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Center Field on Fire: An Umpire's Life with Pine tar Bats, Spitballs, and Corked Personalities [Kindle Edition]

Dave Phillips , Rob Rains , Bob Costas
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Former MLB umpire Dave Phillips was at the center of some of baseball's most unforgettable moments—Comiskey's infamous Disco Demolition Night, Gaylord Perry's spitball ejection, Albert Belle's confiscated corked bat and George Brett's pine tar bat debacle—and he shares with baseball fans the untold stories behind those incidents and many others, giving baseball fans a complete perspective on the life of an umpire.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Phillips was a professional baseball umpire for 32 years, many of them spent in the major leagues. "I admit that sounds like a pretty good job description," he writes. "But there is much more involved in being an umpire than fans understand or appreciate." Over the years, Phillips was a diplomat, a detective, a mediator, a hero, and a villain. He threw Gaylord Perry, the notorious pitcher, out of a game, when none of his colleagues had ever managed to get the proof they needed that Perry was throwing spitballs. He had a corked bat stolen from his locker in an operation so ingenious it could have leapt off the pages of a Hollywood script. He was on duty when the Chicago White Sox held their disastrous "Disco Demolition Night" promotion, and mobs set the outfield on fire. He went face-to-face with some of baseball's most famous names but managed to earn the respect of the game's players and managers. His memoir, written with coauthor Rains, is chock-full of the kind of behind-the-scenes details that fans crave. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From the Inside Flap

Whether you consider it a blessing or a curse, Dave Phillips was major league baseball’s version of Forrest Gump throughout his remarkable 32-year umpiring career. Few people, if any, have been involved in as many historic, controversial, and just plain peculiar incidents on a baseball diamond. Among the more notable games Phillips worked was the infamous Disco Demolition Night in Chicago in 1979. He emerged from the umpires’ dressing room expecting to start the second game of a doubleheader, only to find that thousands of fans had converged on the field and portions of the outfield were in flames due to a radio station–sponsored promotion gone bad. Phillips was also in uniform during 1994’s "Batgate" (which also took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park), during which he confiscated Albert Belle’s suspect bat and subsequently became the victim of one of baseball’s most notorious crimes.

Phillips had legendary run-ins with the likes of Earl Weaver and Billy Martin—the most memorable of which came in the George Brett Pine Tar Game in 1983—and he was the first umpire to catch famed spitballer Gaylord Perry in the act. In Center Field on Fire, Phillips recounts these and dozens of other amazing stories from his unique perspective. His tales are not only wildly entertaining and humorous, but also provide an insider’s glimpse into some of baseball’s most prominent and controversial personalities over the last half century. Phillips reveals telling anecdotes about Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Sparky Anderson, Bud Selig, and many more of the game’s heavy hitters, and he offers informed opinions about important issues in baseball today, such as labor relations and drug use.

One of the most talented and respected professionals in the business during his long tenure, Phillips accurately portrays the life of an umpire. Following in his father’s footsteps, he toiled in the minor leagues for several years before getting his shot in the majors. Once there, he learned how to live with the constant travel, stress, conflict, and never ending ire from fans, players, coaches, and managers.

Center Field on Fire provides a candid and humorous look inside the fascinating life of a true major leaguer.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1411 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books (October 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A1VZ7DI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,522 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 30 years of an umpires' perspective on MLB June 18, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Many books have been written on sports, some by the players, some by those who watch and some by the people whose job it is to write about them. However, the people who officiate the games have the most unique perspective on the game, how it is played and how it is managed, in the sense of the on-field manager up to the level of the executive. Dave Phillips was an umpire in the major leagues for 32 years and has witnessed many changes in the game.
Two points really stand out in the book. The first is how the umpires get along between themselves, which in many cases, is not very well at all. The stories about members of a crew hating each other so much that they refuse to even speak to each other or making bad calls and blaming others for it were disturbing. The idea that the umpires often do not work well together is a disturbing one, for even-handed officiating is the one thing that no sport can lack.
The second is that baseball really has some serious problems that must be corrected. As Phillips notes, there has been a serious drug problem in baseball for over a decade, with an adverse affect on many careers. The focus has now shifted from cocaine to steroids, but there still appears to be no stomach for tackling the issue. Which is silly, because allowing the players to continue using drugs damages their careers and ultimately their health.
Phillips recounts many of the most memorable events in the last three decades, from Gaylord Perry finally being kicked out of a game for using grease on a ball to George Brett being called out on a home run because there was too much pine tar on his bat. All are presented from the perspective of the umpire, which is an interesting one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy but good read April 1, 2009
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed this book. Dave Phillips umpired in some very bizarre games and he tells about that and much more from the umpires' perspective.

It is very interesting to read about the relationships (some good and some bad) he had with his fellow umpires.

