End of an era Lindberg umps final fastball game

The Rainy River District Fastball League’s championship game between Barwick and Sight & Sound here last Tuesday night marked not only the end of the season, but the end of an era.
After 37 years behind the plate, Lloyd “Gus” Lindberg called his final game—a 9-7 thriller in which Barwick emerged victorious as the league champs.
“I enjoyed every bit of it,” Lindberg said of his final game minutes after stepping off the field for the last time.
“I have mixed emotions,” he added. “I feel happy that I’ve completed 37 years and that I did a competent job, but on the other hand I feel very sad.”
The mixed feelings Lindberg felt leaving the diamond were fitting as the veteran umpire has experienced almost every emotion possible during his nearly four decades behind the plate.
Lindberg remembers the feelings of insecurity he felt during his first season as an umpire in the now defunct Borderland Fastball League.
“The first year was pretty difficult,” he recalled. “I was on edge all the time being that I was a rookie.”
As well, Lindberg said the players challenged him every chance they could just to see how much they could get away with during the game.
The worst offender? Catcher Mike Drazenovich (the irony being that Drazenovich also happened to be a close friend of Lindberg’s away from the field).
“He kept on yapping,” Lindberg reminisced.
“I’d give him a couple of warnings and tell him, ‘Mike, go home and work on your house,’” at which point Lindberg said he’d toss Drazenovich from the game.
Despite that difficult first year, Lindberg persevered and, in the process, gained the confidence required to become a good ump.
“During my second year, I came into my own and I think I became a competent official,” he remarked.
Lindberg continued working games in that league until it began to fade due to a lack of dedication from both players and umpires.
Determined to continue officiating the game he enjoyed so much, Lindberg called George Oltsher and asked if the Rainy River District Fastball League needed an experienced umpire.
Oltsher, more than happy to welcome another quality ump into the league, accepted Lindberg’s offer. And the league’s newest umpire immediately was impressed with the quality of ball being played.
“That was a good league because every team had a strong pitcher,” he noted.
Quality pitching is something Lindberg always has admired, and so it should come as no surprise to anyone that two of his favourite fastball memories involve impressive pitching performances.
The first was Greg Wilson’s perfect game over in International Falls in the early 1980s.
The second, which occurred around the same time, was the day Oltsher pitched four complete games in a single day.
“That was just remarkable,” Lindberg said of Oltsher’s iron-man performance.
Pitching also happens to be Lindberg’s only criticism of the current state of the RRDFL.
“The players today are as good as they were 20 years ago, but they never developed any pitchers,” he replied when asked how today’s game compares to that of years past.
“I’ve been after them for 25 years,” he stressed. “When you bat against the same player game in and game out, you’re bound to learn his skills.”
Despite the one minor criticism, Lindberg said he’ll look back on his umpiring career with only fond memories.
“The best part is being accepted by the league and the players,” he remarked. “When you earn the respect of the players, they’ll treat you like an equal, but you have to earn that respect.”
Respect is something that many players, both past and present, have no shortage of when speaking of Lindberg.
“I always got along great with Gus,” Guy Arpin said. “He’s a great guy and he takes the game very seriously.”
“In terms of umpires, him [Lindberg] and [the late] Kingsley Downs were the cornerstones of the league in my mind,” Arpin added.
Former player Bryan Bonot was involved in the league for nearly 30 years and said Lindberg’s contribution was immense.
“Gus is a fine umpire and a gentleman,” Bonot said. “He plays the game by the rules and he expects everyone else to do the same.
“Without guys like Gus, we wouldn’t have a league.”
“It’s been great to have such a dedicated fastball enthusiast involved with us,” echoed Oltsher.
“The league will be very sad to see him leave, but also glad for him to have so many years and him leaving on an exciting finish to a season,” he added.
Perhaps the greatest display of respect came following the championship game last Tuesday when players from both Sight & Sound and Barwick lined the diamond, announced Lindberg’s retirement to the crowd, and then applauded him for his years of hard work and dedication.
The only question that remains unanswered is what Lindberg will do now that he’s no longer umping games.
“I’m going to walk the dog and go to the track once a month,” Lindberg said, before adding he would attend some fastball games next season—as a fan.

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