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

Today's the kind of day that makes me long for a summer night at the ballpark. I look outside my window to see a heavy, steady snow coming down. Snow on the ground or being at the ballpark and wondering who was the genius who decided to put a baseball stadium so close to an airport that you also get a nonstop flow of airplanes overhead? I'll take the latter, thank you very much.

Anyway, there isn't much out there to link to today (unless you really want to discuss that Woody Paige column).

So, let's take a detour today and talk about umpires.



As I mentioned last week, I received a review copy of the not yet released As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber. I don't want to spoil too much of the book for anyone, so I'll stick to how it relates to the Rockies, for the most part.

If the umpire isn't mentioned during the game, that must mean he's doing a good job, right? That's one of the maxims broadcasters and fans mention when they do talk about an umpire. In As They See ‘Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires, Bruce Weber moves beyond that notion and weaves a story about his umpire school experience with the stories of major league and minor league umps.

The press release that accompanied the book mentions several of the stories Weber covers besides his journey through umpire school and eventually calling a major league game. Did you know about the attempt to implement the precursor to the QuesTec device years before QuesTec appeared in ballparks? It may have had something to do with the end of the Cold War. Weber also looks into the umpires' strike of 1999, which I'd mostly forgotten by now. I found the story on the last female umpire fascinating, not having known anything about it.

Other bits of information come out here. You'll learn about the umpire system in the minor leagues. In the lowest leagues, the umpires are the guys who were rated as the top prospects at the end of umpire school and a later evaluation period. And even the best are prone to mistakes. So, when you look at minor league games at those levels, umpiring should also be taken into account. With only two umpires in those games, they have to be aware of much more. And maybe that strike three call was a rookie umpiring mistake.

Purple Row being a Rockies site, how does a book about umpires relate to the Rockies? Wait, do I even need to ask that question? Matt Holliday's slide to win the 2007 play-in game between the Rockies and the Padres receives a thorough look. As we all know, Matt Holliday's slide into home won the game for the Rockies. But did Tim McClelland (who's been involved in several famous umpire moments) make the correct call? Michael Barrett, the catcher on the play, never had any doubt that McClelland made the right call. He said Holliday was safe, so Holliday was safe. In an interview with Dan Patrick, McClelland defended himself by saying that he delayed the call because he had to make sure Barrett had the ball, and if he didn't, Holliday was safe. Barrett didn't have the ball; Holliday was safe. And Mike Port (VP, umpiring) made a great point to Weber during the World Series: even if you believe Holliday didn't touch the plate, the Padres had a series of problems in that inning. Hoffman couldn't close out the game, an outfielder made a bad throw, and Barrett didn't hold onto the ball. But if you don't buy into the Padres totally ruining the game themselves, maybe you should visit

The 2006 incident between Asheville Tourists manager Joe Mikulik and umpire Andy Russell has a part in the book. We've all seen the video. But did you know that Mikulik barricaded the umpires' room with all kinds of equipment in the area? Also, Andy Russell quit umpiring during the middle of the 2007 campaign. Russell told Weber that Mikulik's outburst had nothing to do with the decision, but Weber doubts that.

Another Rockies' story involves Tom Hallion and his incident with Jeff Reed in 1999. Did Hallion bump into Reed? The other umpires claimed he didn't, but Hallion still received a suspension. It appears that the National League president suspended Hallion to show that he could control the umpires, some of who had recently put in their resignations. Hallion was one of those guys. He eventually returned to umpiring, but is still only a substitute umpire.

This is definitely a book any baseball fan should read. It offers insight into the journey to become an umpire. It isn't an easy one, but if you're good enough and able to endure the poor accommodations on your trip through the minor leagues, you may just get to work the World Series one day.

I'm willing to answer questions about what else Weber covers.