Frank OLoughlin (1872-1918)
Frank was born at Rochester, New York in 1872. His professional umpiring career began in 1897 when Ed Barrow, then President of the Atlantic League tapped him. OLoughlin worked in that league for most of the year and later in that season jumped to the New York State League, in order to stay close to home.
Frank was given the name ‘Silk’ OLoughlin.
Frank’s Umpire Career:
Silk’s talents were used by the Eastern League from 1898 through to 1901. Late that year American League President, Ben Johnson came calling and ‘Silk’ OLoughlin joined the new league, serving as one of its finest umpires for 17 seasons from 1902 through to the war-shortened 1918 season.
Among one of Johnson’s early hires, ‘Silk’ repaid the American League chief for backing umpires with his loyalty and support.
Johnson had some simple orders for his umpires:
1. Make the game on the field clean.
2. Rule benevolently, when possible.
3. Rule with an iron hand, if required.
4. Johnson would back his umpires in disputes.
This did not mean that OLoughlin did not have trouble with Johnson. During the 1908 season Johnson was critical of a call ‘Silk’ made in a Detroit-Chicago game on an attempted squeeze play. Johnson chided OLoughlin for failing to differentiate between a pitch and a throw, and calling a Chicago runner ‘out’.
Silk was also known for his concern over the time of games, and often suggested means to speed up play. A no-nonsense man on the field, he was one of Johnson’s umpires who could be called the tough-cop on the beat. ‘Silk’ said Ben Johnson helped make baseball a respectable profession by “…eliminating rowdyism and by giving his staff of umpires his unqualified support.”
‘Silk’ was also a strong supporter of a two-umpire system in the majors. It must be noted that the call in the Detroit-Chicago game was made by OLoughlin as a solo umpire, and a partner might have been able to determine if the pitcher’s foot was on the rubber, when the play was made.
OLoughlin had many claims to fame as an umpire. He was behind the plate for seven no-hitters, a record unlikely to be equalled. He was also the first umpire to eject Ty Cobb from a game. That occurred on May 2, 1908, in a game with the White Sox, when Cobb tried to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer.
Career Shortened in 1918:
Unfortunately, Frank did not enjoy a full career. He died at the age of 42 in Boston on December 20 1918, due to complications from influenza (double pneumonia), a disease that claimed the lives of many people in the year following World War I. (This year marks the 100th anniversary of the pandemic.)
His personality, enthusiasm and energy made its mark on the American League. On OLoughlin’s death, Hall of Fame umpire Billy Evans noted ‘Silk’ was a great partner who worked every game like it was his last, saying: ” Baseball was a serious proposition for him.”
Francis H. “Silk” O’Loughlin
- Birth 15 Aug 1872 Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
- Death 20 Dec 1918 Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
- Burial Holy Sepulchre Cemetery Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
- Memorial ID 103013916
Compiled from an article by David W Anderson
Note: A version of this biographical profile first appeared in Tom Simon, ed., Deadball Stars of the National League (Washington, D. C.: Brassey’s, Inc., 2004).
Paul OLoghlen, Calhoun, Georgia, USA
Jane OLaughlin, St. Paul, MN, USA
Judy Williams, USA
RTE News, Dublin