Art Williams (umpire)

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Art Williams
BornArthur Williams
(1934-02-24)February 24, 1934
Camden, Arkansas
Died February 8, 1979(1979-02-08) (aged 44)
Bakersfield, California
Resting place Union Cemetery, Bakersfield, California
Occupation Umpire
Years active 1972–1977
Employer National League

Arthur Williams (February 24, 1934 – February 8, 1979) was a professional baseball umpire who worked in the National League (NL) from 1972 to 1977, and was the first African-American umpire in the NL, wearing number 25 during his career. Williams umpired 806 Major League Baseball (MLB) games in his six-year career. He also umpired in the 1975 National League Championship Series. [1]

Baseball Sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

Umpire (baseball) person charged with officiating a baseball game

In baseball, the umpire is the person charged with officiating the game, including beginning and ending the game, enforcing the rules of the game and the grounds, making judgment calls on plays, and handling the disciplinary actions. The term is often shortened to the colloquial form ump. They are also sometimes addressed as blue at lower levels due to the common color of the uniform worn by umpires. In professional baseball, the term blue is seldom used by players or managers, who instead call the umpire by name. Although games were often officiated by a sole umpire in the formative years of the sport, since the turn of the 20th century, officiating has been commonly divided among several umpires, who form the umpiring crew.

National League Baseball league, part of Major League Baseball

The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League (NL), is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States and Canada, and the world's oldest current professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP) of 1871–1875,, the NL is sometimes called the Senior Circuit, in contrast to MLB's other league, the American League, which was founded 25 years later.




Art Williams had pitched high school baseball in Bakersfield, California. He entered minor league baseball, but suffered a career-ending elbow injury. He was umpiring local recreational baseball in Bakersfield when a former scout for the San Francisco Giants encouraged him to attend umpire school. He attended umpire school in 1969 and then began umpiring in the minor leagues. [2]

Bakersfield, California City in California, United States of America

Bakersfield is a city in and the county seat of Kern County, California, United States. It covers about 142 sq mi (370 km2) near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Valley region. Bakersfield's population is around 380,000, making it the 9th-most populous city in California and the 52nd-most populous city in the nation. The Bakersfield–Delano Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Kern County, had a 2010 census population of 839,631, making it the 62nd-largest metropolitan area in the United States. The more built-up urban area that includes Bakersfield and areas immediately around the city, such as East Bakersfield, Oildale, and Rosedale, has a population of over 520,000. Bakersfield is a charter city.

In 1972, Williams became the first black umpire in the NL. After working as a reserve umpire that year, Williams was promoted to the NL full-time in 1973. [3] He was assigned to the postseason once, working the 1975 National League Championship Series. He was fired after the 1977 season, having worked 806 games in six MLB seasons. He remained the only black NL umpire in his last season. At a hearing a few months after his firing, he claimed that his dismissal may have been motivated by racism. [4] He said that, with the planned promotion of umpire Eric Gregg, the league did not want to accommodate two black umpires among its ranks. [5] A complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was still pending at the time of his death. [6]

Eric Eugene Gregg was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1975 to 1999. He was known for being a pioneering black umpire, for his longtime weight problems, and for his controversial home plate umpiring in Game 5 of the 1997 National League Championship Series — when his generous strike zone helped the Florida Marlins' Liván Hernández strike out 15 Atlanta batters. Throughout his National League career, Gregg wore uniform number 7.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual's race, children, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, and retaliation for reporting, participating in, and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.


Williams drove a bus in Bakersfield until he suffered a seizure in the fall of 1978. He underwent brain surgery and was in a coma for six weeks until his death on February 8, 1979. [6]

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  1. Retrosheet
  2. "Williams May Become First Black Umpire in National League". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. March 20, 1971. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  3. "National League Signs Black Umpire Williams". Baltimore Afro-American. March 27, 1973. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  4. "Umpire Alleges Racism". The Milwaukee Journal. February 15, 1978. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  5. "Umpire Ashford Calls 'Em Just as He Sees 'Em". Daily News. May 9, 1978. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  6. 1 2 "Art Williams". Toledo Blade. February 8, 1979. Retrieved February 10, 2013.