If you like umpiring and baseball from the 70s and 80s, you'll like this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Insight into Life of an Umpire December 21, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The is a good book if you are curious about the inside life of a MLB umpire. Dave Phillips was truly a great American League umpire during his tenure, and it was pretty cool to read about his daily routine separating his family and umpiring life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars an Umpire's life without a theme December 31, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Dave Phillips is a funny man, and he has many amusing stories, but Rob Rains, the person who should have been helping him write this, doesn't seem to have had any luck in shaping them into a book.

The chapters are almost organized chronologically and are almost organized thematically. Instead the anecdotes, comments, and history of Phillips's life are left splayed across the margins of meandering transcription that appears not to have been edited at all.

I remember Dave Phillips as an excellent umpire- one of the few AL umpires whose name a fan can easily recall who wasn't 'known' to be overly pitcher friendly, overly hitter friendly, or just plain 'on fire' to show-up a player or manager. He brings forth many names and images from one of Baseball's past, and it is clear that he loves the game and the people who have made it. His stories are not "kiss-and-tell" violations of trust, nor are they bland retellings of stale legend, but the lack of organizing principle makes the book painful to read. That is a shame because the great stories seem to be there, just trapped in a melange of unedited recollections, and the missing background and flawed structure of this book really hamper the reader's quest to share them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EASY AND BREEZY February 24, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
DAVE GIVES THE READER AN INTERESTING AND FUNNY INSIGHT INTO THE LIFE OF AN UMPIRE. FOR ME THE HIGHLIGHTS COVERED WERE THE STRIKE UMPIRES STRIKE, DISCO DEMOLITION IN CHICAGO AND THE CORKED BAT USED BY ALBERT BELLE. THIS BOOK IS EASY TO READ AND NOT TAXING ON THE MIND. I RECOMMEND IT FOR ALL FANS.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The figurative 'Forrest Gump' of the American League September 26, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Dave Phillips is the figurative Forrest Gump of the American League. It's a dreadful analogy, but just look back at baseball's more ridiculous footage and you'll find Phillips at the center of some of the game's most notorious foibles. During his 32-year career as a major league umpire, Phillips was on the field for Joe Niekro's hapless emery board flip, Graig Nettles' trailblazing cork experiment and Albert Belle's doctored bat switcharoo (it was from his very locker that the contraband was famously finagled). Phillips recounts these episodes along with others in "Center Field on Fire: An Umpire's Life with Pine Tar Bats, Spitballs and Corked Personalities," coauthored by Rob Rains.

The most colorful yarns stem from less enlightened days, when "every other word was a curse word," and "players chewed tobacco, spit, ate hamburgers and drank beer." Indeed, by page 50 someone has called someone else an "SOB" no fewer than eight times. We meet personalities like Billy Martin, who after an altercation, once wrote a letter challenging Phillips to a fight "on any street in America" and Earl Weaver, even less amenable as a cantankerous hellhound who in the minors, would storm from games clutching a base he'd removed from field.

Though filled with clunky prose and digressive storytelling, lively tidbits like these lighten up the book, which provides a decent glimpse into the often roughshod diplomacy of officiating.

Of course, a few of Phillips' anecdotes reveal what we already know. For instance, consider Comiskey's embarrassing Disco Demoltion Night, which he describes as "worst example of a poor decision [he was] ever involved in on the field" ... "a promotion that had disaster written all over it."

That the Sox top a list of the game's most shameful, ludicrous mistrials will likely come as a surprise to no one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm happy with the item
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Published 1 month ago by Jason Reed
3.0 out of 5 stars An Umpires Umpire
Overall, I liked the book and its insights into MLB politics. However, he ran down other umpires...and to an umpire there is no excuse for those comments. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Howard Wiley
5.0 out of 5 stars Davy Phillips
Great inside information and fun reading. I am glad I found this on line . I will keep my eye for more great reading.
Published 19 months ago by Carl
5.0 out of 5 stars Center Field on Fire
This was a great gift for my brother's birthday. The signature was an added bonus. The book was a great read.
Published on July 24, 2012 by msu
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely outstanding--I watched him umpire many games an he was...
What an enjoyable book. I watched Dave work many games in Fenway Park an always thought he was the best umpire an always enjoyed watching him work the plate. Read more
Published on April 23, 2012 by Boston Fan
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the most interesting book
I struggled throught this book. I would recommend almost any other book by any other umpire over this one. Read more
Published on September 9, 2007 by Jim J. Carroll
5.0 out of 5 stars one great read
if u love baseball this book is for u, from laughter to seriousness this book has all the greatness of baseball in a different perspective, the umpires, i recommend this book to... Read more
Published on March 14, 2006 by Jason Stolarski
3.0 out of 5 stars Should Have Been a Lot Better
I had so much hope for this book. There are so many problems with this book, I can not possibly recommend it. It is riddled with errors and omissions. Read more
Published on January 13, 2005 by JMack
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