Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Charles Johnson, 2000 Fleer Focus #213

As I thumbed through a stack of recent additions to my Orioles collection, something in the background of this Charles Johnson card caught my eye. More to the point, someone caught my eye. If you look to the left of the catcher (your left, his right), you'll see a blurred figure in black pants, a white polo shirt, and a black O's cap. This gentleman is Ernie Tyler, a household name to most Birds fans. Tyler is the team's umpires' assistant, a role that he has filled since 1960. If you're counting, that's forty-nine years of dutiful service to the men in blue, and a heck of a lot of Baltimore history: thirty-two seasons in old Memorial Stadium and another seventeen in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The most remarkable part? He didn't miss a single home game until August of 2007. Charm City's other Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., invited Ernie to be his guest at the former shortstop's Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, New York. It was Tyler's first day off after 3,769 consecutive games; he outpaced Junior's record-setting streak by more than 1,100 games!

You might wonder just what it is that an umpires' assistant does. Before every game, Ernie does everything he can to make things easier for the least popular men in the ballpark. That includes setting out food for them, laundering their uniforms, and rubbing down the game balls with mud to break them in. But during game action, Tyler really shines. He's known for jogging out from the O's dugout several times per game to deliver a fresh batch of balls to the home plate umpire. He'll often spring forth to retrieve stray balls as well. What's more, he does all this at the age of 84! But then, Ernie doesn't do anything halfway. He has been married to his wife Juliane for 61 years, and they have eleven children. Two Tyler sons, Fred and Jimmy, serve as the clubhouse attendants at Oriole Park.

In a perfect world, Ernie would have his own card. But I'm sure he's happy just to be in the background, doing his thing.


William said...

Your Orioles knowledge far surpasses most clubhouse beat writers. You should apply for a job as one, you'd get serious consideration.

deal said...

good post - Always love hearing stories about some of the other folks in and around baseball.

And cool that you could find him on a card. nice attention to detail.

Kevin said...

Thanks William! Sadly, it seems like most beat writers get pretty burned out on the sports they cover. I like being able to observe and comment from a distance, without much of a filter for my thoughts.

Deal, thanks! Whenever I'm running low on ideas, I try to look extra-hard at the photos. There's often something fun to be found.