Anyone who runs into John Shulock and hopes to be regaled with tales of his 24 seasons as a Major League Baseball umpire will be disappointed.
“To look all that up doesn’t interest me, to tell you the truth,” Shulock said recently from his home in Florida.
Shulock, born in Lockport, was in diapers when his family moved to Vero Beach, where his father participated in Dodgers spring training and never left.
Shulock umpired 3,050 regular-season games, two All-Star Games, 30 playoff games and the 1985 and 1992 World Series. He retired in July 2002.
And that’s where baseball ended for him.
“I don’t watch baseball anymore,” Shulock said. “I haven’t watched it since I left. I don’t read about it. I don’t stay in touch with anybody. It’s over, so I just let it go.”
Shulock’s stoicism partially stems from the 1979 umpire strike. He was a rising star in the minor-league umpiring ranks and destined to reach the majors on merit, but the work stoppage forced an implementation of replacements. That’s when he was promoted.
Shulock was one of eight replacements retained after the strike, but union umps refused to speak to him for years. Marty Springstead, MLB’s executive director of umpiring at the time, still referred to Shulock as a scab in a 1994 New York Times article.
“I’ve worked no-hitters, and I’ve worked a lot of good ballplayers and a lot of great pitchers,” Shulock said. “I know there were a lot of umpires that got excited, ‘Oh, I’m working Nolan Ryan,’ or, ‘I’m working Randy Johnson.’ That never mattered to me.
“I kind of approached the game differently than most. It was a job for me, and I never got tied up in all that nostalgia.”
Nonetheless, Shulock was at second base for Nolan Ryan’s sixth and seventh no-hitters in 1990 and 1991.
Shulock in 1985 called first base for Tom Seaver’s 300th win. Shulock was behind home plate when the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first world title. He was at second base for Kenny Rogers’ 1994 perfect game and for Rickey Henderson’s 3,000th hit in 2001.
Shulock ejected a future Hall of Famer eight times, including Tony La Russa thrice and Reggie Jackson twice.
I called Shulock to gather his recollections of an exceptional play in August 1985, when Chicago White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk tagged out New York Yankees runners Bobby Meacham and Dale Berra at home plate two seconds apart.
Shulock, the third-base ump that night, watched Meacham and Berra round toward home. But Shulock didn’t have much to say.
“I was more concerned about how well I performed,” Shulock said, “so when I walked off the field I knew I had done what I got paid for.
“As great as some of these players were, I never got caught up in all that. I wasn’t a baseball fan, so to speak. It was the way I made my living.”
Shulock, 70, recounted his Lockport roots more wistfully.
“There’s some that still live in Lockport, but not many,” Shulock said of his relatives. “My dad’s family is mostly all gone. I have some cousins that still live in Lockport.”
He broke down the connections:
His father, Wally Shulock, had moved from Shellburn, Ind., when John’s grandfather took a job at a Lockport paper mill. Wally met his future wife, Anne Foltz, at Lockport High. The Shulocks moved to Florida in 1948, the year after John was born.
“My dad never got his shot in the big leagues,” John said. “Some guys get it, and some guys don’t.”
A back injury curtailed Wally’s playing career, and he switched to umpiring. John, after three seasons as a middle infielder in the Minnesota Twins system, followed his father into the profession.
The rest is history.
Although John Shulock couldn’t give a rip.