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Local umpire fondly remembered for his passion for baseball

On many spring and summer evenings, a common sight at the Original League field in Williamsport’s West End is the spirited play of young kids hitting, throwing and catching baseballs.

While many are responsible for keeping the league and its legacy alive, perhaps no one cut a larger figure than William E. “Bill” Fritz.

Fritz, who passed away May 5 at the age of 88, served as an umpire, league president, and with the board of directors.

He is remembered fondly by friends and acquaintances.

Jim McKinney, who has long been associated with the Original League, said he knew Fritz for 25 years and witnessed him doing so much for the organization.

He remembered him as an umpire, who was a stickler for the rules, but at the same time had a soft spot for the kids.

It was not uncommon for Fritz to hand a player candy for making a good play or for some other reason.

Fritz, he said, was affiliated with the league for 50 years and was still umpiring games into his 80s.

Among his roles through the years was serving on the rules committee.

“When Bill Fritz said something, everyone knew it,” McKinney said.

Fritz had worked with Little League founder Carl Stotz, and so respected him that he carried out the beliefs and rules that Stotz laid down many years ago.

“No managers were allowed on the field in shorts,” McKinney said. “That was a Carl Stotz rule. Bill was kind of the enforcer of all the rules Carl set forth.”

Fritz loved nothing more than to talk about the history of the league and spent many days recounting the old days and even correcting people who got their facts wrong.

McKinney said he learned a lot about the league from Fritz and some of the league’s old-timers.

Barry Rake, a longtime Little League umpire, noted that Fritz was dedicated to umpiring.

“A true gentleman,” Rake said of Fritz. “A super, super guy.”

Local historian Lou Hunsinger, 64, who played in the Original League as a youngster, called Fritz “one of the stalwarts” of Original.

“He loved that league. I know that,” he said. “He was one of the backbones of the league. He thought a lot of Carl Stotz. He promoted Stotz.”

Hunsinger recalled Fritz always being involved with the annual open houses held at the Original Field which showcased the cozy ballpark setting.

“His passion, his drive, were always at Original,” Steve Springman, league president, said.

Springman noted Fritz’s knowledge of the league’s history but also as someone who cared about the kids.

After games, he would wait around to ensure a player’s family arrived to take him home.

“He was an all-around good guy,” he said. “He always spoke highly of everyone.”

McKinney noted that while Fritz was certainly passionate about the Original League, he also enjoyed his affiliation with the Masonic Lodge 707 and his trains.

“He always invited people to come over to his house and see his train set,” McKinney said. “This was a huge layout.”

But it was perhaps the Original League where Fritz left his biggest mark.

“His DNA is existing here at Original League from all the stuff he did in the past,” McKinney said. “I miss him a lot.”

“He’s going to be missed by a lot of people. That’s for sure,” added Springman.

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