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My Trip to The Show (Part II)
Tom Verducci
April 02, 2007
Two springs after his cameo as a Blue Jays outfielder, SI's TOM VERDUCCI was back in the bigs, this time as an umpire for an Orioles--Red Sox game. All he had to be was perfect. (And what manager, player or fan would ever believe that?)
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April 02, 2007

My Trip To The Show (part Ii)

Two springs after his cameo as a Blue Jays outfielder, SI's TOM VERDUCCI was back in the bigs, this time as an umpire for an Orioles--Red Sox game. All he had to be was perfect. (And what manager, player or fan would ever believe that?)

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"This is my 22nd year," Tschida says. "When I'm 55 that will be my 30th, and if I feel good I'll keep going. I'll do it as long as I can. Few people in this job just retire when retirement age hits. Mostly, we do it until it becomes physically difficult to do it. Until we can't."

I know, especially deployed at first base, I could very well be involved in the outcome of a big league game. "If it goes extra innings," O'Nora tells me, "we don't rotate. You stay at first."

I remind myself of what O'Nora told me in the middle innings, when I was so eager to make a call I'd give the out signal as quickly as a fly ball thwacked into an outfielder's glove: Don't hurry. It's nothing until you call it. Even a big league outfielder might drop a ball, and you wouldn't look too sharp with your fist in the air and the ball on the ground. Slow down the game. It's exactly what the better players do as the tension builds.

It's the bottom of the ninth, and Boston's Alex Ochoa lifts a routine fly ball to centerfield. Just as I sneak a peek to watch the catch before I make sure Ochoa touches first base, Orioles centerfielder Adam Stern, fighting wind and sun, flat drops the ball. O'Nora, cooly patient, gives the no-catch call. Ochoa reaches second base. He advances to third on a groundout to second base--my last call, an easy one--and scores the winning run on a single by Kevin Cash through a drawn-in infield.

The four of us, the umpires, depart the field through the same tunnel as the Orioles at the far end of the visiting dugout. It's been a good day. I did not disable any ballplayers. I stayed off my butt. My fly is up. Our dressing room is on the right, the Orioles' clubhouse directly across the narrow hallway on the left. As I walk into our room I hear a short, loud crash from the Baltimore clubhouse, followed by an even louder shout of "F---!"

Not two seconds later, the first words out of Tschida's mouth are these, softly: "I think Schilling balked." His face is riddled with disappointment. "We get paid to see that," he says. "I didn't see that. We will Opening Day."

Tomorrow is another day, another game. Tomorrow they'll be perfect.

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