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A Piece of the Past - June 2007
A shirt worn by the man who perhaps became the best-known amateur umpire in baseball history is on display in the Founder’s Room of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in South Williamsport, Pa.
Howard Gair officiated in only four games in Little League’s second season in 1940 (including the championship), but officiated in 495 games during the next fifteen years.
Mr. Gair, a Williamsport resident, who first was asked by Little League founder Carl Stotz to manage a fourth team in the second season, was an umpire at Penn State University home baseball games.
Mr. Gair declined to serve as a Little League team manager, saying he could not commit to the time needed to be an effective manager, but went on to serve as an umpire or umpire consultant for many years.
Mr. Gair, who was seventy-eight years old when he died in 1973, spent 42 years umpiring, first with the Sunday School Leagues that were popular in Williamsport, with sandlot games, semi-professional and collegiate baseball, and Little League, including many World Series games.
Mr. Gair’s son, Vance, also umpired for Little League – 52 games in three years before he left for a stint in the Navy and another 637 between 1946 and 1967.
The navy blue shirt on display in the museum boldly bears a Little League patch with the word “Umpire” emblazoned across the top of the keystone. It was donated to the museum by Howard Gair’s wife.
In addition to the shirt, the display includes a photograph of Howard Gair umpiring. The action in the photograph is unusual by today’s standards because the umpire stood behind the pitcher to call balls and strikes.
The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, 525 Route 15 Highway, just south of Williamsport, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday from Labor Day through Memorial Day, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The facility is accessible to the disabled.
Rates are $5 for adults; $3 for those 62 and older; $1.50 for children between the ages of 5 and 13. There is no fee for children 4 or younger. For more information, call the museum at 570-326-3607, or click here for more information.