All About Baseball


Home plate umpire Gary Darling signals that the last pitch was a strike
Home plate umpire Gary Darling signals that the last pitch was a strike

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 meting out discipline. The term is often shortened to the colloquial form ump. They are also addressed as blue due to the color of the uniform some umpires wear. (It should be noted that on the professional level, umpires generally disdain being called "blue", preferring instead to be called by their name.) Although games were often officiated by a sole umpire in the formative years of the sport, from the turn of the 20th century onward officiating has been commonly divided among several umpires, who form the umpiring crew.



Duties and positions

In a baseball game officiated by two or more umpires, the plate umpire is the umpire who is positioned behind home plate. 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 plate umpire is often mistakenly called the "umpire-in-chief(UIC)". This term refers to the head umpire on the field. In most leagues, the UIC is the plate umpire, in higher levels or playoff tournaments where 3 or more officials are used, however, the UIC is not always the plate umpire. Traditionally, an umpiring crew rotates such that each umpire in the crew works each position, including umpire-in-chief, an equal number of games. 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.

The other umpires are called base umpires, as they are commonly stationed near the bases. (Field umpire is an incorrect term for any position.) 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 the various umpires may move to different positions on the field as the play demands. When four umpires are used, each umpire is named after the base they are stationed near. Sometimes a league will provide six umpires; then, two are stationed in the outfield and then may be called outfield umpires. In Major League Baseball, outfield umpires are only used during the playoffs and the All-Star Game, when they are stationed in foul territory on both sides, and are thus known as the left- and right-field umpires. 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 umpiring crew chief or crew chief, who is usually the most experienced umpire in a crew. On the major league and high minor league level (Class AA and AAA), 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, "[t]he 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." [1] 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.

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. Such protests are seldom upheld; indeed, in most cases of protest, the umpire's interpretation is found to be correct.

Amateur Umpiring

Just as kids play little league before progressing into a more competitive style of baseball, the best place for new umpires to get experience is at the local level. Almost every league in every city will use amateur umpires to call games. The only difference between an amateur and professional umpire is the level of play. An amateur umpire should carry the same amount of respect for the game as that of a professional umpire. Umpires are responsible for ensuring that all players, coaches, and fans conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner, and that the game is played so that the focus is on playing, rather than on personal matters or "bad blood" between opposing teams. Each umpire has the authority to eject any player, spectator, or coach from the premises in order to insure the integrity of the game. There are numerous organizations that train/test anyone interested in umpiring for local leagues and can help make connections to the leagues in the area. Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball 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.

Little League Baseball:

Babe Ruth Baseball:

Amateur Baseball Umpires Association:

Professional umpiring

Becoming a Major League Baseball (United States) umpire is a long and tough road, with very long odds of success. First, a person desiring to become a professional umpire must attend one of two private umpiring schools authorized by Major League Baseball: The Jim Evans Umpire Academy or The Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School. Both schools are run by former Major League umpires and are located in Florida. There is no prerequisite for attending these schools; it is said that the teachers even prefer unexperience players that they might start their training afresh.

After five weeks of training, each school sends its top students to the Professional Baseball Umpires Corp. (PBUC) evaluation course also held in Florida. The actual number of students sent on to the evaluation course is determined by PBUC and not the umpire schools. Generally, the top 10 to 20 percent of each school's graduating class advance. 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, so many (but not all) of the evaluation course attendees will be assigned to a low level minor league.

Professional umpires begin their careers in a Class "A" league, which is divided into four levels (rookie, 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 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 "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 a lack of or overwhelming 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 pre-season games during spring training (in lieu of Class AAA games). Finally, 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 of a Major League umpire, a top Class AAA umpire will be promoted to Major League Baseball's permanent umpire staff. It should be noted, that during this entire process, if an umpire is evaluated as no longer being a major-league prospect, he (or she) will be released, ending their professional career.

There are currently (in 2005) 68 umpires on Major League Baseball's permanent staff, and 21 Class AAA umpires eligible to umpire regular season Major League games as a "fill-in" umpire. [2]

Major League umpires earn $100,000 to $300,000 per year depending on their experience. Minor league umpires earn a drastically lower salary.

Famous umpires

Umpires are eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame for their careers, and eight umpires have been thus inducted:

Other noteworthy umpires have included:

For other umpires, see Category:Baseball umpires and List of baseball umpires

Origin of the word "umpire"

"Kill the ump" might have been "kill the nump," but a linguistic process known as false splitting or juncture loss intervened.

According to the Middle English Dictionary entry for noumpere, the predecessor of umpire, which 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"--meaning 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. Thus today we say "an umpire" instead of "a numpire."

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