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Officials Spotlight: Gallagher’s service and advocacy spans more than six decades

Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2022 - 10:30 AM

Larry Gallagher

Larry Gallagher is a common sight on baseball fields with his more than 60 years of service at all levels of umpiring.

Larry Gallagher, surrounded by family, was honored by the Twins on July 14, 2022

Larry Gallagher, surrounded by family and T.C. Bear, was honored on July 14, 2022 when the Twins played host to the Chicago White Sox at Target Field.

Official Spotlight

Baseball has been a constant companion for nearly all of Larry Gallagher’s 82 years.

From his playing journey through the game that began as a Little Leaguer and continued to Columbia Heights High School, Augsburg College and then at the amateur level, the number of games he’s participated in and the fields he’s seen is staggering. Mix in an umpiring career that began as a teen and spans more than 60 years, and you realize what a treasure he is.

Each stop along the way represents a special chapter for Gallagher, a member of the Minnesota State High School League’s Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Through playing, umpiring, passionate mentorship, influential leadership and respectful teaching, Gallagher has made sure he has done everything he can to serve as an ambassador to all activities. Doing things in a professional manner, leading by example and stressing strong decision-making have been the pillars that have earned him acclaim.

“I remember all of the games and all of the special people along the way that I’ve had the privilege to work with, to lead and to share laughs and stories,” the longtime Crystal resident shared with the League. “All of the great times and great people bring a treasure chest full of special memories.”

Another entry into his storied career occurred in mid-July when the Minnesota Twins honored Gallagher for his more than six decades of service to baseball. He was the final individual in a group of dignitaries to throw out an honorary first pitch when the Twins played host to the Chicago White Sox on July 14 at Target Field. Years ago, the Twins similarly honored Gallagher for his years of service and he threw the pitch into the dirt.

Mindful of not wanting a repeat performance, Gallagher, because of limited mobility, practiced throwing from a chair with Zach Gustafson, an assignor with Northwest Umpires and Minneapolis Officials Association.  

“Zach and I figured out a way where I could throw it accurately,” he said proudly. “Everything went really well. It was a special time for me and my family. I was grateful for all of the support for the people that have been behind me along the way.”

With a video of Gallagher on the jumbo scoreboard as a backdrop, it was an exhilarating moment as he threw from his chair to the delight of scores of officials that came to watch.

“It was a perfect pitch as far as I’m concerned,” Gustafson said. “It was an amazing moment. It was the highlight of my officiating career, that wasn’t on the field. Larry has observed me in baseball, basketball and football. He is so selfless in what he gives back through officiating, teaching and leadership. He’s set the bar so high for all of us to emulate.”

Gallagher is just one of six known individuals that have at least 60 years of officiating experience with the Minnesota State High School League. He reached the milestone in 2021 Here are the others and when they were honored:

  • Jake Boomgarden, Luverne (basketball, volleyball, football and softball), 2005.
  • A.P. “Ozzie” Loeffler, Bemidji (basketball, football), 2008.
  • Les Novak, St. Louis Park (baseball, softball), 2013.
  • John Linn, Woodbury (softball), 2020.
  • Warren Bailey, Pipestone, (track and field), 2021

Gallagher began his journey as a high school official in 1961, working baseball games in the spring and football in the fall, respectively, while a student at Augsburg College. He also officiated high school wrestling in the late 1960s to the early 1970s. In 1979, he umpired seven Major League Baseball games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, working a Twins’ four-game series with Detroit and a three-game series with Cleveland while the Major League umpires were on strike. He also has had a long career as a volleyball and basketball official.

Away from the playing fields and courts, Gallagher has served as a rules clinician, mechanics clinician and state baseball coordinator for the League since 1997. In that role, he has also assisted in the selection of umpires for the League’s state tournaments. For more than a decade, he has also served on a League officials’ committee that selects Associations of Excellence, Outstanding Programs and Distinguished Service Awards.

“Making connections in education and officiating is very real and crucial to growth and development,” said Gallagher, an educator and coach in District 622 for nearly 40 years. “I was a teacher, first; that is the most important thing. But that education played a role in being able to relate and communicate with others in working with aspiring officials. In the classroom, you have more kids, a wider range of kids that is much different than kids on the courts or fields. I had a special insight into that group. So many came back later and thanked me for making a connection.”

He is perhaps best known for being so well-versed on the rules of the game.

“When you referee with Larry, you better make sure you know the rules as well as he does,’’ said longtime basketball officiating partner Clyde Doeppner, a fellow teacher and now curator for the Minnesota Twins during an interview for Gallagher’s Hall of Fame induction. “The man is masterful, and if he didn’t write the (rule) book, he sure read the book. . . The thing that always impressed me the most about Larry is I saw him as a teacher. And a teacher he was. He was a masterful teacher.”

Patience on the field, calm on the court and encouragement to keep striving for improvement are trademarks of Gallagher’s work as an official and his leadership in advocating for officiating as an avocation.

Gallagher currently finds joy as a mentor, observer and teacher for the Eden Prairie Youth Baseball Association, a role he has held for the past four seasons. He takes in plenty of games as he watches youths from 12 to 15 years of age umpire games. He enjoys the opportunity to work with young people and visit with their parents as they hone skills that Gallagher professes will take them far if they continue to nurture them.

In getting to know the families of the young officials, he fields an array of questions, including How does sports officiating fit into their lives at this age? Gallagher answers all queries with wisdom, wit and a gentle smile that plants the seeds of continued improvement and striving for balance. As his history of participation and officiating attest, Gallagher is a proponent of trying multiple things through co-curricular activities.

“I love sports, I love kids and I love seeing them involved,” he said. “It brings great joy to be a part of this discovery for them at a young age, but also, too, for officials that are just getting started at an older age.”

At the end of each game that Gallagher worked, he asked himself a series of questions.

“Did I do my best today?” he said. “At the end of the game, did the people who were around me feel that I was fair, feel that I made judgments based on what happened? Did I do what I needed to do to make the game fair? Did I live up to my own expectations, that are probably higher than the team’s expectations of what they expect from me? If I can answer all of them positively, I know I helped in making the game a positive experience. If not, I go back and work on some things.”

While he acknowledges the recent use of a wheelchair and a scooter limits his mobility, Gallagher is hopeful of continuing his officiating advocacy and mentorship.

“When I work with officials, I am hopeful that they will listen to learn,” he said. “I want them to remember me as someone that cared about them whether they are a young official or an older one.”


 Editor’s Note: During the 2022-23 school year, the Minnesota State High School League will feature a story about officiating each month.

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