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Harry "Steamboat" Johnson brought to early baseball great integrity and a pugnacious stlye. Toughness—being able to "stand the gaff"—was essential during his long career as an umpire. From 1909 to 1935 Johnson umpired in exhibition games and minor leagues (except for the 1914 season in the National League) from Los Angeles to Toronto. When fans screamed "Kill the umpire!" he responded he'd rather die on a baseball field than anywhere else.
With disarming directness and humor, Steamboat Johnson tells what it was like umpiring for various leagues (the wild Western was nick-named "101 Ranch"), being on the road (lonely because umpires could not fraternize with players), and getting inot all sorts of jams (he once took on Ty Cobb in a 1922 exhibition game between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals). "Standing the gaff" meant surviving the wrath of players-and of fans, who hurled insults and pop bottles. After a game, Steamboat would be escorted to his hotel by the police. Johnson instructs would-be umpires, answers questions from fans, and names the best players he ever saw.
Until now, Standing the Gaff, originally published in 1935, has been hard to find. This edition makes it available to buffs and social historians and those curious about baseball in its rowdy adolescence. In a new introduction, Larry R. Gerlach tells more about Steamboat's life. He is a professor of history at the University of Utah and the author of The Men in Blue: Conversations with Umpires.