“What other rule would you like me to ignore today, Coach?”
I have good umpire friend down in Florida who has been a long-time official with the Treasure Coast Officials Association. I was impressed with the question I heard him ask a coach who was grousing about a call, “What other rule would you like me to ignore today, Coach?” His words came to mind yesterday as I was researching old umpire manuals.
In 1875 The Robert M. DeWitt Publishing Company of New York pubished DeWitt ‘s Baseball Umpire’s Guide , a Complete Book of Instructions to the Umpires of the Professional and Amateur Arena, edited by Henry Chadwick. As I was reading through the Guide, the following paragraph leapt off the page.
“The duties of the Umpire in Base Ball are, first, to correctly interpret the laws of the game. Secondly, to see that the contestants do their work on the field and at the bat fairly and as the rules of the game require. Thirdly, to decide all disputed points of play which may occur during the progress of a match game. What he cannot do, however, is to refuse to enforce any section of the code of rules under which he is empowered to act in the postion.“
That is precisely the point my friend was referencing when he asked the dissenting coach, “What other rule would you like me to ignore today, Coach?” Nothing has changed in the umpire’s code of ethics with respect to rule enforcement in the past 135 years. We are not hired to pick and choose the rules we will enforce and those we will not enforce. We are hired for our knowledge of the rules and our ability to enforce all of them impartially. There is a fine line between not enforcing any section of the code of rules under which we as umpires are empowered to act and being a walking rule-book-accident waiting to happen. That is another reason we are hired; to employ common sense as we facilitate the game through its innings. To the extent that we walk that tightrope carefully, we will be upholding the best demonstrated practices of great officiating, and will have provided the players, coaches, and fans with the oversight of the game to which they are entitled.
Have a great spring, you all, and enjoy your time on the field.