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Multiple Years / Umpire Bill Klem
'I never called one wrong!' Bill Klem once immodestly told a reporter. Klem is still widely regarded as baseball's greatest umpire nearly 70 years after he last worked a game. He was a National League arbiter from 1906 through 1941. The innovative Klem (pictured here in 1914) was the first umpire to wear an inside chest protector and the first to use hand signals to keep fans and players informed about his calls. (Klem said, 'The fan in the 25-cent bleacher seat has just as much right to know what I called as the fan in the box seat near home plate.') Klem was so skilled at calling balls and strikes that he only worked behind the plate for a number of years. He worked 18 World Series--a record that will never be broken because MLB now uses a rotation system rather than a merit system to assign umpires to post-season games. Klem was affectionately called 'The Old Arbitrator'--a nickname he adored. The jowly and thick-lipped Klem hated the nickname 'Catfish.' Any player who addressed him that way was quickly ejected. He had a strange relationship with New York Giants' manager John McGraw. Off the field the two were good friends; on the field they feuded bitterly. My favorite Bill Klem story: In 1941, while working the bases, he called a runner out on a tag play at second base. The runner angrily insisted the tag had missed him. Klem informed the irate player, 'I thought you were out.' Then the realization hit him: For the first time in his long career Klem only thought a player was out--he wasn't certain. Klem resigned the next day.