Former Major League Umpire Visits Disabled Veterans At Biloxi VA

He's argued balls and strikes with some of Major League Baseball's biggest superstar players and managers. But now that he's retired, former big league umpire Larry Barnett's tone is less combative and more happily reflective. This week he's brightening up the lives of some military veterans at Biloxi's VA Hospital.

"In January of 1976, I started doing this with the disabled American veterans," says Barnett.  "And it's probably the best thing I've ever done in my life."

In his more than 50 visits a year to VA medical centers around the country, Barnett regales his audience with colorful tales of his 31 years in major league baseball, from an umpire's unique perspective.

"I said, 'Thurmon, if you don't shut your mouth, I'm going to bite your head right off your shoulder,'" Barnett tells the crowd. "He looked me right in the eye and he has a big smile on his face and he said, 'Larry, you know if you do that you'd have more brains in your stomach than you do in your head.'"

Laughter is the medicine he brings with every visit.

"You still can go to umpire school," Barnett tells a blind veteran. "I'll give you a scholarship."

And every visit ends with a thank you to America's men and women who've battle and survived foes much more frightening than irate managers.

"We were here two days and I think we did a lot of good. We made a lot of veterans laugh, and we took their mind, for a short while, off what's ahead of them. And to me that's success."