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

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Millions of American baseball fans know, with absolute certainty, that umpires are simply overpaid galoots who are doing an easy job badly. Millions of American baseball fans are wrong.

As They See 'Em is an insider's look at the largely unknown world of professional umpires, the small group of men (and the very occasional woman) who make sure America's favorite pastime is conducted in a manner that is clean, crisp, and true. Bruce Weber, a New York Times reporter, not only interviewed dozens of professional umpires but entered their world, trained to become an umpire, and then spent a season working games from Little League to big league spring training.

As They See 'Em is Weber's entertaining account of this experience as well as a lively exploration of what amounts to an eccentric secret society, with its own customs, its own rituals, its own colorful vocabulary. (Know what a "whacker" is? A "pole bender"? "Rat cheese"? Think you could "strap it on" or "take the stick"?) He explains the arcane set of rules by which umps work and details the exasperating, tortuous path that allows only a select few to graduate from the minor leagues to the majors. He describes what it's like to work in a ballpark where not only the fans but the players, the managers and coaches, the announcers, the team owners, and even the league presidents, resent them -- and vice versa. And he asks, quite sensibly, why anyone would do a job that offers the chance to earn only blame and never credit.

Weber reveals how umps are tutored to work behind the plate, what they learn to watch for on the bases, and how proper positioning for every imaginable situation on the field is drilled into them. He describes how they're counseled to respond -- or not -- to managers who are screaming at them from inches away with purposeful inanity, and tells us exactly which "magic" words result in an automatic ejection. Writing with deep knowledge of and affection for baseball, he delves into such questions as: Why isn't every strike created equal? Is the ump part of the game or outside of it? Why doesn't a tie go to the runner? And what do umps and managers say to each other during an argument, really?

In addition to professional umpires, Weber spoke to current and former players including Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Tom Glavine, Barry Zito, Paul Lo Duca, Kenny Lofton, Ron Darling, and Robin Yount, as well as former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, and many others in the professional game. He attended the 2006 and 2007 World Series, interviewing the umpire crews who called those games and who spoke candidly about the pressure of being scrutinized by millions -- maybe billions! -- of fans around the world, all of them armed with television's slo-mo, hi-def instant replay. As fans know, in 2008, a rash of miscalled home run balls led baseball, for the first time, to use replay to help big league umps make their decisions.Weber discusses these events and the umpires' surprising reaction to them.

Packed with fascinating reportage that reveals the game as never before and answers the kinds of questions that fans, exasperated by the clichés of conventional sports commentary, pose to themselves around the television set, Bruce Weber's As They See 'Em is a towering grand slam.
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About the author

Bruce Weber, a reporter for The New York Times, began his career in publishing as a fiction editor at Esquire. He has written for numerous publications and is the author of the New York Times bestseller As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires, coauthor (with Savion Glover) of Savion! My Life in Tap, and the editor of Look Who’s Talking: An Anthology of Voices in the Modern American Short Story.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Mar 17, 2009
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781416545385
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Sports & Recreation / Baseball / General
Sports & Recreation / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Bruce Weber
Life Is a Wheel chronicles the cross-country bicycle trip Bruce Weber made at the age of fifty-seven, an “entertaining travel story filled with insightful thoughts about life, family, and aging” (The Associated Press).

During the summer and fall of 2011, Bruce Weber, an obituary writer for The New York Times, bicycled across the country, alone, and wrote about it as it unfolded. Life Is a Wheel is the witty, inspiring, and reflective diary of his journey, in which the challenges and rewards of self-reliance and strenuous physical effort yield wry and incisive observations about cycling and America, not to mention the pleasures of a three-thousand-calorie breakfast.

The story begins on the Oregon coast, with Weber wondering what he’s gotten himself into, and ends in triumph on New York City’s George Washington Bridge. From Going-to-the-Sun Road in the northern Rockies to the headwaters of the Mississippi and through the cityscapes of Chicago and Pittsburgh, his encounters with people and places provide us with an intimate, two-wheeled perspective of America. And with thousands of miles to travel, Weber considers his past, his family, and the echo that a well-lived life leaves behind.

Part travelogue, part memoir, part romance, part paean to the bicycle—and part bemused and panicky account of a middle-aged man’s attempt to stave off, well, you know—Life Is a Wheel is “a book for cyclists, and for anyone who has ever dreamed of such transcontinental travels. But it also should prove enlightening, soul-stirring, even, to those who don’t care a whit about bikes but who care about the way people connect” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Terry Francona
From 2004 to 2011, Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox, perhaps the most scrutinized team in all of sports. During that time, every home game was a sellout. Every play, call, word, gesture—on the field and off—was analyzed by thousands. And every decision was either genius, or disastrous. In those eight years, the Red Sox were transformed from a cursed franchise to one of the most successful and profitable in baseball history—only to fall back to last place as soon as Francona was gone. Now, in Francona: The Red Sox Years, the decorated manager opens up for the first time about his tenure in Boston, unspooling the narrative of how this world-class organization reached such incredible highs and dipped to equally incredible lows. But through it all, there was always baseball, that beautiful game of which Francona never lost sight.

