Barry Bremen, 1947–2011

The impostor who made it to the big leagues

If you watched the opening game of the 1980 World Series, you might have caught a glimpse of Barry Bremen. He was the seventh umpire standing at the home plate as the Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals listened to the national anthem. Of course, as any serious baseball fan knows, there should only be six umpires at a post­season game. Bremen was a fake. The novelty-goods salesman had bluffed his way onto the field at Veterans Stadium, a stunt he repeated dozens of times at events ranging from pro-golf tournaments to TV awards ceremonies.

Born in Detroit, Bremen maintained a lifelong “grand fantasy to be in the limelight,” his wife, Margo, said in 1980. His first taste of national publicity came in 1979 when he sneaked onto the floor during pregame warm-ups at an NBA All-Star game wearing a stolen team uniform. He took several shots before being recognized as an intruder and ejected. “Soon Mr. Bremen was on Tonight with Johnny Carson,” said The Wall Street Journal, “and the madness was established.”

Later that year, the 6-foot-4-inch salesman appeared on the sidelines at a Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins game, dressed in a cheerleader’s outfit and blond wig. “The Cowboys kicked him out and sued him but later let the matter go,” said The New York Times. Despite the threat of legal action, Bremen was indefatigable. He played golf next to PGA champ Curtis Strange, and—departing from sports impersonations—accepted a 1985 Emmy award meant for Hill Street Blues actress Betty Thomas, who was slow to stand up when her name was called.

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The Great Impostor, as reporters dubbed Bremen, retired his disguises after a crazed fan stabbed Monica Seles during a 1993 tennis match, said the Associated Press. He understood that even good-natured intruders would no longer be welcome at sports events. “Security is not good to people who break in,” he said in 1997.

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