As a rule,
umpires don't hold press conferences. Who would show up? But on Saturday
morning, 20 or so baseball writers gathered in a hotel penthouse in Palm Beach
Gardens, Fla., to ask a veteran minor league ump such burning questions as:
always cut your hair this short?"
jobs have you had?"
jotting down answers, the members of the mostly male contingent no doubt
pondered whether to mention in their stories that the umpire was wearing
heart-shaped silver earrings, a white sweater and a gray skirt that was slit in
front to reveal a generous amount of leg.
really tough decisions won't be the media's but will be major league
baseball's. At 33, Pam Postema, pro baseball's only female umpire, has
progressed steadily toward the top of her profession. This spring she is
working a full schedule in the Grapefruit League under the watchful eyes of
National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti and league director of umpire
supervision Ed Vargo. They must fill two vacancies created by the retirement of
Bill Williams and the death of Dick Stello.
The odds don't
favor Postema. Seven candidates are competing for the openings on the National
League's 28-umpire staff. (The American League doesn't need any new umps this
year.) The league will probably award the spots to two of the five minor league
umps already under option to the league, who have filled in for ailing or
vacationing big leaguers in the past. At the same time, the league may—or may
not—decide to take an option on Postema and Ron Barnes, a Pacific Coast League
ump with no major league experience who's also getting a tryout.
has a shot. She has worked five years of Triple A ball—four in the Pacific
Coast League and one in the American Association, with which she still has a
contract. She did several American League exhibition games in Arizona in 1986
as well as last season's Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown. This year she will
be a crew chief for the first time.
here because she's a female," says Vargo. "She's here because she has
gotten good recommendations from minor league managers and good marks from our
people who scouted her. She deserves a look, and that's what we're giving
Postema has paid
her dues. Since graduating from Al Somers's umpire school in 1977, she has been
spat on, sworn at, booed and propositioned by players. She has had her
collarbone broken by a high fastball that a young catcher couldn't handle, and
she has had a toe broken by a foul tip. In short, she has withstood all the
abuse that goes with this unglamorous, demanding and low-paying job.