Dale Ford (courtesy Rocky Mount Living History Museum)
PINEY FLATS — “You’re out of here, hit the showers!” may have been part of Dale Ford’s rhetoric in the more than 3,100 games he worked as an American League umpire from 1974 and 1999, but for one evening he’s inviting one and all to come on in.
At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, Ford will reminisce on his career during an evening of “Baseball — America’s Pastime” at the Rocky Mount Living History Museum.
Ford’s assessment of his career in baseball exhibits his self-effacing nature and humor.
“For an old country boy with no particular brains and definitely not good looking, I felt that was OK,” he says.
For most of us growing up in a generation when baseball was still a sport rather than a business, to say his part in 25 years of baseball was “OK” is an understatement. During his lengthy career, Ford worked four AL division series, four AL championship series, two All-Star games and two World Series, including the 1986 Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, remembered by fans because of Bill Buckner’s error at first base.
Ford was behind the plate for that game as well as for more than 800 of the 3,100-plus major league games he officiated.
Over the years, Ford had friendships and confrontations with some of the “saltiest” American League managers, Billy Martin of the Yankees and Earl Weaver of the Orioles, as well as some of the greatest names among players of this era: Reggie Jackson, Gaylord Perry, Cal Ripken, George Brett and many more.
It is safe to say that Ford’s experiences are indelibly linked with a virtual Who’s Who of baseball and he tells these stories with a downhome charm and directness only possible from a Northeast Tennessee boy and man who followed his dream.
Come to Rocky Mount on Thursday fresh from the excitement of the 109th World Series and allow Ford to relate stories of his unique experiences with great legends of the American League, the cantankerous managers and rabid fans. Relive your youth or the youth of your father through the eyes of a participant of America’s game.
Rocky Mount, located at 200 Hyder Hill Road, Piney Flats, is a Tennessee Historic Site administered cooperatively with the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Rocky Mount Historical Association. Rocky Mount Museum is a “living history” museum, which uses first-person interpretation to portray people living in 1791. Rocky Mount is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Living history tours and the facility are available by reservation at any time, including Sundays and Mondays for school and other groups, with advance reservations. For more information, call (423) 538-7396 or visit the Rocky Mount Living History Museum website.
(Mary Riley chairs the marketing committee for the Rocky Mount Historical Association.)