It happened on September 16, 1940. The Brooklyn Dodgers, stuck 10 games behind first-place Cincinnati, were playing the Reds at Ebbets Field in front of 6,782 fans.
Among those fans was a 21-year-old petty criminal named Frank Germano, who lived at 128 33rd Street, opposite Green-Wood Cemetery, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“Game after game, [Germano] had sat on a hard wooden seat, [and] watched his beloved Dodgers, in second place in the National League, try to overtake the first-place Reds,” explained Life magazine two weeks later.
The Dodgers were in the lead until the Reds tied the game in the ninth. In the tenth inning, umpire George Magerkurth called two Reds runners safe after Dodger second baseman Pete Coscarart dropped the ball.
Cincinnati won the game—and the Dodgers were left to finish out another pennant-less season.
“Frank Germano sat stunned,” wrote Life. “He knew the runner was out. . . . Just as the last Dodger was put out, Frank stood up on his seat, yelled ‘Burglar! Burglar!’ rushed out on the field, swung on Magerkurth, tripped him, started to pummel his face.”
“Magerkurth, who weighs 245 pounds, fought back,” continued Life. “There were curses, hard stinging blows.”
Eventually the two were separated by other umpires. Germano “paid for his enthusiasm by being lodged in the Raymond Street klink after his arraignment on charge of third degree assault,” wrote The Eagle.
Despite his unsportsmanlike behavior, Germano had plenty of support in Kings County. Eagle sports columnist Jimmy Wood had this to say: “Pardon us for smirking, but we can’t get broken up about that young fellow taking the bull by the horns yesterday out at Ebbets Field.”
Germano “may have done something no law-abiding citizen of baseball can ever do with impunity—assault an umpire—but he has fulfilled the secret ambition of millions of fans.”
So what happened to Germano? Ultimately Magerkurth decided not to press charges, and after a judge set him free in April 1941, Germano left the courthouse in Flatbush only to encounter the umpire he tackled.
The two men shook hands and went their separate ways, the Eagle reported.
[Top photo: Life magazine; second photo: Getty Images; third and fourth images: Life magazine]