'Mr. Baseball' enjoys 50 years of umpiring - Catholic Courier

‘Mr. Baseball’ enjoys 50 years of umpiring

At 89 years of age, Al Registro can spin plenty of stories about his baseball past. The neat thing is, there’s a present and future as well.

Registro, a resident of Big Flats, Chemung County, umpired 29 local baseball contests during the recently completed season. He has donned his umpire’s gear for more than 50 consecutive seasons, calling an estimated 3,600-plus games — and he’s looking forward to extending that streak following a milestone birthday on Jan. 24, 2006.

“With the help of God, I want to work at least one game when I’m 90,” stated Registro, a parishioner of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads.

He may well end up working many more games: Local baseball organizations frequently request Registro’s services.

“Around here, I know everybody,” he remarked. “The people around here call me ‘Mr. Baseball.'”

Registro’s love of the sport began during childhood in his native Brooklyn, where he was a fan of the major-league Dodgers. (They have since moved to Los Angeles.) Interestingly, his allegiance is now with the New York Yankees, once the Dodgers’ frequent cross-town World Series rival.

“It’s because of (Yankee manager) Joe Torre. He’s from Brooklyn,” Registro explained.

Although he never played professionally, Registro was a highly regarded catcher and outfielder who had considerable speed on the base paths. He played on a full baseball scholarship at Long Island University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

In 1942 Registro enlisted in the United States Navy. During his four-year hitch, spanning most of World War II, he rose to the rank of lieutenant junior grade. He took part in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, landing at Utah Beach.

“There’s death all around you. But you don’t think anything of it — it was your work,” said Registro, who was fortunate to escape serious injury. He added that he was “very proud” to be a part of D-Day because it was a key turning point for Allied forces against the Nazis.

In 1947, following military duty, Registro married his wife Delphina (she died in 1997). They eventually adopted two daughters, Rosemary and Roberta.

During this time Registro played for several semi-professional teams including the House of David, a famous barnstorming club. Registro noted, with a chuckle, that all players were required to grow beards per the customs of the Israelite House of David, a religious colony from Michigan that operated the team.

Registro ended his playing career to take a job with the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), beginning a 43-year career with the supermarket chain. At that point he shifted into youth-baseball management on Long Island. One of his young players was Pete Richert, who went on to a distinguished major-league pitching career.

He was once asked to umpire a game and complied, despite the potential verbal abuse from fans, players and managers.

“I had never umpired before. I baited umpires when I was managing — not terribly, but I would. And now here I was doing it,” he remarked.

Obviously he enjoyed his new role: “I worked 118 games the first year in baseball and softball. I got good recognition from the umpires’ association.”

He continued to umpire upon relocating to Terre Haute, Ind., and then to Big Flats in 1961 when he became personnel manager for the former A&P plant there. He has umpired at numerous levels of youth and amateur baseball and was still being assigned varsity high-school games as of last year.

Unlike many an umpire, Registro enjoys conversing with players and managers. In fact, only once in all these years has he made an ejection.

“I was a personnel manager, and I love people. I get along with people,” he explained.

Registro enjoyed the antics of the late Ron Luciano, a native of nearby Endicott, Broome County. Luciano was a flamboyant major-league umpire, known to chat freely with players, fans and managers.

“Oh man, he was great,” Registro said.

Of course, no matter how personable you are, the best way to keep the peace is to make the right call. Registro said he’s been razor-sharp in this area: “I get good reports. I’ve worked at it.”

Registro has served strictly as a base umpire in recent years; he no longer calls balls and strikes due to the danger of getting struck with a ball behind home plate. His schedule has also been more limited after breaking a hip in 2004.

Yet he still loves being in the thick of the action, saying the competition keeps him going.

“To me, it’s like playing the ball game. I’m thinking ahead,” he said, explaining that if a runner is on base he has to anticipate where the next possible play will occur. “I’m part of the game, right down to the last out. And I feel great — I don’t think of age except as a number.”

For his many contributions to baseball, Registro received a special award at the Elmira-Corning All Sports Banquet this past February. This honor was noted during a Sunday Mass at St. Mary Our Mother Church by Father Christopher Linsler, pastor, prompting a standing ovation from the congregation.

It was fitting for Registro to be recognized at church, since he attributes much of his longevity to his strong Catholic faith.

“I thank God for all the blessings he has given to me,” he said. “When people ask me how I do it, I say God is with me.”

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