The O’Malley family and longtime Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach employees express their sadness on the passing of Laurence “Dutch” Rennert, a former National League umpire for 20 seasons and an “off-season” Vero Beach resident, last Sunday. He and his wife, Shirley, had just recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. From 1962 on, Rennert worked countless minor league game and Spring Training games at Dodgertown as he worked his way up the umpiring ladder.
“Our family always appreciated Dutch’s work ethic, dedication and professionalism,” said Peter O’Malley, President, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1970-1998. “I became aware of Dutch in the early 1960’s when he would work games at Dodgertown and I was the camp director. He had a terrific personality and a passion for his craft. You just knew that he was going to make it to the major leagues one day. Our thoughts are with Shirley and the entire Rennert family.”
He was the home plate umpire in Game 4 of the 1988 National League Championship Series when the Dodgers defeated the New York Mets, 5-4 in 12 innings. That game tied the Series at two apiece when Mike Scioscia hit a tying two-run home run in the ninth inning, Kirk Gibson hit a game-winning home run in the 12th for the deciding run and Orel Hershiser got the save in a game when the final out was made near 12:30 in the morning.
Rennert also was the third base umpire in the Dodgers’ 22-inning loss to the Houston Astros on June 3, 1989. Neither team scored from the 7th inning until the 22nd inning when the Astros scored a run off third baseman Jeff Hamilton who went to the mound in the 21st inning. This was after Orel Hershiser, on two days’ rest, pitched seven scoreless relief innings to keep the team in the game. The winning run scored at 2:50 a.m. Sunday morning after a Saturday evening start.
Rennert served an umpire apprenticeship in the Pioneer League, the Southern League, the Texas League, and the Pacific Coast League before he umpired his first major league game in September, 1973. He was well regarded as an arbiter as a 1983 New York Times poll as the best umpire in the National League in a poll conducted of National League players. He was known through the industry for a “no doubt about it” strike call when he would openly gesture to the side and give a full lunge to his knee to make the call.
He worked three MLB World Series – in 1980, 1982 and 1989, six National League Championship Series and two All-Star Games in his career.
He graduated from Oshkosh High School in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where one classmate, Billy Hoeft, played in the major leagues, and another, Don Beibel, worked in the front office for the Chicago Cubs.
Rennert’s off-season home was in Vero Beach, Florida, and he continued to work his craft after retiring as a National League umpire, by calling games at the Adult Camps in Dodgertown where he was a favorite after-dinner speaker to the campers.