Froemming works 5,000th game

Froemming works 5,000th game

BOSTON -- Without names stitched across their backs to distinguish the uniforms from those of their coworkers, umpires have the rare distinction of performing their job in front of millions of people under an umbrella of relative anonymity. Their most frequent recognition comes from a blown call, a feat that occurs far less often than their correct decisions.

Before Wednesday night's game pitting the Boston Red Sox against the Detroit Tigers, umpire Bruce Froemming took the rare opportunity to be honored, as he prepared to become just the second man in Major League history to umpire 5,000 games. Only Bill Klem, with 5,374 games under his belt, has more.

"It certainly means I've been around a long time," Froemming said. "When you do something that you love all your life, it's a great job, and that's what it means for me."

Froemming, 66, was treated to a video tribute and received a standing ovation from fans, players and fellow umpires, paying homage to his service. He then received an engraved glass plaque and a framed umpire's uniform.

Froemming, a native of Milwaukee, took the honors of announcing "Play ball" into a microphone at home plate before taking his familiar role behind the pentagon.

"Only one other guy had 5,000, and in all probability, there may never be another one because of the way the structure is set up, with vacations and everything," he said. "To be one of two guys with 5,000, I started to think it's a big deal. It's big because my family's here, and I've had cards and phone calls all day long."

Before the game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona commented about the milestone.

"Just leading up to it and talking to him, I know it means a lot to him, which is pretty cool," Francona said. "He'll be really proud tonight, because it's here in Boston, where fans appreciate things like that. It'll be really good."

Froemming entered the Major Leagues in 1971 in a game at Shea Stadium between the New York Mets and Montreal Expos that was called after five innings due to snow.

Since that flurry-filled day in Queens almost 36 years ago, Froemming has seen a lot change in the Major Leagues. The proliferation of instant replay and the advent of Questec have put increased scrutiny on umpires, a position that already attracted criticism like bees to honey.

"We review the plays all the time. Everybody makes mistakes, and you don't like to make them," Froemming said. "You feel bad if you got a play that's pretty tough and you miss it. You've got cameras everywhere. ... I think we're monitored more than we've ever been monitored.

"I'm not intimidated by it at all," he added.

Froemming began his umpiring career in the Nebraska State League in 1958, earning $250 a month as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school. Since then he has been assigned to the World Series five times, the League Championship Series 10 times and the All-Star Game twice. His 109 postseason games are a record.

"Major League Baseball salutes Bruce Froemming's lifetime of service to our game," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "I have known Bruce for many years, and his dedication and longevity are remarkable."

Froemming's tour of duty has left him as the senior member of any crew he is working with, and his days spent standing for hours on his feet look to be approaching the end.

"Maybe I'll get to 6,000. Maybe that'll be a good number," he joked. "I think a year or two [more] and i'll wrap it up."

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.