Crumpler inducted to American Legion Hall of Fame
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 17, 2010 11:16 PM
Standing before family and friends who helped weave countless threads into the tapestry of his life, Ricky Crumpler seemed at a loss for words.
He was humbled, honored and in awe.
But he couldn't have been more happier.
Crumpler joined a fraternity recognizing some of the greatest people to either play, coach or support baseball in North Carolina. And he set a new precedent that took some diligent paperwork to become reality.
A Goldsboro native, Crumpler became the first-ever active umpire to get enshrined into the N.C. American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame during a recent banquet in Kinston. Installed with him into the 43rd class were Ernest Taylor, athletic officer of Pitt County Post 39; coach Gary Hamby of Lenoir Post 29; Clayborn Council of Cary Post 67 and the late William Smith of Stanly Post 236.
The quintet increased the number of Hall honorees to 209 since the first induction took place in 1967.
New Bern Post 24 athletic officials Ron and Larry Taylor, and head coach Gary Smith spearheaded the nomination.
"A humbling experience," said the modest Crumpler. "As I thought about this day, I couldn't help but say to myself 'you don't get to a place like this without a lot of people supporting you along the way'. An umpire really has two families ... the one at home and then the men you work with every day.
"You share as much or more time with them as you do your wife and children, and you become very close to your fellow umpires."
Crumpler turned toward his family.
He admitted agonizing over missing reunions, concerts, games and birthdays. But those worries quickly turned into distant memories. The smiles, tears and laughter from his family gave Crumpler the assurance that although his absence was surely missed, they understood.
"None of you ever said a word about it," said Crumpler, who choked back tears while giving his endearing acceptance speech that tugged on his family's heartstrings.
"I thank you and love each one of you. I want you to know how proud I am of you all."
Crumpler was originally scheduled for induction in 2009.
However, a parlimentary procedure error put the induction on hold for one year when the new resolution to enshrine active umpires was omitted from the committee's report. The Judge Advocate General eventually ruled in favor of the original bylaw adopted in 1967, which stated no umpire could be elected for induction until he had been retired five years.
The resolution passed once the paperwork was filed.
Crumpler is the sixth Wayne Countian enshrined in the Hall. George Whitfield was the first recipient in 1979, and was followed by Ken Short in 1985. Former Post 11 head coach Doyle Whitfield was inducted in 1991 and the late Ken Snell received the honor in 1998.
Dee Glover, another former Post 11 coach, and historian Keith Waters were elected in 2000 and 2007, respectively.
"He is one the most hard-working, dedicated men when it comes to the game ... or anything when people come to ask for his help and I truly hope I can model myself after him one day," said one of three sons, Chuck Crumpler, to the large crowd in attendance.
An umpire since 1974, Crumpler travels six -- sometimes seven -- days a week calling games on the high school, American Legion and college levels. From February to August, he's usually home less than 48 hours a week during that time.
Crumpler has undoubtedly been a model of consistency and dedication, and is expected to umpire his 2,000th game this summer. His reputation for fairness precedes him and his professional attitude behind the plate doesn't go unobserved.
"Ricky is part of a small group of umpires in eastern North Carolina who displays distinct knowledge of the rules, inside and out," wrote Ron Taylor in his recommendation letter to the Hall election committee.
"His integrity and execution of duties as an umpire are outstanding, and he has great dedication to the game. When he walks onto a field, there is comfort and if a call is made, it's for a reason."
Fans don't see the intangible skills an umpire needs to be successful. Sometimes, those same fans go home with the feeling that umpires don't care about what happens in a game.
Crumpler doesn't fit that mold.
"When an umpire makes a bad call, it says with you for a long time," he said. "When you work a perfect game, nobody notices you and that is just the way you like it. I don't know how many thousands of calls I've made, but the only ones I truly remember are the ones I missed.
"It's not an easy job."
And it's one Crumpler wouldn't trade for the world.