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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 due to the common color of the uniform worn by umpires. Many professional umpires consider being called "blue" disrespectful, and prefer to be addressed by their names instead. 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 game officiated by two or more umpires, the umpire in chief 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 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): 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). In Major League Baseball, outfield umpires are only used during the All-Star Game, the post-season playoffs and World Series, and any one-game playoffs that may be necessary. Rulings on catches of batted balls are usually made by the umpire closest to the play.

Crew Chief

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) level, 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.

Judgment calls

Unlike referee 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 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 Fieldmarker in St. Petersburg, Florida.

On June 26, 2009, Gary Cederstrom provided the following statement regarding instant replay:

During Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, TV replay was officially used to confirm that a ball struck by Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez into deep right field was a home run despite rebounding into the park. The ball hit the lens of a TV camera just above the wall.

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, though until the start of the 21st century, there were separate American League and National League rosters.

Amateur umpiring

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 Baseball/Softball rule book, 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.

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.

Umpire training and career development

Becoming a Major League Baseball umpire is a long and tough road, with very low odds of success. Provided the individual makes satisfactory progress throughout, it typically takes from 7-8 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 Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring or The Harry Wendelstedt Umpire Schoolmarker. Both schools are run by former Major League umpires and are located in Floridamarker. 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. [55696]

After five weeks of training, each school sends its top students to the Professional Baseball Umpires Corp. (PBUC) evaluation course also held in Florida. [55697] The actual number of students sent on to the evaluation course is determined by PBUC with input from the umpire schools. [55698] Generally, the top 10 to 20 percent of each school's graduating class 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. [55699] 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.

Professional umpires begin their careers in one of the Class "A" leagues, which are divided into four levels (rookie, short-season, long-season and advanced "A"). [55700] 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 Appalachian League).

Throughout the season all minor league umpires in Class A and Class AA are evaluated by members of the PBUC staff. [55701] All umpires receive a detailed written evaluation of their performance after every season. [55702] In addition, all umpires, except those in the rookie or short "A" leagues, receive written mid-season evaluations. [55703]

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). 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 (or she) 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.[55704]

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. [55705]

Major league umpires earn $100,000 to $300,000 per year depending on their experience, with a $357 per diem for hotel and meals. [55706] 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. [55707]

Famous umpires

Hall of Fame

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

Numbers Retired by Individual Leagues

Like players, umpires are identified by a number on their uniform.

Major League Baseball, from time to time retires those numbers for umpires who have given outstanding service to the game, or in honor of umpires who have died. [55708]

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 umpires have had a retired number since the current format was established.

Longest major league careers

Most games

(through end of 2007 season)

Most seasons

Careers beginning prior to 1920:

Careers beginning from 1920 to 1960:

Careers beginning since 1960:


Other noteworthy umpires have included:

Umpire Families

AL Umpire Ed Runge-Father of NL Umpire Paul Runge and grandfather of current MLB umpire Brian Runge

AL umpire Lou DiMuro-Father of current MLB umpire Mike DiMuro

NL Umpire Harry Wendelstedt-Father of current MLB umpire Hunter Wendelstedt

Brothers Mark Hirschbeck and John Hirschbeck

Brothers Tim Welke and Bill Welke

Father Shag Crawford and son Jerry Crawford

NL Umpire Tom Gorman Father of current MLB umpire Brian Gorman

2009 umpiring crews

These are the crews of umpires for the 2009 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), are on vacation, or are injured.

Crew Crew Chief Umpire 2 Umpire 3 Umpire 4
Crew A 17 John Hirschbeck 35 Wally Bell 60 Marty Foster 51 Marvin Hudson
Crew B 5 Dale Scott 41 Jerry Meals 46 Ron Kulpa 16 Mike DiMuro
Crew C 4 Tim Tschida 61 Bob Davidson 45 Jeff Nelson 48 Mark Carlson
Crew D 38 Gary Cederstrom 7 Brian O'Nora 25 Fieldin Culbreth 78 Jim Wolf
Crew E 3 Tim Welke 55 Ángel Hernández 77 Jim Reynolds 52 Bill Welke
Crew F 37 Gary Darling 29 Bill Hohn 1 Bruce Dreckman 50 Paul Emmel
Crew G 18 Charlie Reliford 27 Larry Vanover 34 Sam Holbrook 58 Dan Iassogna
Crew H 22 Joe West 19 Ed Rapuano 43 Paul Schrieber 96 Paul Nauert
Crew I 23 Rick Reed 8 Jeff Kellogg 47 Mark Wegner 95 Tim Timmons
Crew J 32 Dana DeMuth 44 Kerwin Danley 88 Doug Eddings 21 Hunter Wendelstedt
Crew K 11 Ed Montague 24 Jerry Layne 59 Tony Randazzo 68 Chris Guccione
Crew L 12 Gerry Davis 9 Brian Gorman 54 CB Bucknor 57 Mike Everitt
Crew M 2 Jerry Crawford 20 Tom Hallion 10 Phil Cuzzi 15 Ed Hickox
Crew N 36 Tim McClelland 65 Ted Barrett 53 Greg Gibson 49 Andy Fletcher
Crew O 13 Derryl Cousins 66 Jim Joyce 26 Bill Miller 71 Brian Runge
Crew P 30 Randy Marsh 33 Mike Winters 72 Alfonso Marquez 67 Lance Barksdale
Crew Q 31 Mike Reilly 14 Chuck Meriwether 36 Eric Cooper 63 Laz Díaz

Origin of the word "umpire"

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."

See also


  1. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber
  2. The Official Site of Major League Baseball: Official info: Umpires: Crews

External links

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