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The Umpress strikes back
Sandy Keenan
July 30, 1984
Triple A umpire Pam Postema calls 'em as she sees 'em, not hears 'em
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July 30, 1984

The Umpress Strikes Back

Triple A umpire Pam Postema calls 'em as she sees 'em, not hears 'em

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Postema had to argue her way into the Al Somers Umpiring School in Daytona Beach, Fla. eight years ago. For six months she called, she wrote and she visited Somers until he accepted her. A newspaper article about the school gave her the idea of attending, though she'd never called a strike in her life.

Her father, Phil Postema, a farmer, says that his daughter has the right personality for umpiring—she's independent, stubborn and determined. "We had a talk when she was a little girl," he says. "I told her she could do anything she wanted as long as she did a good job at it."

Pam, the youngest of three children, grew up in Willard, an Ohio farming town of 5,000. There were no organized sports for girls in school, but she did star on the city fast-pitch softball team as a power-hitting catcher. Phil says she's a terrific athlete, "but she's all girl." The only drawback he sees to her umpiring is that it will take an especially understanding man to settle down with her.

When Postema donned blue for the first time in the Gulf Coast League in 1977, she was painfully green. "Oh, I was terrible," she says. "I made all the mistakes you can make my first couple of years. I don't think they thought I could do it, but they gave me a shot. Sometimes I didn't think I was ready to move up, but they promoted me anyway. They didn't think I'd last."

And Postema has learned how to control the rhythm of a game and how to avoid bedlam—"If they're hassling me from the bench, I pick out a face I know and dump him," she says. She's learned how to spell every dirty word there is while writing up ejection reports for the league office. "That's fun," she says.

She also has learned to be fast in the showers, especially in Salt Lake, where there's only one stall. "We teased her about taking too long," says her former crew chief, Dana DeMuth, "and she got her time down."

Physically, Postema has sustained bruises. Like all umpires she must stand up to chesting, though she says, "With me, it's breasting." A fastball to her right foot broke a bone during spring training this year, benching her for three weeks.

Butler plans to use her in exhibition games again next spring, and when the time comes for a promotion, he says, "She'll be looked at just like any good, eager umpire." If she does make it to the big leagues, some umps might not be ready for her. Brittain says he "hears things around the leagues, comments like, 'Don't go out of your way to help her.' A number of fellow umpires resent that a woman is out there. Parts of me feel that way, too. It's a male profession. If a woman hasn't played baseball, she shouldn't ump. But Pam is doing well. As long as she can back up her partners, that's all that matters."

After games Postema joins her crewmates for a few beers or a late supper. But she spends her days alone, sunbathing in her black and white bikini while reading magazines, including Ms. Or she plays racquetball and jogs. In the off-season she has driven a UPS truck, bused skiers in Colorado and umpired some more—in Arizona State games and for four months in Colombia.

For all her critics, there are a more than equal number of players and managers who think she'll make it. "She can work under pressure," says Gull pitcher Brian Snyder, who likes drawing her behind the plate the nights he works. "She's got a good pitcher's strike zone. She's not afraid to give the corners." Says Salt Lake manager Bobby Floyd, "If she can handle the minors, she can handle the majors."

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