John Gaffney

  • Card series: Beginnings: 1880's
  • League: National League

John H. Gaffney (1855-1913) was denied a major league career as a third-baseman by an arm injured throwing a snowball. Baseball may have lost an infielder but gained its first great umpire when, in 1884, Gaffney joined the National League cadre. Renowned for his expert pitch calling, no official presided over more post-season games in the 19th century than “Honest John.” His general baseball expertise led to his being hired to manage the Washington D.C Nationals club in 1886-87. Gaffney pioneered important changes in umpiring practices including using multiple refs, positioning of field umps and defining foul balls. The umpire bore the brunt of fan outrage in a day when violence was all too prevalent on the field. Perhaps succumbing to such pressure, John was felled by the scourge of his era, alcoholism, and left the majors in 1894. Brief failed attempts to revive his NL career did, however, allow him to become one of only two, with Tom Lynch, to officiate twelve seasons in baseball’s first century.

  • Dubbed the “King of the Umpires”, John was so admired by players that Connie Mack and Hank O’Day surprised him with a diamond ring in appreciation for his management skills during their ’87 Series

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