70 internautes sur 72 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
For starters, I have personally never before issued a five-star rating to a non-fiction work, saving those for the Grishams and Browns of the literary world (pedestrian, I realize). I could not, however, pass up the opportunity to do so on this occasion.
As a typical fan, there is only so much that I care to know about the umpires' side of the baseball equation (just as Weber depicts in the book). Thus, it was with a bit of hesitation that I ordered this volume.
I had to take a deep breath when, early on, Weber delved into the history of umpiring and even the origin of the word. I was thinking "boy, this is not going to go well." I am happy to report that, due to Weber's research and writing style, I not only survived the history lesson but thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
Weber grabbed me right from the opening pages, taking a mundane topic (the umpire's cap), and turning it into an enjoyable narrative delivered in an amusing and colorful way. Already, I loved this guy's humor and repeated self-flagellation.
Throughout the book, Weber shares stories of all levels of umpires and the job itself. While it is clear that he respects the job that umpires do and, in most cases, the umpires themselves, this is not a gushing, starry-eyed love story. The reader is treated to warts and all.
Especially interesting to me, having never thought about it or been aware of it, is the consistently contentious relationship between the umpires and management, be it in the majors or throughout the minor league system. As a diehard fan, I cannot imagine myself ever feeling sympathetic towards the umps, but I am so glad that I now know more about how they got to where they are, and some of the things that they have to deal with it that most of us don't see. Much to my chagrin, I do now have more appreciation for those who survived "chasing the dream" (schooling and the minors) and are now in the bigs. While the job looks easy from the stands and the couch, I now know that I could not and would not have survived the life.
Weber also does a fine job illustrating how umpires go about their responsibilities on the field, posing great questions that made me stop and think about all the games I've attended. Frankly, I was shocked at the number of variables mentioned that I had never before picked up on.
Having read this book, I am looking forward to the start of the season even more, and plan to pay significantly more attention to what the umpires do and how they go about their business.
Oh, want to be humbled? Weber points out some inconsistencies in the rulebook and some rules that I have to believe most fans are entirely unaware of. In fact, on two occasions my eyes opened so wide that I put the book down and checked the rules myself, so as to ensure that Weber had not taken a few too many foul balls to the temple during his time at umpiring school.
I had not heard of Weber before reading this book, but he has me hooked. His writing style makes for such an enjoyable read. It was not so much that I could not put it down, but it was so enjoyable to read that before I knew it hours and chapters had passed.
23 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Gary M. Olson
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I have followed baseball closely for over five decades, yet, paradoxically, have never particularly thought about the umpires. They are just there, more or less invisible until they make a controversial call. Yes, I've enjoyed the varied styles of plate umpires and how they call strikes. But it's never crossed my mind how incredibly difficult and technical their jobs are.
Weber does a magnificent job of explicating the details of the umpire's job. I guess I understood the principle that being in the right position to make a call is crucial, but I've never worked through the details of how the right position is determined, and how the umpiring crew (anywhere from 2 to 6, depending on the level of the teams and the time of year) coordinates all of this. It comes across in Weber's account as almost like a dance as the umpires rotate into position to cover the various contingencies based on the game circumstance (runners, number of outs) and, crucially, where the ball is hit. In the era of slow-mo instant replay, it's all the more incredible to me how often the umpires get their calls right. Yes, there are famous gaffes (e.g., Denkinger's call in game 6 of the 85 World Series between the Cardinals and Royals). But under a kind of scrutiny that I don't think any of the rest of us could endure, they are mostly right, even in the toughest of situations.
I also had not understood very well the path from minor league to major league umpiring. It's a long and frustrating path, and there are only a tiny number who make it. Attending umpire school is almost mandatory (and Weber goes to school, and gives us a great account). It takes on the order of a decade in the minor leagues to even get a chance, and even then, few are chosen. While currently the pay for major league umpires is pretty good (six figures, with $400,000 range for the most senior), the pay and benefits in the minor leagues are incredibly poor. Yet hundreds of eager candidates endure the low pay, the poor food and lodging, the amazingly long drives, to pursue the chance. As a baseball fan, I'm glad there are such dedicated folks.
