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In baseball, the umpire is the person charged with officiating the game, including beginning and ending the game, enforcing the rules of the game and the grounds, making judgment calls on plays, and handling the disciplinary actions. The term is often shortened to the colloquial form ump. They are also sometimes addressed as blue at lower levels due to the common color of the uniform worn by umpires. In professional baseball, the term "blue" is seldom used by players or managers, who instead call the umpire by his actual name in order to show respect (and to reflect the fact that MLB umpires do not always wear blue). Although games were often officiated by a sole umpire in the formative years of the sport, since the turn of the 20th century officiating has been commonly divided among several umpires, who form the umpiring crew.
In a game officiated by two or more umpires, the umpire in chief (or home-plate umpire) is the umpire who is in charge of the entire game. This umpire calls balls and strikes, calls fair balls and foul balls short of first/third base, and makes most calls concerning the batter or concerning baserunners near home plate. If another umpire leaves the infield to cover a potential play in foul ground or in the outfield, then the plate umpire may move to cover a potential play near second or third base. (The umpire-in-chief should not be confused with the crew chief, who is often a different umpire; see below.) In the event that an umpire is injured and only three remain, generally the second base position will be left vacant.
In nearly all levels of organized baseball, including the majors, an umpiring crew rotates so that each umpire in the crew works each position, including plate umpire, an equal number of games. In the earliest days of baseball, however, many senior umpires always worked the plate, with Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem being the last umpire to do so. Klem did so for the first 16 years of his career. On the Major League level, an umpiring crew generally rotates positions clockwise each game; for example, the plate umpire in one game would umpire third base in the next.
Other umpires are called base umpires and are commonly stationed near the bases. (Field umpire is a less-common term.) When two umpires are used, the second umpire is simply the base umpire. This umpire will make most calls concerning runners on the bases and nearby plays, as well as in the middle of the outfield. When three umpires are used, the second umpire is called the first-base umpire and the third umpire is called the third-base umpire, even though they may move to different positions on the field as the play demands. These two umpires also call checked swings, if asked by the plate umpire (often requested by catcher or defensive manager; however, only the plate umpire can authorize an appeal to the base umpire): the first base umpire for right-handed batters, and the third base umpire for left-handed batters; to indicate a checked swing, the umpire will make a "safe" gesture with his arms. To indicate a full swing, he will clench his fist.
When four umpires are used (as is the case for all regular season MLB games), each umpire is named for the base at which he is stationed. Sometimes a league will provide six umpires; the extra two are stationed along the outfield foul lines are called the left-field and right-field umpires (or simply outfield umpires).
Outfield umpires are used in major events, such as the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and depending on the level, at parts of post-season playoffs. For Major League Baseball, all playoff levels use six umpires, while at lower levels, six umpires are used at the championship games (such as NCAA). Rulings on catches of batted balls are usually made by the umpire closest to the play.
The term umpire-in-chief is not to be confused with the crew chief, who is usually the most experienced umpire in a crew. At the major-league and high minor-league (Class AAA and AA) levels, the crew chief acts as a liaison between the league office and the crew and has a supervisory role over other members of the crew.
For example, on the Major League level, "The Crew Chief shall coordinate and direct his crew's compliance with the Office of the Commissioner's rules and policies. Other Crew Chief responsibilities include: leading periodic discussions and reviews of situations, plays and rules with his crew; generally directing the work of the other umpires on the crew, with particular emphasis on uniformity in dealing with unique situations; assigning responsibilities for maintaining time limits during the game; ensuring the timely filing of all required crew reports for incidents such as ejections, brawls and protested games; and reporting to the Office of Commissioner any irregularity in field conditions at any ballpark." Thus, on the professional level, some of the duties assigned to the umpire-in-chief (the plate umpire) in the Official Baseball Rules have been reassigned to the crew chief, regardless of the crew chief's umpiring position during a specific game.
