Thirteen years later, Augie Donatelli still says it's so, Willie.
In a splendid 24-year career as a National League umpire that ended in 1973, Donatelli was behind the plate for four no-hitters, Stan Musial's 3,000th hit and a four-homer game by Willie Mays. Despite all those Cooperstown memories, Donatelli is most commonly linked with one of the great rhubarbs in World Series annals.
On Oct. 14, 1973, with Game 2 between Oakland and New York tied 6-6 in the 10th, Bud Harrelson of the Mets tried to score from third on Felix Millan's fly to left. As Mays watched from the on-deck circle, Donatelli ruled catcher Ray Fosse brushed Harrelson with the glove after taking the peg from Joe Rudi. Donatelli made an acrobatic out call as Mays--on his knees with arms outstretched to a heavenly arbitrator--pleaded that Harrelson eluded the tag. "I'm not saying we don't miss a call now and then," says the 71-year-old Donatelli, "but I didn't miss that one. I still remember the sight of Mays on his knees arguing that call. Harrelson was out."
Donatelli made $5,000 in 1950 compared to today's minimum of $30,000 and at the time he retired his salary was $35,000, with a $50 per diem allotment. The 20-year umpire of the modern era earns $75,000 with a per diem of $105.
It's difficult for the former Pennsylvania coal miner to dilute some bitterness toward what Donatelli perceives as some forgetful men in blue.
"Al Barlick and I helped the umpires get a union back in '63," he says, "and not everybody remembers that. Today, umpires are drawing a better salary and working under much better conditions. From what I see, most are good umpires, but I notice they are going down on one knee behind the plate. You get a much better look at the strike zone from both knees.