From Publishers Weekly
In a no-holds-barred insider examination of the private world of baseball umpires, both minor and major leagues, Weber, a New York Times reporter, dives into the rough basic training school for the men who call balls and strikes in this irresistible book. As a 52-year-old student umpire, the author dons the mask and learns the fundamentals, while spending almost three years visiting baseball venues across the country, as well as interviewing former umpires, players and coaches. Many candidates dream of making it to the majors, as about 100,000 amateur baseball umpires call games in the U.S., Weber writes, but only 68 pro umpires make it to the big show. Baseball fans will love the insightful, richly textured account of Weber trying to master the plate stance, monitoring each pitch and maintaining a proper strike zone in a physically demanding occupation. However, his book lifts heads-and-shoulders above other baseball tomes by putting a funny, surprising treasury of anecdotes from the sport at its entertaining core.(Mar.)
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*Starred Review* t’s a wonder that, given their central role in the game of baseball, from Little Leagues to major leagues, umpires have remained a mystery to fans for so long. New York Times reporter Weber corrects that in this sympathetic, thoughtful, highly engaging account. Weber spent months, including a five-week course at one of two major league–approved umpire schools, talking with dozens of umps as well as the players, managers, owners, and league officials who live with their calls. Out of this exhaustive research, and after strapping on the gear himself, Weber reveals how exceedingly demanding the profession can be. At the same time, he shows how disrespected, if not reviled, umps are by nearly everyone in baseball, though they serve as the last—some might argue, the only—line of defense for the integrity of the game. Weber shares the particulars of umping a game, the torturous path to becoming a major league ump, and some hot-button issues such as the umps’ 1999 strike, instant replay, and the pace of games. And for the starstruck baseball fans among us, there are lots of stories about umps, players, and managers we know. An outstanding book that demands a place on any sports shelf. --Alan Moores
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