SI Vault
John Garrity
March 14, 1988
Pam Postema, the only woman umpire in pro baseball, has a chance to make the majors
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
March 14, 1988

Waiting For The Call

Pam Postema, the only woman umpire in pro baseball, has a chance to make the majors

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

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:

"Are you married?"

"Have you always cut your hair this short?"

"What other jobs have you had?"

While dutifully 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.

Actually, the 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.

Still, Postema 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.

"She's not 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 her."

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.

Continue Story
1 2 3