As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber

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As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber

Weber, Bruce. As They See ‘Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires. Scribner, 2009. ISBN 978-0743294119 352pp. $

*****

Did you know it’s more difficult to become a major league umpire than to become a major league baseball player, based on the number of slots available–and once someone rises to the majors, he holds onto the position like a supreme court judge? New York Times reporter Bruce Weber covers all aspects of umpiring–from myths to history to politics–like an anthropologist, even going so far as to attend one of the two grueling 5-week umpire schools in the country to round out dozens of interviews with hired, fired and retired umps.

Although the writing is thoughtful, excellent and engaging, the focus on the minutia of baseball’s complex rulebook may only be of interest to hardcore fans. Overall, Weber is a good storyteller (though ocassionally repetitive) and the details of who he couldn’t get to talk are nearly as interesting as the stories he wrangles about diva players, apoplectic managers and legendary games. The tale of professional baseball’s underdogs is fascinating reading for the this rabid Red Sox fan, and changes the way I look at the game. After the Indians’ manager Wedge got ejected from a Red Sox vs. Indians game on Monday April 27 after questioning two (correct!) calls by the umpire at homeplate, I found myself paying attention to details and commentary like never before.

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