Submitted by Gary Moss
William Francis McKinley was one of the best-known umpires in the American League whose success behind the plate as an umpire began after he failed to make it to the majors as a catcher.
Born in Kinsman on May 13, 1910, McKinley went to work after high school in his brother’s hometown butcher shop while playing semi-pro baseball for local teams such as the Kinsman Merchants, Greenville Oakhursts and the Jamestown Redbirds.
In 1935, after answering an ad in The Sporting News to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals at a camp in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he signed a contract with a Class D team in Norfolk, Nebraska. After a week, the manager told him he couldn’t hit and sent him home.
In 1936, during another major-league tryout camp in Pensacola, Florida, McKinley, met baseball great George Sisler who gave the piece of advice that would change his life. He was good enough behind the plate, Sisler told him, but would never be able to hit big-league pitching. If McKinley really wanted to make it to the majors, he added, he should think about becoming an umpire.
The idea stuck.
In 1939, McKinley returned to Hot Springs, this time as a student at the George Barr Umpire School. After six weeks at the school, Barr sent him to the Ohio State League to umpire for $100 a month. He later umpired with the North Carolina State League in 1940, the Michigan State League in 1941 and finally the American Association before entering the Army in 1943.
McKinley served 27 months in Europe as a mess sergeant with Gen. George Patton’s First Army before returning home from the war to resume umpiring. He called his first major league game in July 1946, in a contest between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.
McKinley went on to umpire 2,976 more games until he was finally called out at the plate in 1965 after reaching the league’s mandatory retirement age of 55.
McKinley, who came to be known as “Deacon Bill” by his peers, appeared in four Word Series (1950, 1952, 1957 and 1964) and three All-Star Games (1953, 1958 and 1962).
He was elected to the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He died on August 1, 1980 in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.