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So May I Introduce to You ...

So May I Introduce to You ...

I’m writing my first article in eleven years for anyone other than Officiating.com. Naturally that’s a bit unnerving. You see, I know the demographics of my readers at Offcom. But here at Umpire-Empire .... Yes, I admit it: I stole the title from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m not “the one and only Billy Shears,” though. I’m Carl Childress. I also admit: My appreciation of popular music mostly ended when they broke up.

One of my favorite films is Yankee Doodle Dandy staring James Cagney. I hear a ripple around the ‘Net. “James who?” At one point, Mary, a budding young dancer, demonstrates a short series of dance steps for Mr. Cagney. His reply: “That’s pretty old stuff.” She says: “Well, look at this.” She does another short routine. Mr. Cagney: “You don’t want to be too original, either.”

I’ve promised our Webmaster that in my articles I would walk a line between the old and the new. Straight down the middle. That’s my plan, anyway.

My wife, an associate editor at Officiating.com, read my original draft and asked: “What’s it all about, Papa? Shouldn’t you explain the main idea? As it is, it just sounds like a postcard from you to yourself.”

She was right, of course. Yesterday in the Forum I announced I’m launching a new website – to sell books. Veteran (older?) umpires recognize my name right away. But the new, young Turks may not know who I am. Main idea: Look on this, then, as a job interview, my answer to your question: “Why should I read the books you write?”

Mama says people like lists. Here’s my list of four bullets that will explain.

Bullet 1. In 1984, I replaced the late Harry Wendelstedt as the “Doing It” columnist for Referee Magazine. Now, Hunter Wendelstedt, his son, is the official interpreter of OBR rules for the BRD. How’s that for an ironic circle!

Bullet 2. I named the positions where umpires stand on the diamond. Since I’m not interested in reinventing the ball/strike indicator, allow me to quote from the Baseball Umpires Encyclopedia, my book available from Amazon.com. Hey, it’s my article. Right? (small grin)

Back in 1979 the late Bob Oaks, owner of the Texaco Distributorship in Edinburg, Texas, and president of the local PONY League, asked me to train his umpires. We met at the Mustang Park just across the street from my house. While I tried to explain where an umpire stands with nobody on, I referred to Position 1. That didn’t work, so I renamed it Position A.

The rest is history.

The next year I became the trainer for our high school association, and I used the terminology. The Texas State Umpires Association (SBUA) borrowed it for their manual, first published in 1984. When the National Federation bought the rights to the SBUA mechanics in the early 90s, my names for the positions spread all across baseball America.

Of course, we had been using that terminology at Referee since I joined them as a Contributing Editor in March 1982, so our subscribers were not surprised or confused. It’s such a little thing, really, yet it has no doubt eased the training of thousands of amateur umpires.

Bullet 3. When I started reading Referee, the baseball pages covered high school and pro rules. In March 1978, Referee Magazine published a list of 38 differences between “Federation” and “Professional.” That got me to thinking. Where’s the stuff about college baseball?

In the spring of 1982, while I was working on the first draft of the BRD, I was also working a full schedule of NCAA D1 games. I decided my comparison should include college rules. I began flooding Tom Hammill, the editor, with scores of NCAA plays and interpretations. Referee published my first, shortened version of the differences between NCAA and PRO in March 1983.

In March 1984, Tom placed the following “ad”:

If you are interested in serious study of the rule differences between the Federation-pro-NCAA books, Carl Childress, Referee’s “Doing It” columnist, has compiled an extensive 40+ pages of material which you will find invaluable. Carl offers a summary of the rule differences plus a more detailed comparison of those variations.

So, the main idea of this third bullet is: I introduced NCAA rules to the baseball pages of Referee.

Bullet 4. There’s a final bullet. The BRD didn’t appear full-blown. It evolved. I taught in college for 10 years, and the title of my pamphlet reflected my academic background: The Rules of Baseball: A Comparison. Scott Ehret, now of Gerry Davis Sports but an Associate Editor at Referee then, renamed the book Baseball Rule Differences in 1992. It’s been the BRD ever since.

It has also continued to grow, often through the suggestions of umpires who said: “Hey, Carl, you forgot to include ....”

One fact is undeniable: Referee began it, the internet message boards continued it, and the BRD over the years has chronicled it. I’m talking about the steady climb toward consensus of how baseball rules should be applied. When I started out, the umpires in adjoining towns might have widely differing opinions of what constituted a balk. Or interference. Or, most divisive of all, obstruction.

To put it bluntly: You young guy have no idea how dangerous it was to call games just 50 miles from home.

In the summer of 1956, I worked the plate in a game sanctioned by the National Baseball Congress and played in Wharton, Texas. My partner was a grizzled veteran from Houston; I was a 19-year-old college kid from Ganado. (Look it up if you’re interested.)

Play: OBR rules. R1 stealing. B1 swings and steps completely outside the batter’s box and in front of the catcher, who cannot make a throw. I point at the batter and scream: “That’s batter interference!”

I hear an immediate bellow: “The hell it is! The hell it is!!

I instinctively look toward the offensive team’s dugout, then realize the person yelling was my partner! Life, my friends, was different in the old days.

Another Beatle lyric comes to mind: “We can work it out.” We didn’t, though. The batter remained out and the runner returned to first, but the “grizzled veteran” never spoke to me again.

*** The above article is property of Carl Childress and used at Umpire-Empire.com with permission ***