William “Bill” Haller was gracious enough to speak with Brownstown High School students on March 9th in Mr. Redden’s school publications class. Bill Haller was a Major League Baseball umpire from 1958 to 1982 in the American League and brother to former major league baseball player Tom Haller. He was born and raised in the small town of Fairmount, IL, a heavy baseball town where Bill quickly fell in love with the game and began playing at the age of 12. “It’s the best sport in the world” said Bill. He was lucky enough to find a career behind the plate and on the sidelines to finish his career as one of the best umpires to ever officiate the game of baseball.
Bill Haller came to speak not just about baseball, but to impart a little wisdom to the students of BHS. His message was unique and he delivered it honestly, in a blunt and direct style that people love. He stressed the importance of staying off drugs and warned of the dangers that drug use can bring to one’s life and career. He encouraged the students to go to college and “take advantage of what life has to offer.” Bill explained how love and discipline are the same word. Bill emphasised that if a parent, teacher, or coach disciplines a child it is because they love them and want the best for them. He also said that ball players in his time were very disciplined, and worked hard for their positions and it is no different today with any job or career.
The importance of being kind and respectful to others is a big part of Bill’s life. He believes that no matter the circumstance, you should treat all people with kindness. Bill shared a story with the class about when he took his young 4th grade son to a sock hop. Bill told his son that “if you see a girl standing alone, ask her “May I buy you coke?” and “May I have this dance?”. It might not mean much to you, but it will make her night and she will never forget who you are”. With that story Bill really hit the message that even the smallest acts of kindness can go a long way and make lifelong friends.
Of course a little baseball was discussed when Bill was in the room. Students had a lot of questions about his time in the majors. Bill said there were many perks to being a major league umpire. As an umpire in the MLB you travel all around the country and see all the major cities across our great nation. Two of Bill’s favorite cities to travel to were Minneapolis and New York, but every stadium was beautiful and great in its own way . Mr. Haller prefered to be behind the plate when umpiring because you get to be “the boss”. For Bill, umpiring the “best sport in the world” was one of the biggest perks of all.
Bill has old school manners. Upon entering the classroom he asked a couple students to sit up tall and proud. He stressed the importance of dressing well for any job. For every game Bill was required to wear a suit and tie, and if he failed to do so has would have been fined. Mr. Haller acknowledged BHS principal Mr. Shackelford for how well he was dressed that day and encouraged students to take pride in their appearance.
After Bill retired from umpiring, he worked for the New York Yankees as a scout and loved doing so. George Steinbrenner was the owner at the time and Haller said he was very loyal to all his employees. Bill witnessed many hall of famers in their prime, players like Mickey Mantle, Carl Yastrzemski, and Al Kaline. Thurman Monson, Boog Powell, and Brooks Robinson were some of Bill’s favorite players to watch. Bill officiated over 3,000 games, 15 American League Championship Series games, four world series contests, and 4 All-Star games. Haller was the last umpire to ever wear the balloon styled chest protector in a World Series game. Bill retired after the 1982 World Series and after that served as a supervisor of American League umpires until 1985. Bill had an amazing career full of excitement. Bill is a living piece of history and will continue to pass down his extraordinary and inspiring stories. Bill is a man that everyone should look up to, not just because he is really tall, but because he takes advantage of life and tries to be the best person he can be.
By William Koonce
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