The guy you see pictured at right is Ed Sudol, who umpired in the National League for 21 seasons. Up until now, the most notable line on his résumé was that he was working the plate for Jim Bunning’s perfect game in 1964. But Sudol is now destined to be known for something else, at least among uni watchers: He umpired part of a game in his T-shirt.
The date was July 12, 1969. Sudol was working the plate for a Phils/Cubs game at Wrigley (and it was a day game, natch — Wrigley didn’t yet have lights). He began the game wearing his jacket, but the umps working the bases had eschewed their jackets and were working in shirt sleeves — pretty standard for a warm day.
Sudol stuck with the jacket through the first five innings. But during the commercial break between the end of the fifth and the start of the sixth, he apparently removed his jacket and his shirt — or else he never had a shirt under his jacket to begin with — because he was suddenly wearing nothing but his chest protector over a T-shirt. He stayed that way for the rest of the game. We’ve seen plenty of instances where umps lost their luggage and had to wear makeshift gear, but this is the first time I’ve seen an umpire strip down to his tee.
Play-by-play man Curt Gowdy, working the game for NBC, took note of Sudol’s wardrobe change and quipped, “If you don’t think it’s hot out there…” But how hot was it? According to historical weather data, the high temperature that day was 91 degrees, with the humidity topping out at 93% — uncomfortable, for sure, but we’ve all dealt with hotter days than that. And this was 1969, which means the players were still wearing flannels — what if some of them had wanted to remove their jerseys? Would Sudol and his umpiring crew have allowed it?
Sudol died in 2004, so I can’t ask him that question. But I’m going to try to contact former Cubbie catcher Randy Hundley — as he crouched a few inches in front of Sudol while wearing a flannel uni under his tools of ignorance, what did he think of the ump getting to shed a few layers?
Meanwhile, here’s an interesting footnote: At several points during the game, Sudol was approached by someone dressed like an usher. Although you can’t see it in those screen shots, that guy was giving Sudol fresh baseballs — he was the ballboy. Never seen someone dressed like that for that task. Can anyone familiar with Wrigley history tell us more about this?
Finally, you’re probably wondering where I got all this material. It’s from this site. Scroll down a bit and click on “Baseball,” and then click on “1969 Chi. Cubs vs. Phila Phillies pt. 2” — that video clip begins with the first glimpse of Sudol’s T-shirt stylings.
(Major, major thanks to reader Chris Falvey, who brought all of this to my attention. Great find, Chris!)
Media convention reminder: On Monday afternoon I’m going to be a guest speaker at a convention for journalism and media students, and you’re welcome to attend. Details here.
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