The antagonism between baseball's management and the umpires was a surprise to me. I would have thought that the umpires would have been seen by management as their agents, and therefore be highly respected. On the contrary. Some executives see umpires as being the equivalent of bases, needed to play the game but nothing deserving of respect. Weber goes into considerable detail about the 1999 labor disaster for umpires, when a wave of resignations as a labor action backfired, and a number of highly qualified umpires lost their jobs (some eventually got them back), and a legacy of resentment and ill-feelings resulted.
And of course the fans. "Kill the ump" is a long-standing fan chant, and as Weber shows, has actually led to death threats against umps who have made controversial calls. While I don't recall ever using this chant myself, I do know that I've ragged on umps when I've been frustrated with their calls. But as a result of reading Weber's book, I have a new found respect for them, and will be much more appreciative of them in the future.
All in all, this book was a real page-turner for me. Weber's narrative skills and access to behind-the-scenes action make for a fascinating read. I highly recommend it, even for non-baseball fans who might be interested in the complex organizational issues of a major sport.
By the way, for you Kindle fans, this book has no photos, so buying a Kindle version will work just fine.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I happily recommend the book, "As they See them, A fan's travel in the land of Umpires", by Bruce Weber, and rate it as one of the most interesting, well-written books that I have read in the past two years.
Its subject matter is baseball umpires, different in the sense that they are rarely profiled in the media, normally ignored by the fans, and otherwise left out of the literature that has been created about the sport of baseball. A New York Times Sports writer, Weber presents the story in a fascinating yet detailed manner: not just the rules that are involved, such as the debate over the strike zone or the many decisions that an umpire has to make on a routine play, but more importantly he explores who the umpires are- their personalities, the lifestyle of being a minor league umpire, their difficult relations with Major League Baseball, and the otherwise forgotten-nature of their jobs as they share a field with famous ball players.
I was especially delighted by the detailed explanations and information offered on items that I had heard of, but did not have the fullest of understand about. For example, the 1999 Umpire labor issue where a number were fired- i had heard bits and pieces of details, possibly read an anecdote here and there, but the author in this book explores the issue with depth and with fairness of presenting the issue from both sides. Weber also speaks aggressively about the QuesTec strike/ball computer judgement system, and the benefits and emotions that its implementation has aroused amongst umpires and players alike. Weber speaks of these otherwise smaller anecdotes in detail, allowing me to understand both their factual and contextual nature, which are essential in formulating a judgement about an action or a decision taken.
This book was unique to me in 2 particular aspects: one of them is the modern nature of our society where you can "google" a name, organization, or subject, and gain broader insight, information, or ideas about the particular topic of person. I cannot underestimate the number of times I committed a name or terminology into memory or scribbled it onto a paper so that I could look it up once I got in front of a computer. That in itself demonstrates the array of sources, interviews, and entities mentioned in the book, which is a credit to Weber, who presented the narrative in a non-judgmental, honest manner. His vast research, which apparently took more than 2 years of consistent travel, permitted me to gain an insight into what it is like to be an umpire, to have access to the names of organizations and people who provide additional information on the people and duties of this job, and in that regard, this was almost like a multi-faceted book: learn from the book, and then use the information presented in the book to attain further information from outside sources. Additionally, Weber sprinkled the text with multi-syllable words, with words that I haven't seen since the SAT exam. Granted, too much convoluted language could confuse a reader, but the author is enormously careful in that manner, so that the words are descriptive, and possibly even motivate the reader to open a dictionary and check a definition (a dictionary? what's that???). Bravo to Bruce Weber, an outstanding book and a highly recommended read, i PROUDLY, for the first time, present a 5 star review.