He thought he was going to be a lawyer. Circumstances forced him into newspaper work. He ended up becoming a Hall of Fame umpire and a sports executive for two Cleveland teams in different sports.
He’s Billy Evans, and he’ll be the topic of a presentation by Did the Tribe Win Last Night staff writer Vince Guerrieri at noon Saturday at the Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park. The program is free to the public and made possible, in part, by a grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC).
Evans was a Chicago native, but his family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, in his youth. He grew up there – counting as his friends and classmates the Warner brothers, on their way to becoming movie pioneers – and set off to Cornell University to study law. While there, he played baseball for future Tigers manager Hughie Jennings, but Evans was called home when his father became ill and died.
Evans went to work for the local newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator, and was pressed into service as an umpire. Realizing it was more lucrative than journalism, he continued umpiring locally and made the jump to major league umpiring in 1906 at the age of 22, acquiring the name “The Boy Umpire.” He remains the youngest umpire in major league history.
His 21-year career as an umpire included six World Series and four no-hitters, and he changed the position, leading to multiple-umpire crews. He retired as an umpire in 1927 and became the general manager of the Indians – the first person to ever hold that title. He later served as general manager of the Tigers, as well as, for one year, the Cleveland Rams of the NFL.
Evans died in 1956 at the age of 71. Seventeen years later, he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, at the time just the third umpire to get a plaque in Cooperstown.
The Billy Evans presentation marks the second straight weekend of offseason baseball talk at the Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park. From November 8-11, the museum and the Cleveland Public Library hosted a celebration of Cleveland native Dorothy Seymour Mills – author, speaker, and mentor to a new generation of baseball researchers and women in baseball.
Photo: George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress