Thursday, July 28, 2005

Beans Reardon

Beans Reardon
Given Name: John

One of baseball's most colorful umpires, Reardon acquired his nickname because he was raised in Boston. He was famous for heavy language and heavy beer drinking. In 1946 Anheuser-Busch awarded him a lucrative franchise in Los Angeles.

Book Excerpts» Fouled Away: The Baseball Tragedy of Hack Wilson by Clifton Blue Parker
One day Reardon ejected Frankie Frisch from a game in Pittsburgh and ran into him later that evening in a hotel pub. They had a few beers together, and Frisch told Reardon about his new Packard automobile. Beans asked if he could take it for a spin. Frisch reluctantly agreed. When Reardon got to the hotel garage, he found the Packard out of gas and had the attendant call Frisch to replenish the supply. Reardon remembered, "That day it cost him a $50 fine for the ejection, five rounds of beer, and a tank of gas."

Another of Reardon's friends was actress Mae West, and he appeared in many of her movies. Reardon worked many important and historic games. He was behind the plate when Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run.
Courtesy of

John Edward "Beans" Reardon (November 23, 1897 - July 31, 1984) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1926 to 1949. One of the best-liked and most respected umpires in the league, he was known for his colorful arguments with players and managers.

Born in Taunton, Massachusetts, Reardon's family moved to Los Angeles when he was 14, and he acquired his nickname as a youth due to his Boston-area origins. Having no chance at a career playing baseball due to a throwing arm ruined by overexertion in sandlot ball, he began umpiring amateur games as a teenager. He got his professional start with a copper miners' league in Arizona in 1919, but after arriving for duty and learning that his contract required him to work in the mines, he resigned after one day's work, followed by a doubleheader he umpired singlehandedly.

In 1920-21 he umpired in the Western Canada League, where he made his reputation in Edmonton by refusing a police escort out of a park after a particularly contentious game before a hostile crowd, saying "I didn't sneak in and I won't sneak out." He then worked in the Pacific Coast League for four seasons before reaching the major leagues.

He was known for his many arguments on the field, and for the fact that he relished the opportunity to match the players in his use of off-color language; he came to refer to himself as "the last of the cussin' umpires", and rarely ejected players from games, reportedly because he enjoyed trading insults. At one point in his career, NL president Ford Frick issued a memo to all field personnel requiring them to reduce their use of profanity, a thinly veiled move directed primarily at Reardon.

Reardon had a difficult relationship with longtime NL umpire Bill Klem, the dean of the league staff; the younger umpire insisted upon wearing the outside chest protector used by American League umpires, rather than the inside protector favored by Klem. Reardon also regularly conversed during games with spectators in the stands, another annoyance to Klem. Reardon would note that he perhaps stayed as long as he did in the league only because Klem was promoted to a non-field position in 1941. Ever outspoken, upon accepting an award named for Klem from Houston sportswriters in the 1960s, Reardon offhandedly remarked that he and Klem hated one another.

He officiated in 5 World Series: 1930, 1934, 1939, 1943 and 1949. He also umpired in 3 All-Star Games (1936, 1940, 1948), calling balls and strikes in all three contests; and he was one of the umpires for the 3-game series to determine the NL champion in 1946. He was the plate umpire when Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final home run in 1935.

He was notably the basis for the central figure, the home plate umpire, in Norman Rockwell's famous painting "Bottom of the Sixth", flanked by umpires Larry Goetz and Lou Jorda. Reardon is largely identifiable due to the fact that, despite the depicted game being in the National League, the umpire is using the outside chest protector.

Reardon retired following the 1949 World Series; although by the late 1940s he was the highest-paid umpire in the league, he was earning three times as much from his offseason business as an Anheuser-Busch beer distributor. He eventually sold the distributorship to Frank Sinatra for over half a million dollars in 1967, although he continued to do public relations work for the brewery.

Reardon suffered two strokes late in his life, and died at age 86 in Long Beach, California.

Courtesy of Dictionary of Athletes and Sports Figures


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Anonymous said...

I was a friend of Beans for several years. His stories about the game are still my best memories. He introduced me to many of his baseball cohearts over breakfasts. I learned more swear words than I thought existed. Miss you Beans, rest in peace

Unknown said...

Beans had married my dad's sister Eugenia, and was Budweiser distributor at the time (about 1958) my cousin and I visited them in Long Beach. They showed us a great time and I'll certainly never forget Beans. He was feisty, but kind, and I'm thankful for those great memories - Miss USA Pageant, Chasen's, Hollywood Park, Disneyland, a baseball game where we met Spencer Tracy, Jeff Chandler was sitting behind us (eating peanuts) and Nat King Cole was nearby (with adoring kids galore surrounding him).