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As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires Hardcover – March 17, 2009
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*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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Here's a terrific baseball book about all things umpire. As a fan, I think he's an NY Times reporter, attended the Jim Evans Umpiring School in Florida, one of two umpiring schools, and also interviewed scores of current and former major league and minor league umpires.
Weber tells it like it is. Indeed, the best parts of the book were of his own experiences in learning to be an umpire and then, actually umpiring, during spring training.
Explaining how umps think--about the game, about the league, and about their fellow umpires--and how their skills and attitudes have changed over the years was quite interesting as was how they dealing with messing up.
The 1999 umpires strike, during which all the umpires quit and most were hired back, got an overabundance of attention in this book and not always in a well-organized fashion, which is why it got 4 stars from me, instead of 5 stars.
Reading about the woman ump who was fired a few years back was interesting. I wish the author spent more time on her and how she was treated.
Very informative and very interesting. I learned a lot about the game I love. Who knew that the umps yelled "PLAY!!" when the game starts and not "Play Ball"?
If, and that's a big IF, you make it to AAA ball as an ump you still travel by car from game to game, share a flea bag motel room with your partner, put up with nightly abuse, and get paid about $25,000 a year. And each year only one or two AAA umps are promoted. Most walk away having spent the better part of their lives banging their heads against a wall.
After you've read this book you'll find yourself trying to watch the umps at work when the ball game is on. It's amazing how your perspective changes. Here's an example from the book that illustrates how invisible good umpires become; After a game, in which there is a blown call at the plate following a line drive down the left field line, the press jumped on the home plate umpire about how he missed the call. The umpire then explained to them that on that particular play he had rotated up to third base to make sure the runner hit the bag because the third base ump had to run down the line to watch for fan interference. It was the first base umpire who rotated to cover home who missed the call. He had to explain this to a room full of sports writers who had been watching games for decades, had seen this play a thousand times, but had never noticed that the umpires shift on that play! That's amazing!
There's even an entire chapter dedicated to the strike zone! For non-fans thats serious snooze time but if you're a fan... fascinating! A great baseball book!
This is a thoroughly captivating book about umpires from one of the two sanctioned umpire schools, their relationship with owners, players and their peers. Weber leaves you smelling the hot dogs, beer and grass of the ballpark while he weaves a colorful view of what it is really like to be behind the mask at home plate trying to call a strike on a 100 mph fastball in less than 1/2 second. We see the nuances of proper positioning on the bases to the proper stance behind the plate. You begin to understand the stress of having to be on your game every pitch, every hit and every out -- not even the most important or involved player on the field is that involved in the game. The reality is the only people on the field that need to be on "top of their game" all game are the umpires. In a sport where a .300 BA is good, we expect our umpires to bat 1.000. When they don't, we see that as a failure far more flagrant than the 70% of time are idols fail.
There are other aspects of the history of MLB that Weber captures with great background and detail even most avid fans probably don't know. While I was pretty familiar with the disastrous move by many umpires to follow Richie Phillips lead and resign en masse, Weber shines more information. As an avid baseball fan since my childhood in the 70s, it was fun getting a new perspective on some of the names I remember hearing during the broadcast, people like Nester Chylak.
Weber brings all of this to life in such a compelling and engaging way that by the time I finished, I was hoping to read volume 2. If you are a baseball fan, this is a great read.