Sports: Basketball & Baseball
Born: October 20, 1903
Died: August 18, 1988
Albert Zingone was born October 20, 1903 in Sicily and grew up in Passaic after emigrating to the US with his family as a boy. Outgoing, athletic and freakishly coordinated, Al excelled in athletic competition, particularly in basketball and football. His first love was baseball, although he was never a star in that sport. Al did make headlines on the gridiron and hardwood at Passaic High School in the early 1920s. From there he scratched out a living as a semipro basketball player. In between periods, he entertained fans with Globetrotter-like comedy routines. He was often compared to baseball’s clown prince, Nick Altrock.
In the late-1920s, Al graduated to “major-league” ball, playing for the Fort Wayne Hoosiers in the American Basketball League and barnstorming with the independent St. Louis Americans. After that, he was the main attraction of a touring group called the Olson’s Terrible Swedes. All the while, Al refereed various sports to pick up extra cash. He also worked as a police officer in Tonawanda in western New York for several years. Toward the end of the Depression, he began to establish himself in the low minors as a baseball umpire. Al loved being the center of attention and between his loud, sandpaper voice and his by-now well-honed theatrics, he began working his way up the umpiring ladder.
During the 1940s, Al umpired in the International League, American Association, Western League, Sally League and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. With bigger crowds and better players, he took his antics to a new level—often to the point where he was the story of the game. Al was famous for ejecting managers and players, and once thumbed a team’s entire bench for their insults. He didn’t mind when the fans got him, though. In fact, he welcomed the attention, saying “People should razz the umpire. That’s part of the reason they go to the games.” During a 1946 game, Al tossed a manager named Bill Sayles on “Bill Sayles Day” When Sayles refused to leave the field, Al declared a forfeit. Many a time he needed a police escort away from the ballpark and he often found that fans had let the air out of his tires in the parking lot.
Al finally wore out his welcome around the age of 50. He took a job umpiring baseball games in Italy in the summer of 1954 and declared himself retired when he returned to the US. After living in Michigan and Washington DC for more than a decade, he returned to New Jersey and bought a house in Montclair and continued to officiate high-school sports in northern New Jersey. He passed away in the Jersey Shore town of Leeds Point at the age of 84.