Satch Davidson, the home plate umpire when Hank Aaron and Carlton Fisk hit two of baseball’s most famous home runs, has died. He was 75.
Davidson’s family said he died Saturday at his home in Houston. The family did not give a cause of death.
Davidson spent only three years in the minors before getting hired as a National League umpire in 1969. A bad back forced him to retire after the 1984 season.
His career was full of big games — his first month in the majors, he worked no-hitters that Jim Maloney and Don Wilson pitched on back-to-back days at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati.
Davidson was behind the plate for Wilson’s gem and was on the field for five no-hitters overall, plus a pair of World Series, three NL championship series and the 1976 All-Star game.
Yet there were two at-bats that topped them all, moments where Davidson still appears on the highlight reels.
The clip from April 8, 1974, shows Davidson coming out of his crouch as Aaron launched his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. While Aaron’s teammates on the Atlanta Braves waited to greet him, Davidson stood a few feet in front of the plate, mask in hand, making sure the Hammer touched home.
The next year, Davidson was down on his right knee in the 12th inning, ready to call the pitch that Fisk hit at Fenway Park in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. As Fisk frantically tried to wave the ball fair, Davidson lined it up.
The drive hit the foul pole in left and Davidson signaled it was a fair ball. He always said he a better look at it than the umpires at third base and left field.
Current Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker was on deck when Aaron hit his historic homer, not that he noticed the man in blue. ”I don’t remember the umpire, I was in the moment,” Baker said.
But Baker did recall a distinctive Davidson touch.
”He used to roll his sleeves up, he was like a drill sergeant,” Baker said before the Reds played at San Francisco. ”You could tell he was former military or a police officer or something, but a great guy.”
Davidson indeed served as an offseason policeman in London, Ohio, where he was born. He also worked the winter months as a college basketball official, sometimes doing Big Ten games. He was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Davidson got his nickname at an early age. He was Dave as a boy and really enjoyed watching the ”Bowery Boys” films in the 1940s, particularly a character known as ”Sach” — it was pronounced as Satch, even though it was spelled differently.
The nickname stuck with Davidson. Years later, in fact, he became good friends with Huntz Hall, the actor who portrayed Sach.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.