PALM HARBOR, FLA. (AP) - Longtime major league umpire Frank Pulli, who used instant replay to make a call nearly a decade before video reviews were allowed, has died. He was 78.
“He was ahead of his time,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, involved in the replay episode, said Thursday night.
Major League Baseball said Pulli died Wednesday in Palm Harbor, Fla., from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Pulli umpired in the National League from 1972-99 and worked four World Series, six NL championship series and two All-Star games.
In the 1978 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers, Pulli was involved in a call on the bases involving Reggie Jackson that was hotly disputed by Los Angeles manager Tom Lasorda.
Pulli was among the 22 umpires who lost their jobs in a failed mass resignation. He was an MLB umpire supervisor from 2000-07 and charted pitches, helping umps improve their ball-strike calls.
Many young umpires looked at Pulli as a mentor. He also was a pioneer _ not that he intended to be one.
Early in the 1999 season, Cliff Floyd of the Marlins hit a drive against St. Louis that was originally ruled a double. Gonzalez was the Marlins’ interim manager and argued. Pulli, the crew chief, changed it to a home run.
That drew a beef from the Cardinals, so Pulli decided to check replays on a TV camera near the Marlins’ dugout. The game in Miami was delayed for more than five minutes before Pulli overturned his own call and put Floyd back at second base.
“He called a home run and Tony La Russa came out and said it wasn’t a homer,” Gonzalez recalled after the Braves’ 3-1 win ove Cleveland on Thursday. “So he goes and looks at the monitor in the dugout. The main thing was, he got the play right.”
In 2008, MLB approved the use of replay on potential home runs.
The Marlins weren’t so satisfied at the time. They filed a protest that was denied by NL president Len Coleman. But Coleman also said Pulli was incorrect to use replay.
Gonzalez, then a coach who was filling in as the Marlins’ manager while John Boles had neck problems, praised Pulli for his handling of the situation.
“What I remember most about that whole thing was he was a total gentleman,” Gonzalez recalled. “Here I was, this guy who wasn’t even supposed to be managing, and he treated me with respect.”
Even when Gonzalez announced he planned to protest the game because Pulli relied on a replay.