Unlike referees in American football, an umpire's judgment call is final, unless the umpire making the call chooses to ask his partner(s) for help and then decides to reverse it after the discussion. If an umpire seems to make an error in rule interpretation, his call, in some leagues, can be officially protested. If the umpire is persistent in his or her interpretation, the matter will be settled at a later time by a league official.
Since 28 August 2008, Major League Baseball has inserted the possibility of reviewing close calls on balls hit near the foul poles and the outfield fence, to decide whether a ball hit is fair/foul or to see if it hit the wall or if it hit the yellow line to make it a home run only. Since umpires are often more than 200 feet (61 m) away from the foul poles or the outfield fence while making a call, MLB saw instant replay as an appropriate way of helping umpires make correct calls on outfield balls. "I believe that the extraordinary technology that we now have merits the use of instant replay on a very limited basis", MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said. "The system we have in place will ensure that the proper call is made on home run balls and will not cause a significant delay to the game." It was first used on 3 September 2008, when New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hit a deep fly ball off Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Troy Percival right over the left field foul pole at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Coincidentally, the first official use of instant replay during the postseason came on a home run by Rodriguez in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. Replay was used to confirm that a to deep right field was a home run despite rebounding into the park. The ball was initially called a double, but replay showed the ball had hit the lens of a TV camera that stuck out just above the wall. As part of the new collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, replay can be expanded (with the approval of the umpires' union) to include fair/foul calls and whether a line drive or fly ball was trapped or caught.
In the early years of professional baseball, umpires were not engaged by the league but rather by agreement between the team captains. However, by the start of the modern era in 1901, this had become a league responsibility. There is now a unitary major league umpiring roster, although until the 1999 labour dispute that led to the decertification of the Major League Umpires Association, there were separate National and American League umpires. As a result of the 2000 collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the newly formed World Umpires Association, all umpires were placed on one roster and can work in either league.
An amateur umpire is an umpire who officiates non-professional or semi-professional baseball. Many amateur umpires are paid (typically on a per-game basis) and thus might be considered professionals, while some amateur umpires are unpaid. According to the Little League official website, umpires should be volunteers and not be paid.
There are numerous organizations that test or train anyone interested in umpiring for local leagues, and can help make connections to the leagues in the area. Little League and the Babe Ruth League are two of the most popular organizations when it comes to youth baseball, and each have their own application, test, and training process for becoming an umpire. In Canada many municipalities run their own amateur baseball leagues for children and hire umpires through an umpire-in-chief.
For the Little League World Series, amateur umpires from around the world participate on a volunteer basis. Prospective Little League World Series umpires must participate at various levels of Little League All-Star tournaments, ranging from district to state to regional tournaments, prior to being accepted to work the World Series tournament.
Becoming a Major League Baseball umpire requires rigorous training, and very few succeed. Provided the individual makes satisfactory progress throughout, it typically takes from 7–10 years to achieve MLB status. First, a person desiring to become a professional umpire must attend one of two private umpiring schools authorized by Major League Baseball: The Umpire School at Vero Beach or The Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School. Both schools are run by former Major League umpires and are located in Florida. There are no prerequisites for attending these schools, however, there is an Umpire Camp, run by Major League Baseball, that is generally considered a "tool for success" at either of these schools. These camps, offered as two separate one-week sessions, are held in November in Southern California. Top students at these camps are eligible to earn scholarships to either of the professional umpire schools in Florida.
After five weeks of training, each school sends its top students to the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation (PBUC) evaluation course also held in Florida. The actual number of students sent on to the evaluation course is determined by PBUC with input from the umpire schools. Generally, the top 10 to 20 percent of each school's graduating class will advance to the evaluation course. The evaluation course is conducted by PBUC staff, which differs in personnel from the staff at the respective umpire schools. The evaluation course generally lasts around 10 days. Depending on the number of available positions in the various minor leagues, some (but not all) of the evaluation course attendees will be assigned to a low level minor league. Out of approximately 300 original umpire school students, about 30-35 will ultimately be offered jobs in Minor League Baseball after the evaluation course.
