“An Umpire Nearly Lynched”

11 Mar

The above headline appeared on an Associated Press story in August of 1890.  Former Major Leaguer Jimmy Manning, then managing the Kansas City Blues in the Western Association had interceded to quell a riot at the end of a game with the Denver Grizzlies in Kansas City:

“Two questionable decisions by umpire Jovin (Sic) in the ninth inning, when Kansas City was about to tie the score, angered the crowd to such an extent that they swarmed into field, hooting and jeering the umpire.  Two young boys got hold of a rope, and in fun proposed to lynch him.  This added to the excitement, and it looked for a time as if the umpire would be mobbed.  Jimmy Manning climbed up to the top of the fence and addressed the mob.  He said the umpire had decided rightly and advised that no violence be attempted.  This quieted the mob to a degree.  In the meantime the players of both clubs formed a hollow square around the umpire and conducted him to the clubhouse.”

Jimmy Manning

Jimmy Manning

“Jovin” was actually Fred Jevne, a 26-year-old minor league veteran who had become an umpire just a month earlier.  After joining the Spokane franchise in the Pacific Northwest League in April, Jevne was suspended in May for punching an umpire.

In July The Spokane Falls Daily Chronicle said Jevne and teammate Tom Turner “quit the nine because they were excessively fined and ill-treated.”  According to the paper the two players showed up at the July, 1 game “in an intoxicated condition and acted like ruffians in the grand stand.” Turner was eventually reinstated and finished the season in Spokane, Jevne did not.

Since 1885 Jevne had played for a variety of teams in several leagues, including the Southern, International, and California.  When he was signed by Spokane to play center field and serve as captain, The Daily Chronicle said:

“Jevne is rather short.  He is a good batsman and a good player generally.  The San Francisco papers, when he played there, alternately praised him and berated him, but all agree that he was a good player.”

Jevne made one more attempt at playing, joining the Evansville Hoosiers in the Northwestern League in 1891.  He then returned to the Western Association as an umpire.

Fred Jevne

Fred Jevne with the Minneapolis Millers, 1889

In December of 1894 Jevne was named to the National League umpiring staff, where his work received mixed reviews.  In June The Baltimore Sun called him “As good an umpire as there is in the business.” In August, after a he worked a game between the Boston Beaneaters and Chicago Colts, The Boston Globe said “Umpire Jevne did poor work, both sides suffering from his yellow decisions.”  The Pittsburgh Press called Jevne’s performance in a September game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Athletics “By far the worst exhibition of umpiring given this season.”

Jevne was not offered a position in the National League for 1896, and went to work in the Southern Association, where he seems to have a continued his fighting ways.  In July, The Birmingham Age-Herald said Jevne had missed the previous day’s game between the Montgomery Senators and Columbus River Snipes:

“Jevne, the regular umpire, arrived in town last night, but this morning loaded himself up with the spirit of hilarity, got into a fight with a citizen and when the hour for playing arrived was in the hands of the police, and failing to make bond was unavoidably absent from the field.”

Despite his troubles, or because of them, Jevne was asked to join the Interstate League at the end of the 1896 season because, according to The Sporting Life, umpires were losing control of games:

 “(Interstate League President Charles) Powers to-night wired for Fred Jevne the ex-National League umpire, who is so handy with his fists, to report for duty.”

Jevne was not popular with players or the press down south, and said his time in the Southern Association was difficult:

“It was no snap umpiring down South.  Fines didn’t go—were never paid—and so I used to remove men from the game.  Sometimes I would have to take out about half of a team before they would behave, and then the papers would roast me good and plenty the next morning…I had a scrap with a player named (Al) Gifford (Atlanta Crackers shortstop), and punched him in a car going from the grounds.  The local paper came out the next morning and urged the chartering of a special car for the umpire. So that he could be alone in his dignity, and another paragraph hinted that a cigar sign or dummy could be put in the special car for the umpire to punch”

Jevne appears to have returned to the Southern Association for parts of the 1897 and ’98 seasons.  He spent at least part of 1899 and 1900 in his hometown, Chicago, where he worked as an umpire in some college games.  In 1901 Jevne became a Western League umpire and that year met with a violent and mysterious end.

Initial newspaper reports said Jevne had fallen from a third story window in Denver’s Hotel Victor on August 2; he lingered for two days before dying. His body was returned to Chicago and he was buried at Graceland Cemetery.

However, several months after his death, Jevne’s brother Lloyd, a well-known three cushion billiard champion, told The Associated Press he was certain he had been murdered, and that before dying Jevne had said he was pushed:

“I saw Fred’s body after it was shipped back to Chicago, where the burial took place, and the most prominent feature of his injuries was the bruise on his nose.  Doctors I saw believe that he was struck across the face with some blunt object… When he was about to die it is not probable he would have told a falsehood.  He would not have said at that time that he had been pushed out the window.”

Lloyd Jevne

Lloyd Jevne

Whether Fred Jevne fell or was pushed from that hotel window has never been positively determined.

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