TOM KNOX recently passed away. He was 82 and died after a long illness. He used to referee in the old ABA Pro basketball league back in the 1970s. “I haven’t seen him for 10 years or so, but I really liked Tom. He was a quiet guy and couldn’t have been nicer,” reported Tom O’Brien.
“My first encounter came in our men’s Main Auto 1970s softball league in Fort Wayne. I was playing 2nd base, when the other team got a big hit with runners on. When the batter got to 3rd base standing up, he noticed that our catcher wasn’t at home plate. Nobody was! I saw the same thing from the infield, so I streaked towards home to cover it. Our pitcher Loren Hanks caught the relay at pitchers mound. He heard me yell and saw me streaking towards home plate. Hanks threw me the ball just as the runner was coming home. I swiped him with the tag, and the umpire (Tom Knox) yelled “SAFE!”. To this day, I don’t know if my tag got him in time or not. But I kinda went ballistic because I wanted to finish this heads-up play on my part. Anyway, I went crazy and threw the ball down, threw my hat down, threw my glove down and then kicked it! I never cussed, or even yelled at him. But I did really go crazy! I guess he thought I was ‘showing him up’ or something.
This umpire, Tom Knox was not happy! He threw me out of the game immediately, and out of the ball park! I think he wanted to throw my out of Indiana. Dan Osborne, our Coach, walked up to Tom to bargain for me, and before he said 2 words, OZ was tossed, as well! Then he looked at the rest of our team, just waiting to see if they wanted the thumb too. Nobody dared to say a word then.
So, Oz and I left, but hid behind the building outside of right field, so he could yell instructions to Augie Segyde, our right fielder, to pass on to the team. Occasionally, Mr. Knox would look behind the bleachers between innings. If he saw us, our whole team would have to forfeit this key tournament game. I couldn’t talk Oz into scidattling it out of there! But no matter. He never saw us, and we ended up winning the game.
Years later, when I was a manager at LUMS RESTAURANT near Southtown Mall, Tom came strolling into the bar room, and ordered some hot dogs and fries to go. I couldn’t resist. I told him, “Tom, You know you threw me out of a softball game years ago one time!” He didn’t remember the incident at all. But he replied, “Did you deserve it?” I replied, “OH, YES! I DEFINATELY deserved it!” He got a kick out of that response!
So I learned my lesson. I played much calmer, after that was never tossed again. Obviously, later I’ve seen Tom many times over the years, and always enjoyed pleasantries. He was a GREAT GUY! MAY GOD REST HIS SOUL.
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