Imagine What It Is Like to...
Be a Major League Baseball Umpire
(Durwood Merrill on Arguing with Managers & Tossing Them Out)

The Background

Being a Major League baseball umpire ranks high in terms of intense jobs. As in the other professional sports, during a game the umpire must be "on" for every second of game-play... no daydreaming, no slacking, no chit-chat with their peers.

But at 162 games for the regular Major League Baseball season, their work season is much longer than other professional sports.Plus, even more than in professional basketball, football or hockey, where there are more rules in place to protect the referees, in baseball umpires are more vulnerable to irate managers and players for perceived blown calls.

In fact, a baseball umpire's job is largely invisible until one of those perceived blown calls ... when the angry eyes of the manager, 25 players, 40,000 fans in the stadium, and millions of viewers at home are suddenly all on the ump.

Durwood Merrill, who retired in 1999, was a Major League baseball umpire for 23 seasons. He wrote a very funny book (any fan of baseball will enjoy it) called You're Out and You're Ugly, Too!: Confessions Of An Umpire With Attitude.

The following excerpt is from an interview with Durwood in the book, In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People, which is one of the most original and fascinating baseball books out there, focusing on the first-hand accounts of other characters in the game aside from the players including a beer vendor, a mascot, a scout, a clubhouse manager, and many others including... a baseball umpire:

The Excerpt from In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People

People think there is a lot more fighting in baseball today, but I think it's been magnified by television. If you check back to the old days, you'll find there were a lot of fights back then too.

Ty Cobb started more dang fights than you can shake a stick at. I can name a lot of other players that were brawlers too. Maybe guys charge the mound more often today, but otherwise I don't think it's much different. The league could stop them if they'd fine the players like they do in the NBA and hockey, where if you leave the bench, you're done for three days.

Baseball is the only sport that lets the managers or coaches go out onto the field and rant and rave... The rule book in baseball says you can't do it here either, but over the years the higher echelon has said, "The fans like it; it's good for the game. So let them go out and assault the umpire."

With any dispute, the first thing you do when the coach or manager is in your face is to try to level him down. I usually say, "I'm listening, I'm here. Why are you screaming? I'm right here."

If you can't gear him down, then you're going to have to eject him. As he long as he doesn't call me any direct names, I'll let him go on for a bit.

But when he starts saying you this and you that and starts attacking my character or manhood, then you have to run the guy. But as long as he's arguing the play, I'm going to listen. When he starts repeating himself, I'll say, "Now Skip, I've listened. You've made your point. I can't take the call back, and we've got to get going with the game. I'm going to walk over there, and you're going to go back to the dugout." If he follows me, there's a good chance I'll run him...

If I know I've blown a play, made a bad call, there's no use lying about it. If I don't have any doubt that I blew it, and the coach comes charging out, I might say, "Skip, I just kicked it." There's no use in me pretending I got it right. I told Lou Pinella in Seattle recently, after he came rushing out, "Lou, I missed that."

He said, "Are you bowing down?"

I said, "Yes sir."

"Well then, I'll accept that. I'm out of here."

They'll have more respect for you when you're honest about it. But if in my heart I think I got it right, I'll stand there like a British bulldog.