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Phil Cuzzi

Sport: Baseball

Born: August 29, 1955

Town: Belleville

Phillip Cuzzi was born August 29, 1955 in Newark. He grew up in Belleville and attended Belleville High School, where he played baseball and football. Phil graduated from Glassboro State with a degree in Education. He began umpiring in the low minors in 1985 after a friend lent him the money for umpiring school and soon worked his way up to AAA.

Phil got his first call to the majors in 1991 as a reserve umpire. His debut came in an 11-inning June game between the Cardinals and Dodgers. Over the next two years he worked 71 games, but was not hired as a full-time umpire. He worked in education and tended bar for three years, but returned to work in theminors in 1996 after a chance meeting with Len Coleman, the NL president, while he was working at the Short Hills Hilton. With a thumbs up from Coleman, Phil got back in baseball’s good graces and made it back to the majors in 1999, working 49 games that season.

Starting in 2000, when NL and AL umpiring staffs were combined, Phil worked games in both leagues, averaging more than 125 per season. He was part of crews assigned to 10 playoffs series between 2003 and 2019. He also worked the 2008 and 2019 All-Star Games and the 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Astros. Phil was behind the plate for Game 1, a 3–1 home win by the Dodgers. He was also behind the plate for Bud Smith’s 2001 no-hitter and Cole Hamels’s 2015 no-hitter.

Phil’s most famous (or infamous) game was a 2000 contest between the Red Sox and Devil Rays. Eight Rays were ejected—Phil thumbed out seven of them—and no Boston players were sent to the showers. Twins fans will also remember a foul call he made in the 2009 ALDS, when Joe Mauer was denied a ground-rule double in a 4–3 loss to the Yankees.

Phil is currently the only MLB umpire from New Jersey (he lives in Nutley). He has ejected dozens of players over the years, but only one fellow New Jerseyan, Jeff Torborg. Phil is a member of the Belleville High Hall of Fame and the Nutley Hall of Fame.


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