SILVER SPRINGS, Md., Dec. 9 (UP) — Bill McGowan, who retired recently after having served as an American League umpire for thirty years, died here today at his home. He had suffered two heart attacks in less than a week. He was 58 years old.
Surviving are his widow, Magdalein; a son, William A., Jr.; a foster son, Airman 2/C William A.; a brother John, and two sisters, Mrs. Jane Weaver and Mrs. Dan Buckley.
Started Career at 17
William Aloysius McGowan was an official in baseball for forty-one years. He made his debut in 1913 at the age of 17, when he joined the Tri-State League. He was appointed to the majors in 1925 and his ability to "call 'em right" was quickly recognized. He was accepted as the No. 1 umpire in the circuit. His nickname, in fact, was "No. 1." He officiated in eight world series and five All-Star games.
Mr. McGowan conducted an umpire school in Florida for years. Many young umpires now in organized baseball were tutored by him. He was a stickler for hustling and physical fitness.
Although Mr. McGowan believed an umpire should always have "tact in dealing with difficult siutations," he, himself, was not immune to suspensions. Twice during his major-league career he was suspended by the president of the American League.
Until 1942, when plagued with arthritis, he did not miss working in a game to which he had been assigned. By working in some 2,600 consecutive contests, he was stamped as the "Iron Man" of the umpires.
However, in 1948, Mr. McGowan was suspended for ten days without salary. He was charged with having thrown baseball and his ball-strike indicator at Washington players and also with having used offensive language.
In 1952, he ejected a player from a game at St. Louis. The press asked the umpire to identify the banised man. He refused and a protest was made to Will Harridge, president of the American League. Mr. Harridge suspended Mr. McGowan for his action.
But the events soon were forgotten and at no time was his ability or honesty questioned. Only last week, when Mr. McGowan's request for retirement was granted, and a life pension voted to him, baseball men here for the major-league winter meetings, were referring to him as "the best."
Ted Williams, in My Turn at Bat (1988), said that during the final day of the 1941 season he had a memorable run in with Bill McGowan. The excerpt reads:
"Now it was the last day of that 1941 season, and it turned up cold and miserable in Philadelphia. It had rained on Saturday and the game had been rescheduled as part of a Sunday doubleheader. They still had 10,000 people in Shibe Park, I suppose a lot of them just curious to see if The Kid really could hit .400. I have to say I felt good despite the cold. And I know just about everybody in the park was for me. As I came to bat for the first time that day, the Philadelphia catcher, Frankie Hayes, said, 'Ted, Mr. Mack told us if we let up on you he'll run us out of baseball. I wish you all the luck in the world, but we're not giving you a damn thing.'
Bill McGowan was the plate umpire, and I'll never forget it. Just as I stepped in, he called time and slowly walked around the plate, bent over and began dusting it off. Without looking up, he said, 'To hit .400 a batter has got to be loose. He has got to be loose.'
I guess I couldn't have been much looser. First time up I singled off Dick Fowler, a liner between first and second. Then I hit a home run, then I hit two more singles offPorter Vaughan, a left-hander who was new to me, and in the second game I hit one off the loudspeaker horn in right field for a double. For the day I wound up six for eight. I don't remember celebrating that night, but I probably went out and had a chocolate milk shake."