As no book has ever quite done before, Francona escorts readers into the rarefied world of a twenty-first-century clubhouse, revealing the mercurial dynamic of the national pastime from the inside out. From his unique vantage point, Francona chronicles an epic era, from 2004, his first year as the Sox skipper, when they won their first championship in 86 years, through another win in 2007, to the controversial September collapse just four years later. He recounts the tightrope walk of managing unpredictable personalities such as Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez and working with Theo Epstein, the general managing phenom, and his statistics-driven executives. It was a job that meant balancing their voluminous data with the emotions of a 25-man roster. It was a job that also meant trying to meet the expectations of three owners with often wildly differing opinions. Along the way, readers are treated to never-before-told stories about their favorite players, moments, losses, and wins.

Ultimately, when for the Red Sox it became less about winning and more about making money, Francona contends they lost their way. But it was an unforgettable, endlessly entertaining, and instructive time in baseball history, one that is documented and celebrated in Francona, a book that examines like no other the art of managing in today’s game.
Mariano Rivera
The greatest relief pitcher of all time shares his extraordinary story of survival, love, and baseball.

Mariano Rivera, the man who intimidated thousands of batters merely by opening a bullpen door, began his incredible journey as the son of a poor Panamanian fisherman. When first scouted by the Yankees, he didn't even own his own glove. He thought he might make a good mechanic. When discovered, he had never flown in an airplane, had never heard of Babe Ruth, spoke no English, and couldn't imagine Tampa, the city where he was headed to begin a career that would become one of baseball's most iconic. What he did know: that he loved his family and his then girlfriend, Clara, that he could trust in the Lord to guide him, and that he could throw a baseball exactly where he wanted to, every time.

With astonishing candor, Rivera tells the story of the championships, the bosses (including The Boss), the rivalries, and the struggles of being a Latino baseball player in the United States and of maintaining Christian values in professional athletics. The thirteen-time All-Star discusses his drive to win; the secrets behind his legendary composure; the story of how he discovered his cut fastball; the untold, pitch-by-pitch account of the ninth inning of Game 7 in the 2001 World Series; and why the lowest moment of his career became one of his greatest blessings.

In The Closer, Rivera takes readers into the Yankee clubhouse, where his teammates are his brothers. But he also takes us on that jog from the bullpen to the mound, where the game -- or the season -- rests squarely on his shoulders. We come to understand the laserlike focus that is his hallmark, and how his faith and his family kept his feet firmly on the pitching rubber. Many of the tools he used so consistently and gracefully came from what was inside him for a very long time -- his deep passion for life; his enduring commitment to Clara, whom he met in kindergarten; and his innate sense for getting out of a jam.

When Rivera retired, the whole world watched -- and cheered. In The Closer, we come to an even greater appreciation of a legend built from the ground up.
Bruce Weber
Life Is a Wheel chronicles the cross-country bicycle trip Bruce Weber made at the age of fifty-seven, an “entertaining travel story filled with insightful thoughts about life, family, and aging” (The Associated Press).

During the summer and fall of 2011, Bruce Weber, an obituary writer for The New York Times, bicycled across the country, alone, and wrote about it as it unfolded. Life Is a Wheel is the witty, inspiring, and reflective diary of his journey, in which the challenges and rewards of self-reliance and strenuous physical effort yield wry and incisive observations about cycling and America, not to mention the pleasures of a three-thousand-calorie breakfast.

The story begins on the Oregon coast, with Weber wondering what he’s gotten himself into, and ends in triumph on New York City’s George Washington Bridge. From Going-to-the-Sun Road in the northern Rockies to the headwaters of the Mississippi and through the cityscapes of Chicago and Pittsburgh, his encounters with people and places provide us with an intimate, two-wheeled perspective of America. And with thousands of miles to travel, Weber considers his past, his family, and the echo that a well-lived life leaves behind.

Part travelogue, part memoir, part romance, part paean to the bicycle—and part bemused and panicky account of a middle-aged man’s attempt to stave off, well, you know—Life Is a Wheel is “a book for cyclists, and for anyone who has ever dreamed of such transcontinental travels. But it also should prove enlightening, soul-stirring, even, to those who don’t care a whit about bikes but who care about the way people connect” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
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