Barney Zoss induction into Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame - 1991
The following is a transcript of the speech introducing Barney Zoss as an inductee into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, circa 1991 (author unknown).
The man I’m presenting tonight umpired high school, college, semi-pro, professional men’s, professional women’s, and amateur baseball, as well as world class softball, for 53 years.
During that time, he umpired thousands of games. He called balls and strikes, out and safe for the likes of Dizzy Dean, Satchel Page, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller, Indiana’s own John Wooden, and even Babe Ruth.
Barney Zoss was born March 25, 1912, in South Bend. He’s lived there all of his 78 years.
A graduate of the old South Bend High School, later to become South Bend Central, Barney was the third son of a South Bend grocer who counted Knute Rockne as one of his closest friends. Rockne and Barney’s father would talk for hours. Rockne often spoke of a small grocer named Zoss, whom Rockne admired as a hustler and an example of real Americanism.
While in high school, Barney excelled in football and especially wrestling. He also played junior high basketball, but rarely finished a game because in those days, when you collected four fouls you were put out of the game. He seldom played more than four minutes at a time. In today’s jargon he’d be called “the enforcer.”
Barney started his long umpiring career innocently enough, while still in high school. His sister organized a softball game between two groups of girls. They were ready to play when they remembered that they didn’t have an umpire. Barney, there as a fan, was pressed into service.
He did so well that he was asked to umpire a few more games. A short time later, Barney was asked to umpire a boys’ high school game. From there, his umpiring career grew like topsy.
In 1940, he was talked into attending a profession umpiring school in Jackson, Mississippi. That same year he umpired in the now defunct Michigan State Professional Baseball League.
After making the magnanimous salary of about $150 per month, Barney decided he could make a lot more money for his growing family by staying home and selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners. He became an outstanding salesman. He also moonlighted by umpiring high school and college baseball games in and around South Bend.
During World War II, Phil Wrigley, of Chicago Cubs fame, organized the All American Girls Baseball League as a substitute for men’s minor league baseball. Travel restrictions and a shortage of able-bodied men caused most minor leagues to fold.
Barney was hired as one of the league’s umpires. He remained with the girls’ league throughout its eleven year history.
When Barney wasn’t on the baseball and softball diamonds, he was busy at various jobs, among which were salesman, factory worker, plumber’s assistant, and most recently with the South Bend Street Department.
It was the street department job that eventually cost Barney his umpiring career.
While working on a city street in 1979, Barney was struck by a drunken driver. He suffered 13 broken ribs and a fractured leg. His ability to move around was severely hampered. But he continued to umpire for another four years.
Barney has received many awards for his umpiring. He’s been featured in Referee Magazine; he was awarded the prestigious Russ Oliver Memorial Award for outstanding leadership and contribution to youth; and South Bend Mayor Joe Kernan declared August 23, 1990, as “Barney Zoss Day.” During ceremonies at Coveleski Stadium that day, the umpire’s room at the stadium was christened “The Barney Zoss Umpires’ Room.” A metal plaque on the door so signifies the honor.
Barney has been married to Minnie for over 50 years. She’s been his biggest booster and his severest critic. Failing health prevents Minnie from being here tonight.
Their union brought forth two daughters and eight grandchildren. Most of these offspring are here tonight.
Barney congratulations on becoming a member of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame. I’ll forget you kicked me out of four games!