Saturday, July 12, 2008

All-Star Umpires

Remember in the 70s when you knew most of the umpires as well as the players.

In those days, the all-star ballots featured the likes of Brooks and Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, Carl Yastremski, George Brett, Lou Brock, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Henry Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer. You watched the whole game just to see these players collected in one place.

The umpires were all-stars too.

John Shulock, Don Denkinger, Bruce Froemming, Joe Brinkman, Nick Bremigan, Durwood Merrill, Harry Wendelstedt, Vic Voltaggio, Ken Kaiser, and Ron Luciano--whose fights with Earl Weaver were legendary.

There was a strike zone that never changed for an entire season. A strike was a "stee-RIKE."

You trusted them implicitly.

I never wondered about the strike zone or whether the ump's interpretation of where the ball is pitched was going to affect a game. Today, the strike zone changes from inning to inning, team to team and batter to batter. What was a strike in the first might not be one in the seventh. Balls that paint the lines of a batter's box are called strikes.

Unfortunately, today's umpires, prone to taking spinning classes and weight training, have the power to change a game's outcome. Maybe more ballpark franks and soft ice cream would sharpen their vantage points.

I don't even know their names.


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