Ralph “Babe” Pinelli
After retiring as a player in 1928, Pinelli became one of the most highly respected–and lenient–umpires in the major leagues
Ralph “Babe” Pinelli began his major league career as a third baseman for the Chicago White Sox. He moved to the Detroit Tigers two years later, finally settling with the Cincinnati Reds in 1922, where he remained for five seasons. During his time with the Reds, he batted .300 on two occasions and, in 1924, stole 24 bases. Back in 1920, while still with the White Sox, Pinelli successfully surprised Sam Rice and Stuffy McInnis with the “hidden ball trick” for four days running.
After retiring as a player in 1927, Pinelli became one of the best-known and most respected umpires in baseball. He was known for having a “soft thumb,” because he was less likely than most to throw players or managers out of games.
His final Major League game was as the plate umpire for Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. He called a third strike against pinch hitter Dale Mitchell for the final out. Pinelli claimed that he did not miss a single regulation game in his 22 years as a National League umpire.
Pinelli died on October 22, 1984, and was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.