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Friday, August 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Police called to break up near riot at Indians game after umpire punches manager

UPDATED: Fri., May 5, 2017, 8:41 a.m.

An umpire at the Spokane Indians game struck a manager upset that the ump had been calling pitches balls as a penalty for delaying the game, The Spokesman-Review reported on May 5, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
An umpire at the Spokane Indians game struck a manager upset that the ump had been calling pitches balls as a penalty for delaying the game, The Spokesman-Review reported on May 5, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

“The wildest baseball contest ever staged at Natatorium Park” resulted in at least one big hit: a left cross to the jaw, thrown by umpire Walter Eckman.

The recipient was Great Falls manager Herbert Hester, who was sent sprawling by the punch. A “near riot” ensued.

Belligerent players rushed onto the field. They were soon surrounded by a swarm of spectators, eager to get in on the action.

Police had to be called in to disperse the crowd.

The seeds of the hostilities were planted in the first inning, when Hester had complained too vehemently about the “discoloration” of a baseball. The language used “was filthy and vile and repulsive” to many fans, who heard it distinctly. Umpire Eckman tossed Hester out of the game – although Hester apparently did not leave the premises.

In the fourth inning, two players nearly got in a fight, but other players intervened. Several other fights nearly broke out over brushback pitches.

However, the real fight began in the eighth inning when the umpire Eckman decided that the Great Falls pitcher and catcher were unnecessarily delaying the game. Eckman called a ball as a penalty. When the catcher protested, Eckman called “ball two” and tossed the catcher out of the game. Eckman kept calling balls until the Spokane Indians hitter had earned a walk.

Hester ruined to the plate and demanded an explanation. Eckman explained, and Hester replied by piling “foul epithets” on the umpire.

Eckman took off his mask and chest protector and socked Hester in the chin.

After police cleared the crowd off the field, Spokane went on to win the game.

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