Born identity: Retiring official leaving his mark on LNP Tourney
By Philip Glatfelter
The LNP Midget Baseball Tournament has developed into a prestigious event in its 56 years of existence.
Bud Born has been a large part of that prestige and respect.
When Born retires as a LNP Tournament commissioner Sept. 1, he’ll take with him 32 years of expertise. In addition to his 32 years as a commissioner, he umpired tourney games for 20 years, including 18 championship games.
“When I went out on the field, I wanted to look like an umpire,” says Born, who has umped about 2,400 baseball games over 40 years at various levels, from midget to high school to college. “I grew up loving baseball. And I really enjoyed officiating.”
Born, 70, has seen the LNP Tournament, which will begin a week from tonight, go from an open format that allowed more than 100 teams to compete to its present-day setup of 24 championship teams, eight in three age groups (Midget, Junior Midget and Midget-Midget). He competed in the first-ever tourney in 1946, playing for the Grandview Panthers. As he recalls, his team “won three of four games to get to the quarterfinals.”
“When I was a kid, I was dedicated to baseball,” he says. “And I think I knew the rules and I liked to play, and that’s the way I grew up. And that’s one of the reasons I got into umpiring, because I love the game of baseball.”
In the early 1960s, after a stint in the Army in Korea during which his umpiring career got under way, he began calling games in the LNP Tournament. In 1971, he became a commissioner.
“When they took me (as a commissioner) into the LNP Tournament, I think they wanted someone at the time with baseball experience,” says Born, who replaced Leon Duckworth, one of the original commissioners and the announcer for the Lancaster Red Roses minor league baseball team.
“I tried to impress on (former LNP sports editor) Bill Carroll and (former Sunday News sports editor) Bill Fisher at the time that, “Hey, if you’re going to put a tournament on, have some guys who are knowledgeable of the rules.’ Over the years, I tried to get umpires who knew the rules.”
Born certainly qualified, and he’s been involved with the LNP Tournament ever since. But this will be his last year as a commissioner.
“I thought this would be the time to get out it,” says Born, who was ready to step down two years ago until the untimely deaths of long-time commissioners Bud Moyer and Charlie Henry delayed his retirement.
Born’s umpiring career began when he was serving in Korea. He already knew the game of baseball, having played as a youngster and at Manheim Township High School and Franklin and Marshall College. When a flier came across his desk announcing a need for umpires, Born, who was working in Intelligence in Seoul, jumped at the opportunity.
Upon returning to the States, Born began umpiring midget games.
“A couple leagues asked me if I wanted to umpire a game,” he says.
“And they wanted to give me 50 cents. I said, “I don’t want the 50 cents; give it to the kids for their picnic.” Born worked his way up to umping games at the high school, American Legion and college levels. He has worked seven state high school championships, two state college baseball series and a state legion championship. He was named the state’s umpire of the year in 1982.
His final game behind the plate was in 1993, when Donegal and Lancaster Catholic squared off in Lancaster (he officiated two more high school games on the bases later that year). He even remembers the final out, a play at the plate following a fly ball to left field that would have tied the game.
During his time as an umpire and a commissioner in the LNP Tournament, Born has seen plenty of changes.
“Since we went to a tournament of champions, it made a better tournament,” he says. “At least they had to be good enough teams to enter a tournament like that. And when we did that, we also had every game assigned to PIAA officials.
“The games themselves have improved, players have improved, coaching has improved and the ballfields have improved…. Years ago, you had 24-1 games. Now you’re having 3-2 and 5-4 games. You’re getting a good mix of good ballplayers…. And kids know the strike zone these days. You don’t see too many of them swinging at bad pitches. When they’re on the ballfield, they know what to do out there.”
He has also seen outstanding teams and outstanding players.
“I remember one team (Washington Boro) came into the tournament without uniforms,” recalls Born of a 1970 Midget-Midget division team. “And they won the tournament (beating Local 285 2-1). That was one of the Cinderella teams.”
There were players like Gene Garber, Tom Herr, Bruce Sutter, Don Wert and Jim Todd, who all went on to play in the major leagues. There were others, like Glenn Gallagher, a Manheim Township grad who currently coaches the Millersville University baseball team. Born considers Gallagher one of the best athletes ever in Lancaster County.
When Born ends his association with the tournament in September, all those memories will remain. His love for the game will continue and he expects to continue watching tournament games — though it won’t be in an official capacity.
“For many years, I sat in my folding chair behind the screen and watched the game, and made sure there were no rules problems,” he says. “It’s going to end, but that’s not going to keep me from coming to a game once in a while.”
Born leaves the tournament in what he feels is the good hands of tournament director Bill Bert and current commissioners Bill Reuter, Curt Aspril, Bob Herr and Greg Schneider.
“I don’t see how much more the tournament could improve,” he says.
“We have good ballfields, good teams, the umpiring is good, the schedule and the publicity are good. I just hope it keeps up for another 50 years.”