by Steve Mims
Dale Scott was a sophomore at Sheldon High School in 1975 when he got tipped off that he could make some money umpiring local baseball games.
He was 15, but the age limit to work games was 16.
“I turned 16 in August, but this was January and February,” he said. “I saw an ad in The Register-Guard and called Ken Larson, who was the commissioner of officials. I talked him into it and he told me to sign up.”
Thus began a four-decade career that took him all the way to the major leagues before Scott retired in 2017. He made it to the big leagues in 1986 and worked 3,897 games, including three World Series and 91 postseason games.
“It is a very unique job, not for everybody,” Scott said. “Not only the officiating, but the travel side. When you are young and stupid, you are just happy to be there. In the big leagues, you are on the road a lot and that can wear on people with young families and kids. It is a very exciting job, but it is like two jobs, one on the field and one in the airports.”
Scott recently added another job when he wrote “The Umpire Is Out” with longtime baseball writer Rob Neyer, who serves as commissioner of the West Coast League.
The biography tells stories of Scott’s career and personal life. In 2014, he became the first active major-league umpire to announce that he was gay.
“All the positive emails and messages I got were touching,” Scott said. “I had one high school umpire in the Los Angeles area who is gay tell me that he hoped to make it to the big leagues and because of me, he said ‘I may not make it to the bigs because I don’t have the skill, but not because of who I am.’ That is gold.”
With a unique story to tell and decades of memories and memorabilia collected, Scott was convinced by Neyer to put it all together in the book that went on sale this month.
“Rob asked me when was I going to write a book because he’d be the first to read it,” Scott recalled. “I had no desire to do that, but he said ‘You have got stories from 30-plus years in the big leagues and a personal story that nobody else has’. So I thought that maybe I do need to get the story out. Maybe it will help somebody out because when I was a young umpire, it would have been nice to have someone to look up to because I was living a double life.”
The Springfield Drifters are planning to have Scott and Neyer at a game at Hamlin Sports Complex to sign books during their inaugural season. The Drifters open the WCL season on May 31 before playing their home opener on June 3 against Cowlitz.
Neyer is arranging to have Scott speak to the WCL umpires before the season starts.
“From what I hear from Rob, you will see some fun baseball,” Scott said. “Certainly, players are in different stages but they have played baseball their entire lives. We love our summers here in Oregon so on a beautiful summer evening, it is nice to hang out at the ballpark.”
Scott is friends with Drifters co-owner Ike Olsson, who graduated a few years later from Sheldon.
Scott jokes that he got started as an umpire when he wasn’t good enough to play baseball. He remembered going to Eugene Emeralds games when they were a Triple A affiliate of the Phillies in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I remember watching different umpires’ styles, guys like Bruce Froemming and Dutch Rennert,” Scott said of two men who went on to long careers umpiring in the majors. “I would observe them probably more than a normal kid at that age.”
After starting out as a youth baseball umpire, Scott later worked football and basketball games as well. He would often referee high school basketball games in the Portland area after the major-league season ended.
Scott brings all of those experiences to his new book.
“It is kind of surreal because obviously i have never done anything like this before,” he said. “I enjoyed the process and the challenge. I had some of these stories to tell for decades. It is strange to talk about personal stuff growing up, your family and your sexuality. I have gotten very positive feedback.”