Professional umpires begin their careers in one of the Rookie or Class "A" Short-Season leagues, with Class-A being divided into three levels (Short-Season, Long-Season and Advanced "A"). Top umpiring prospects will often begin their careers in a short-season "A" league (for example, the New York – Penn League), but most will begin in a rookie league (for example, the Gulf Coast League).
Throughout the season, all minor league umpires in Rookie leagues, Class-A, and Class-AA are evaluated by members of the PBUC staff. All umpires receive a detailed written evaluation of their performance after every season. In addition, all umpires (except those in the rookie or Short Season Class-A leagues) receive written mid-season evaluations.
Generally, an umpire is regarded as making adequate progress "up the ranks" if he advances up one level of Class "A" ball each year (thus earning promotion to Class AA after three to four years) and promotion to Class AAA after two to three years on the Class AA level. However, this is a very rough estimate and other factors not discussed (such as the number of retirements at higher levels) may dramatically affect these estimates. For example, many umpires saw rapid advancement in 1999 due to the mass resignation of many Major League umpires as a collective bargaining ploy.
When promoted to the Class AAA level, an umpire's evaluation will also be conducted by the umpiring supervisory staff of Major League Baseball. In recent years, top AAA prospects, in addition to umpiring and being evaluated during the regular season (in either the International or Pacific Coast League), have been required to umpire in the Arizona Fall League where they receive extensive training and evaluation by Major League Baseball staff.
In addition, top AAA prospects may also be rewarded with umpiring only Major League preseason games during spring training (in lieu of Class AAA games). Additionally, the very top prospects may umpire Major League regular season games on a limited basis as "fill-in" umpires (where the Class AAA umpire replaces a sick, injured or vacationing Major League umpire).
Finally, upon the retirement (or firing) of a Major League umpire, a top Class AAA umpire will be promoted to Major League Baseball's permanent umpire staff. During this entire process, if an umpire is evaluated as no longer being a major-league prospect, he will be released, ending his professional career. In all, PBUC estimates that it will take an umpire seven to eight years of professional umpiring before he will be considered for a major league position.
There are currently 70 umpires on Major League Baseball's permanent staff, and 22 Class AAA umpires eligible to umpire regular season Major League games as a "fill-in" umpire.
Major league umpires earn $100,000 to $300,000 per year depending on their experience, with a $357 per diem for hotel and meals. Minor league umpires earn between $1,800 to $3,400 per month during the season. The exact amount is based on the umpire's classification and experience.
The following nine umpires have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:
Like players, umpires are identified by a number on their uniform. National League umpires began wearing numbers in 1970 (though they were assigned numbers in the 1960s) and American League umpires were assigned and began wearing uniform numbers in 1980. The National League umpires' numbers were initially assigned in alphabetical order (Al Barlick wearing number 1, Ken Burkhart number 2, etc.) from 1970 to 1978, which meant that an umpire's number could change each year depending on retirements and other staff changes In 1979, the National League changed the numbering system and thereafter an number's umpire did not change from year to year. At first, as new umpires they would be assigned higher numbers (for example, in 1979, Dave Pallone, Steve Fields, Fred Brocklander, and Lanny Harris were assigned numbers 26 to 29 instead of available numbers between 1 and 25). The National League numbering practice changed again in the late 1980s, when new umpires were assigned previously used numbers (for example, in 1990 Ed Rapuano was assigned number 23, previously worn by Lee Weyer, and in 1991, Ángel Hernández was assigned number 5, previously worn by Bob Engel.
The American League's number assignments were largely random. Bill Haller, the senior American League umpire in 1980, wore number 1 until his retirement following the 1982 World Series, but the number was never reassigned.
