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, and its own colorful vocabulary.
©2009 Bruce Weber; (P)2009 Phoenix Books
With close to forty years of umpiring experience on the junior level I wanted to know more about what it took to be a professional at the highest level. Not sure I could have made the commitment. Anyone who loves the game will enjoy seeing it from behind the mask.
Bruce Weber has written an entertaining, informative, and insightful book in "As They See 'Em." It is written well, filled with anecdotes, and wonderfully read by Charley Steiner.
This book provides a real education for the bleecher bums out there as well as those with little interest in baseball. For those with other interest, there are wonderful lessons on leadership, perception, geometry, history, negotiation, preparation, computer simulation and learning, contract negotiations, and about everything else necessary to the care and feeding of umps - volunteer and professional, little league, college, AA, AAA, and professional.
The game will never be the same for me and I'll watch it with different eyes. If in doubt, take this one out - for a listen.
Literary graduate and published columnist turned glorified grease monkey.
Not enough has been said on this topic in the past. And everything that has been said has been from the outside looking in. Weber committed fully to this issue by becoming an umpire to give us another perspective. And it worked brilliantly.
Being Australian, I'm not a huge Baseball fan. But I am a fan of sports journalism and this story uncovers a thousand misconceptions. In doing so, it also illustrates a thousand paradoxes. Umpires are the most important people on the field but they are paid the least. They have the most important job on the field but they are the least respected, etc.
Not just thoroughly researched, but lived... This story is brilliant. Very well written as expected from a New York Times journalist. Funny, insightful, clever, enlightening. Very, very well done.
The only negative, is the narrator. I believe he was chosen because his "all-American passtime" voice represents baseball. But his speech is slurred and the page turning is very annoying. However, he did provide the narration with good character.
This is a must read for any fan of Sports, or journalism, or both.
Both veteran umpires and casual baseball fans alike will find much of interest in this book. It's well written, thoroughly researched, and the narration is perfect (it's always better when they get people involved in the subject to read – Charley Steiner is a veteran baseball broadcaster – rather than one of all those bland, dry "professional narrators"!). If you like baseball, even if you don't consider yourself a fan of the umpires, you will enjoy this book.
Bruce Weber does a great job at humanizing the most hated men in baseball and was very fair to them. The reality that these men are working as hard as any ballplayer and do so in order to not make the career-ending mistake shows that it is part ego and part fear and gives a depth to the umpires that you won't ever catch by just watching them hammer strikes and outs.
It's not really a character book. There are talks with several umpires through some turbulent times that are painfully honest.
Listening to Charley Steiner is like watching a great baseball game on a lazy Sunday afternoon where you don't want it to ever end because of how much you are enjoying it.
The argument at the end of the umpire school, where both the author and the teacher, while acting, lose themselves in the performance and show great emotion that is only shown in moments of great stress and anger. It's so easy to fall into this situation which is a great warning to those who do umpire to always make sure to keep one's emotions in check.
Weber tells a great story that conveys the story that one should not complain about the officiating unless they have walked a mile in their shoes. Kudos to Bruce for doing so and I appreciate the new appreciation he has for umpires and the job they do.
If you like this, please also get "The Men in Blue: Interviews with Umpires" by Larry Gerlack. That is the best umpire audiobook currently available.
A cool look I tot the lives of mlb umpires, protectors of the integrity of the game. It's a good bit of information delivered by a reporter in newspaper fashion. I liked learning about their training. I am disappointed to learn there is so much animosity between mlb, players, managers, and umpires. Performance is pretty dry.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Bruce Weber creates a Plimpton’ like book about baseball umpires in "As They See ‘Em". True to Plimpton’s modus vivendi, Weber (nearing 50 years of age) goes to umpire school to conduct research on what baseball fans might call a dismal science.
In the end, one wonders why anyone would want to become a baseball umpire. If you reach the “bigs”, your income averages $200,000 a year. Not bad for a season’s work, but plan on ten years of wages that will not support a family. If you make it, you are among the elite of the elite but Weber tells two stories that show how rabid fans are capable of threatening your life and your family. Add disrespect shown by baseball managers, writers, commentators, and the general public, and it makes more sense to go to jail for ten years and be vilified as a convict than try to become an umpire.
Weber completes his book like Plimpton did when he entered the boxing ring with Joe Louis. He umpires a pre-season game. Weber explains the fear and thrill of calling a professional baseball player’s game. Umpires are gods of the game. The power of an umpire to control a game is revealed. Power is tempered by fear; i.e. mistakes made by not really seeing a play but having to make a decision. Weber explains how the strike zone is a myth and comes down to an umpire’s judgment more than a definitive description.
If one is an occasional, or fanatic baseball fan, "As They See ‘Em" is an eye-opening entertainment; well written, and nicely narrated. It is a must read for anyone seriously considering a career as a baseball umpire.
High school history and psychology teacher and coach
The author made me rethink not just how I view the umpires (and, as he points out, when they are succeeding, we don't view them at all), but how I view baseball. Lots of insight on topics you just don't really think about, like what exactly this mythical beast known as a "strike zone" is, or the labor issues these guys have had to deal with, or how a call that appears on replay to have been blown is sometimes, in protecting the game's integrity, the right call.
The umpires come out of this as larger-than-life characters, and they're almost all likeable.
Steiner didn't do impressions, but his voice fits with what umpires should sound like: naturally jocular, middle-American guys with big voices who can convey authority and gravitas between the lines.
It drags a bit when the author describes the process of making an umpire: schooling, minor-league assignment, and the slow slog to the top. But it's worth getting over that early hump.
As someone who has played, watched, and coached baseball, I got a new perspective on a thing I've seen thousands of from many different angles: a baseball game. How many books can deliver that?
As the other reviewers, although maybe because the narrator is just way too fortissimo. If he had read the book in a normal tone, it might have come off differently.
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