Each year the Little League World Series is pitched as a youth sports dreamscape, a land where elementary schoolers are feted on the same networks and in the same media as their Major League forebears, all with less pomposity and fewer corporate strings attached. While the focus of the event is rightfully on the players, the LLWS also serves as a land of rewards for some 16 umpires who toil in anonymity all year before being thrust into a national spotlight in Williamsport.
In 2012, Dan Campagnolo was one of those chosen officials. The Northern Californian worked a handful of games at the series, and then was given what he called a "dream come true" on his personal blog: The home plate umpire's spot in the Little League world championship game on Sunday.
With all that went into getting him there, Campagnolo wasn't going to let anything stop him from calling that game. As it turns out, that included a truly rough-looking broken finger, as eagle-eyed viewers across the world may have noticed during the Japanese squad's 12-2 victory against Goodlettsville, Tenn.
As you can see above, Campagnolo was forced to call balls and strikes with a left index finger that, like Bugs Bunny, took a left at Albuquerque and never really got back on track. An image of Campagnolo's rather grotesque-looking digit first surfaced on Twitter from a half inning with Japan at bat, and Deadspin picked up on the phenomena shortly thereafter, capturing screengrabs of the Californian calling a Tennessee half inning.
There are no public reports yet about precisely what happened to Campagnolo's finger, but whatever it was, it let one of his fingers with a break or dislocation that puts it completely out of line with the rest of his hand. Given the fact that the Los Gatos, Calif., resident has been rather comprehensive in his coverage of the World Series -- and his own role in it -- on his blog, the world may soon learn what forced Campagnolo to call the biggest Little League game of his life with a serious injury to one of the most visible parts of an umpire's body.
The one thing that we do know about Campagnolo's most famous digit is that it appeared to be in a similar state earlier in the tournament, as this Flickr gallery from an earlier contest with Campagnolo behind the plate shows.
Regardless of what created the broken finger, the fact that Campgnolo called the entire game without exiting following a gnarly break has to make him one of the toughest officials around. If nothing else, the feat proves that umpires can play with pain just as ably as players do, no matter what level they're operating at.