the record, retiring at 68 years, 2 months. He worked his final regular-season game at age 68 years 2 days on September 30, 2007, when Froemming received a standing ovation before umpiring his last regular-season game, manning the third base position as the Milwaukee Brewers hosted the San Diego Padres at Miller Park in his native Milwaukee, with much of his family in attendance. Because Froemming is over age 65, he became eligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 instead of having to wait the customary five years.
After a brief semi-pro playing career, Froemming became the youngest umpire in professional baseball in 1958 at age 18, working his way up through the minor leagues to the Pacific Coast League before joining the NL staff in April 1971. While in the minor leagues, his work had caught the attention of skilled observers such as Hall of Famer Jocko Conlan. Froemming became one of the NL's six crew chiefs in 1988. He also refereed high school basketball games, and was recommended for the NBA by Al McGuire, but declined the opportunity when NL umpire Al Barlick helped him in his advancement to the major leagues. In Froemming's first season, he was on Barlick's crew. In Barlick's first season, 1941, he worked three games with Klem.
Froemming worked in five World Series: 1976, 1984, 1988, 1990 (Games 3-4) and 1995. He umpired in the League Championship Series in 1973, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997 and 2000, all in the NL. With his tenth appearance in the LCS in 2000, he broke the record he had previously shared with Doug Harvey; Jerry Crawford tied the record in 2003, and broke it with his 11th LCS in 2005. (Froemming and Crawford share the record of 10 NLCS, as two of Crawford's 12 were in the American League.)
Froemming also officiated in a record nine Division Series: 1981 (East Division), 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007 (all but the last in the NL). He was the home plate umpire for the playoff games to determine the NL wild-card team in both 1998 and 1999. He also umpired in the All-Star Game in 1975 (played at County Stadium in his hometown of Milwaukee), 1986, and 2007, calling balls and strikes for the last two contests.
In the 2003 NLDS, Froemming surpassed Klem's record of working in 103 career postseason games (all Klem's games were in the World Series), ending the series with 107 games; Jerry Crawford passed him with 108 games upon working in the 2006 ALCS, but Froemming regained the record in the 2007 ALDS. In Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, Gerry Davis (also a native of Wisconsin) surpassed Froemming's record when he worked his 112th postseason game.
Froemming ended his career having officiated in 22 World Series games, 52 NLCS games, and 37 Division Series games--a total of 111 postseason games; he also umpired in 5,163 regular season games, and three MLB All-Star Games.
Froemming was known for his extremely loud and enthusiastic strike call. He wore uniform number 6 beginning in the late 1970s, and kept the number when the umpiring staffs of the AL and NL were merged in 2000. Los Angeles Times sports editor Bill Dwyre described him as "one of the game's true characters and legends," also calling him the prototypical umpire: "If Hollywood did a movie, they'd send 27 yuppies to study him. Often regarded as stern and stubborn, Froemming nonetheless occasionally displayed a sense of humor; when Fox Sports wired umpires with microphones for broadcasts of Saturday games in 2007, Froemming looked toward the huge baseball glove beyond AT&T Park's outfield wall and wondered aloud whether Fox analyst Eric Karros had ever hit a ball that far.
Froemming was the plate umpire (wearing number 16) when Milt Pappas was going for a perfect game on September 2, 1972 against the San Diego Padres, but made a ball four call on the 27th batter, Larry Stahl, which cost Pappas the perfect game, though he still pitched a no-hitter. The call remains controversial.
Froemming was the first base umpire (wearing number 5) when he ejected New York Yankees manager Billy Martin in Game Four of the 1976 World Series in the top of the ninth inning, the first World Series managerial ejection since Earl Weaver's toss by umpire Shag Crawford in the 1969 World Series.
Froemming is reviled in Philadelphia for a call in the 1977 National League Championship Series. In Game 3 of the series, the Philadelphia Phillies led the Los Angeles Dodgers by a run with two outs in the ninth with Manny Mota on third. Davey Lopes hit a smash that struck third baseman Mike Schmidt in the knee and caromed to shortstop Larry Bowa, who fired to first. Lopes was called safe, and the Dodgers went on to win the game and the series in four games.
On September 3, 2001, Froemming was the second base umpire for the no-hitter pitched by Bud Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals. That game marked the record 11th time he had umpired in an official no-hitter; he had previously shared the record of 10 with Silk O'Loughlin, Paul Pryor and Jim McKean. On September 26, 1981, he was behind the plate for Nolan Ryan's record 5th no-hitter. Froemming did eventually work a perfect game, as the first base umpire for Dennis Martínez' game on July 28, 1991. Two days earlier, he also umpired in what would have been a 12th no-hitter, but Montreal's Mark Gardner surrendered three hits in the 10th inning and lost; under current guidelines, baseball does not recognize games of nine hitless innings as no-hitters if hits are given up in extra innings.
In April 2001, Froemming was the home plate umpire for the first game at Miller Park in his hometown of Milwaukee.
On July 24, 2004, he was the plate umpire in the famous game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox that involved a brawl initiated by Jason Varitek's punch of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez which resulted in both players getting ejected by Froemming.
On June 28, 2007, Froemming was at first base when Toronto Blue Jay Frank Thomas hit his 500th career home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Carlos Silva. Later in the game, Thomas was ejected by plate umpire Mark Wegner for arguing balls and strikes, with Toronto manager John Gibbons also getting thrown out.
A commanding presence on the field who was fined by National League and Major League Baseball on more than one occasion for his public comments and behavior, Froemming has acknowledged that "the one moment I would take back if I could" was in January 2003 when he referred to an umpire administrator as a "stupid Jew bitch" during a dispute over a relatively minor conflict over travel arrangements to Japan; the comment was made at the end of a voicemail message, apparently after Froemming thought the call had ended. He was given a 10-day suspension without pay for the incident, which he accepted after making a public apology. Froemming was also fined in 1996 for going into the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse before a game in New York against the Mets to get Mike Piazza's autograph. Froemming told Piazza that catcher Johnny Bench refused to sign baseballs for him once and proceeded to go 0 for 4 that day with three strikeouts.
New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner blamed Froemming for not delaying Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, in which an infestation of Lake Erie gnats swarmed around Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, who afterward lost a 1-0 lead in the 8th inning.
Froemming was calling balls and strikes on September 2, 1972, when Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas had a perfect game with two outs and a 1-2 count in the ninth inning before walking the 27th batter (pinch-hitter Larry Stahl); Pappas then completed the no-hitter, but later criticized Froemming for wasting his chance at immortality. The umpire notes, "It's gotten ugly now. Right after the game, he said the 3-2 pitch had missed, but as time has gone on, that pitch has gotten better and better."
Froemming umpired in a record 11 official no-hitters in the major leagues:
It's great to see a young umpire like that. He's a nice boy, conscientious, hardworking, a million-dollar heart. And guts. They told me that he put an announcer out of the ball park one night in Tulsa. The announcer made some remark or other over the public address system about the umpire. Froemming stopped the game, turned to the announcer and said, 'Get out.' When I heard about that, I said, 'This is something.' I'd like to see that, making an announcer leave the ball park.-- Jocko Conlan, in his 1967 autobiography Jocko
The sun is 93 million miles away, and I can see that.-- Froemming, when asked about his eyesight
For him, it's a calling, not a job. Something like holy orders. A sacrament, not a profession.