VIDEO: Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Joe Brinkman Was 34-Year Major League Umpire

By  //  October 1, 2017

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SPACE COAST DAILY TV: As a major league umpire for 34 years, Joe Brinkman left an indelible – and sometimes controversial – mark on the game.


As a Major League Umpire For 34 Years, Joe Brinkman Left An Indelible Mark On the Game


Joe Brinkman
Joe Brinkman

As a major league umpire for 34 years, Joe Brinkman left an indelible – and sometimes controversial – mark on the game.

He was the crew chief in the notorious “pine-tar game” in 1983, when he upheld a call that nullified Kansas City Royals star George Brett’s game-winning home run against the New York Yankees.

The ruling on the field was that the amount of pine tar on Brett’s bat exceeded what was allowed by the rules. Brinkman agreed, the Yankees won the game and chaos erupted. An enraged Brett sprang from the dugout to home plate and had to be restrained by Brinkman and others.

Earlier in his career, Brinkman was an umpire for the infamous “Ten-Cent Beer Night” game in Cleveland, Ohio.

The ill-fated promotion in 1974 gave rise to mayhem and the host Indians had to forfeit the game against the Texas Rangers in the middle of the ninth inning because an inebriated crowd stormed the field and began rioting.

The game also included a combination of streaking nudists, exploding firecrackers and – literally – stolen bases.
Although Brinkman retired in 2006, he still has an influence on major league games today.

From 1985 to 1998, he was the owner of the Joe Brinkman Umpire School in Cocoa, where he and other professionals instructed umpires who are currently making calls in major and minor league games.


“We had about 125 to 150 students every year,” Brinkman said from his ranch in Chiefland.

“We ran about 4,000 students through the school and we have 500 in the minor leagues and 38 in the majors. That’s pretty good.”


Brinkman, born in Little Falls, Minnesota in 1944, co-authored “The Umpire’s Handbook,” which became the instructional text for his school.

Inside the book, he highlights his overall philosophy of the profession: “Umpiring is not like being a politician; you can’t tell everyone what they want to hear,” Brinkman said.

“You make a call the way you see it, and you can’t make mistakes.”

When recently asked whether he made mistakes while calling a game, Brinkman gives a hardy laugh before answering.

“I’m going to answer that like Donald Trump: ‘No I haven’t,’ ” he said.

These days, Brinkman still visits Cocoa, making the three-hour drive from his ranch five to six times a year.

“My cardiologist is there. My dentist is there. My dermatologist is there. My hair stylist is there. I get back quite a bit,” he said.

“They’re good people, and worth the drive.”

THE 2020 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 8.

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2020 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail

CLICK HERE to see all the members of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.