Tuesday night, at the Brookline Avenue Playground in Brookline, Jim Hennessey will umpire his last game.
For 63 consecutive seasons, Hennessey has called balls and strikes for Little League and high school baseball, and most recently, adult softball, in Brookline. That's about 7,000 games. Hennessey started umpiring both for his love of baseball and for some extra cash — at $5 per game, initially — to help support his wife and children. He brought his six kids to games when they were small.
Hennessey will turn 85 in October. In his younger years, he was a pitcher and quarterback at Brookline High School. He later taught in the school system for 40 years. He also quarterbacked and coached the Northeastern University football team.
WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins spoke with Hennessey about his years umping and how he feels about leaving it behind.
On what made him decide to retire:
"I was sitting on the beach about three weeks ago, just my wife and I, late in the day. And she said to me, 'You know, I think it's about time. You're going to be 85 in two months. And I don't know how many 85-year-olds are still doing what you're doing.' And I thought about it overnight and told her the next morning I was going to be done by the end of the month. We're married for close to 62 years, and she's a big part of who I am."
On what kept him umpiring since 1959:
"Year after year, it was just automatic. You know, I started doing Little League, and then high school and softball leagues; and end of April every year, it was just time to go back to work again. You know, [it's] my connection to Brookline and the town where I was born and raised, and it was just a thing that I enjoyed doing."
On why he enjoys it and how he responds to ribbing from the crowd:
"I always try to be fair. The only thing I ever tried to do was when I went to work at night, do the best job I possibly could. And it just ... became second nature to me. [There are many] tremendous people I've met. It's just something I enjoy.
"[I respond] very quietly. I'll just go over and say, 'OK, you've made your point. You've got about 10 more seconds — end it. No profanity, no more yelling and it's over.' And if they persist, I'll give them one warning. And then they persist again, I tell them, 'Go to your car. You're out of here.' I've done that very few times. ... You know, I've always been stern, but I've been fair, and I respect them and they respect me."
On what he would tell younger umpires:
"Just be yourself. Be honest. Be fair. Don't be argumentative. You know, I used to tell these young umpires who are coming up, 'The only thing you have to say is six words. Ball, strike, fair, foul, out, safe. And say nothing else.' "
On what he'll be thinking about Tuesday night as his final game comes to an end:
"All the umpires I've worked with, you know, all the players, great people I've met along the way. I've umpired generations of players in Brookline."
This segment aired on August 30, 2022.