In 2000, the American League and National League umpiring staffs were merged into a unified staff under the auspices of Major League Baseball, and all numbers were made available, including the numbers that had been retired by one of the leagues. (For example, the American League had retired Lou DiMuro's number 16 after his death, but it made available to his son, Mike after the staffs were unified.) In the event of duplications, the more senior umpire was given the first choice. (For example, Al Clark in the AL and Jerry Layne in the NL both wore the number 24, but because Clark had more seniority he was assigned 24 and Layne number 26. When Clark was relieved of his duties in 2000, Layne was able to obtain number 24.)
From time to time, Major League Baseball retires those numbers for umpires who have given outstanding service to the game, or in honor of umpires who have died.
Since unified umpiring crews were established in 2000, all numbers (except #42) are available to a Major League Baseball umpire, as each retired number was reserved per league. No umpire numbers have been retired since the current format was established.
(through end of 2007 season)
Careers beginning prior to 1920:
Careers beginning from 1920 to 1960:
Careers beginning since 1960:
Other noteworthy umpires have included:
These are the crews of umpires for the 2012 MLB season. Crews frequently change over the course of the year as umpires are sometimes detached from their crew (so they do not work in their home city with some exceptions, such as the opening of a new stadium), are on vacation, or are injured.
|Crew||Crew Chief||Umpire 2||Umpire 3||Umpire 4|
|Crew A||22 Joe West||34 Sam Holbrook||49 Andy Fletcher||30 Rob Drake|
|Crew B||24 Jerry Layne||61 Bob Davidson||21 Hunter Wendelstedt||2 Dan Bellino|
|Crew C||19 Ed Rapuano||55 Ángel Hernández||6 Mark Carlson||15 Ed Hickox|
|Crew D||38 Gary Cederstrom||25 Fieldin Culbreth||23 Lance Barksdale||80 Adrian Johnson|
|Crew E||3 Tim Welke||57 Mike Everitt||43 Paul Schrieber||63 Laz Diaz|
|Crew F||33 Mike Winters||35 Wally Bell||47 Mark Wegner||91 Brian Knight|
|Crew G||20 Tom Hallion||7 Brian O'Nora||72 Alfonso Márquez||75 Chad Fairchild|
|Crew H||9 Brian Gorman||27 Larry Vanover||11 Tony Randazzo||97 Todd Tichenor|
|Crew I||36 Tim McClelland||65 Ted Barrett||18 Brian Runge||51 Marvin Hudson|
|Crew J||32 Dana DeMuth||44 Kerwin Danley||88 Doug Eddings||39 Paul Nauert|
|Crew K||13 Derryl Cousins||66 Jim Joyce||46 Ron Kulpa||28 Jim Wolf|
|Crew L||4 Tim Tschida||45 Jeff Nelson||52 Bill Welke||68 Chris Guccione|
|Crew M||12 Gerry Davis||53 Greg Gibson||1 Bruce Dreckman||10 Phil Cuzzi|
|Crew N||17 John Hirschbeck||77 Jim Reynolds||16 Mike DiMuro||92 James Hoye|
|Crew O||5 Dale Scott||14 Bill Miller||54 C. B. Bucknor||58 Dan Iassogna|
|Crew P||37 Gary Darling||41 Jerry Meals||50 Paul Emmel||87 Scott Barry|
|Crew Q||8 Jeff Kellogg||56 Eric Cooper||60 Marty Foster||95 Tim Timmons|
According to the Middle English Dictionary entry for noumpere, the predecessor of umpire, came from the Old French nonper (from non, "not" + per, "equal"), meaning "one who is requested to act as arbiter of a dispute between two people", or that the arbiter is not paired with anyone in the dispute.
In Middle English, the earliest form of this shows up as noumper around 1350, and the earliest version without the n shows up as owmpere, a variant spelling in Middle English, circa 1440.
The n was lost after it was written (in 1426-1427) as a noounpier with the a being the indefinite article. The leading n became attached to the article, changing it to an Oumper around 1475; this sort of linguistic shift is called juncture loss. Thus today we say "an umpire" instead of "a numpire."
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