As Indians fans gear up for the team’s first home series of the season, it’s time to spare a couple of thoughts for the game’s least appreciated and most unloved participants — the umpires.
In a fascinating interview that aired on NPR’s “Fresh Air” program, available here, New York Times reporter Bruce Weber gives a look behind the mask. Weber attended umpiring school, umpired games and interviewed many professional umpires to learn about the hard road taken by the few umpires who make it to the major leagues.
A first base umpire, Weber explains, puts himself in a position to stare at first base when a routine grounder is hit in the infield. He then listens for the sound of the ball hitting the first baseman’s glove. If he hears the “plop” before the batter’s foot touches the base, the runner is out.
Weber, asked what umpires do when they miss a play and have to make a ruling, explained that they go ahead and make a call and try to “sell” it. You have a 50/50 chance of being right and you can’t afford to admit that you blew the play.