Professional baseball player Jackie Robinson crossed the colour line to become the first player of colour to join what was then an all white Major League Baseball team in 1947. Since that time Major League Baseball has seen many players from all over the world join their ranks.
While there have been a number of umpires of colour on officiating crews, it has taken over 70 years for the umpiring crews to have a man of colour lead them.
On February 27, Major League Baseball released the newest list of additions, promotions, and retiring umpires. Among those on the list was Kerwin Danley being named one of the new crew chiefs.
Emmett Ashford became the first umpire of colour in 1966 and there have been umpires of colour to reach the “front office” but Danley is the first to be nameda crew chief.
Speaking to the Associated Press on his promotion, Danley said, “I think it’s a significant moment in the history of baseball. I’m very honored, very excited to be the first. But it’s not just about me. It’s much more than that. It shows African American kids there is something else they can make it in, besides playing.”
A former instructor at the first umpire camp at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Danley said, “when kids see me out there, they know it can be done. That’s the proof in the pudding. If you can’t see it or touch it, you don’t know it.”
After calling his first MLB game in 1992, Danley has been a part of a dozen post season events including two World Series plus two All Star games. Danley umpired his first game in the Northwest League in 1985.
An outfielder for the San Diego State Aztecs, Danley was a first team All-American with a batting average of .399. His former team mates include Tony Gwynn, and Bud Black. Danley was umpiring first base when Tony Gwynn got his 3,000th hit; he gave Gwynn a hug by the bag.
Also on the list of promotions is Alfonso Marquez, the first Latin umpire to be born outside of the United States – he was born in Mexico. Dominican born Ramon De Jesus has been promoted to become a full time major league umpire.
Also promoted to full time positions were Ryan Blakney, Chris Segal and Jansen Visconti. Nic Lentz replaces Eric Copper after his death.
Dan Iassogna and Jim Reynolds were also promoted to crew chief positions.
After retiring Jeff Kellogg and Mike Everitt will become umpire supervisors. Umpires Dana DeMuth and Gary Cederstrom have also retired.
Along with being part of the umpiring crew, the crew chief has a number of responsibilities including making the call for replay reviews, deciding on when to bring out the tarp, and decide on disputes between players.
feature photo credit: By Peggy from Menifee, California, USA – my favorite umpire, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19402037