Just when 72-year-old sportswriter Lary Bump thought he had seen it all on the baseball diamond, he wound up witnessing things he’d never witnessed before. Like an 11-run first inning. And a four-base error. And 11 pitchers being used by a single team in the same game. And a World Series game in a ballpark three-quarters empty because of coronavirus restrictions.
As one of three official scorers for the Texas Rangers, the Rochester transplant made rulings during the 2020 regular season he hadn’t rendered before. And some of them became more complicated than expected because Bump had to make decisions from the confines of his suburban Dallas home instead of his press box perch in the third deck of Globe Life Field. “It was bizarre,’’ he said. “I had two laptops going at home, one with an MLB feed and the other to look things up and check on replays. It’s definitely a lot different than being in the park and seeing stuff happen live with the naked eye.”
One of his rulings went viral after a ball smacked by Nick Solak of the Rangers bounced off the glove of Los Angeles Angels rightfielder Jo Adell and over the wall. “I’m watching, and as Solak’s rounding second, the screen’s saying home run,’’ he said. “I’m looking in the rule book, and I’m still not sure how to rule it. Then, I call Elias Sports Bureau to talk to a couple of statisticians. It wasn’t until two or three innings later that I made the call it was a four-base error.”
The ruling would be historic, and would withstand an appeal by Solak. “I think it was only the second time in baseball history that had happened,’’ said Bump, who spent nine years writing for the Democrat and Chronicle. “The other time was a line drive that a guy brutally misplayed and the ball rolled to the wall. In all my years of working and watching games, I had never seen a four-base error before.”
Bump’s diligence and integrity on difficult calls such as that one resulted in him being asked to work four post-season contests, including Game Three of the World Series after Major League Baseball announced it was going to stage the National League playoffs and the World Series in a coronavirus bubble at Globe Life. “It was quite a thrill, especially the Series game, because we got to do them at the ballpark, in person,’’ he said. “My dream as a kid was not to be an official scorer at the World Series. It was to play in a World Series. This was the closest I could get to being a participant. It was really special.”
And really different.
“It didn’t have the same electricity you’d expect because there were only (11,447) fans in the stands, but it was still a thrill,’’ he said. “My name’s on the same scoresheet as Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts and all the other players from that game. That’s pretty darn cool.”
Game Three was fairly routine, as Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler struck out 10 in six innings in a 6-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. Bump didn’t have any controversial decisions to make. No fielding errors were committed in the cleanly played, three-hour, 14-minute contest. “I scored 12 regular season and four-post-season games this year,’’ he said. “And that was the easiest.”
A veritable walk in the ballpark. “I had so many unnerving games prior to that one that I really wasn’t nervous doing the World Series game,’’ he said. “I’d already been through the ringer.”
One of his more memorable games occurred in the NL Championship Series, when the Dodgers scored 11 runs in the first inning and clobbered the Atlanta Braves, 15-3. “LA sent up 26 batters in the first three innings alone, so the only drama was how cluttered the scorebook would become,’’ he said.
Bump scored his first professional game in 1969, while working for the Democrat and Chronicle. He doesn’t remember the details, other than it was a Rochester Red Wings game at old Silver Stadium. The Dundee Central and Ohio Wesleyan University graduate worked a bunch of games the next several years, but didn’t start scoring Wings games regularly until 2000 after he had left the daily newspaper business and took over for long-time team official scorer Len Lustik.
After moving to Texas five years later, Bump began working games for the Frisco Roughriders, the Rangers’ Double-A minor-league team. On Aug. 2, 2012, he scored his first MLB game, a 15-9 Rangers victory against the Angels. “I had sat in with (senior official scorer) Steve Weller the night before just to make sure I understood the system,’’ he said. “Got plenty of experience because the extra-inning game went four hours, one minute. Like an idiot, I joked, ‘Well, at least my game probably won’t go 4:01.’ The time of the August 2 game? 4:01.”
This year’s World Series game conjured memories of the 1973 and ’74 Fall Classics he covered for the Democrat and Chronicle. “I’d have to say that I was more excited to cover a World Series, than to score one,’’ he admitted. “I was much younger, and the electric atmosphere was what you would expect of a World Series. The Oakland A’s were playing the New York Mets in ‘73, and it was my first trip to California. Those colorful A’s teams were in the midst of winning three straight World Series, and the Mets were the underdogs, with Tom Seaver in his prime, and Yogi Berra as the manager. Fun times.”
Though not as much fun, this Series was still a treasured milestone for Bump. Sitting there, with the stopwatch his daughter Samantha gave him to time replay delays, and taking a photograph of his scorebook for his son Philip was pretty cool.
Seeing his name on the same scoresheet as World Series players, coaches and managers was something he had never witnessed before — something he’ll never forget.
Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist. His latest book, “Remembrances of Swings Past: A Lifetime of Baseball Stories,” is available in paperback and digitally at amazon.com.