Fat and Skinny had a race, up and down the pillow case/Fat fell down and broke his face, and Skinny won the race. So ran the old childhood jingle which was popular years ago. It's probably not sung anymore, but supervisors of umpires in the National and American leagues feel there is some substance to the refrain. At any rate, both Blake Cullen (NL) and Dick Butler (AL) are concerned about fat umpires. Says Butler, "We keep after them if they're overweight." Says Cullen, "We want them to have pride in their appearance. It's part of the show. We get efficiency ratings of umpires from the clubs, and it's very difficult to be rated at the top of your profession when obviously you don't give that appearance. Appearance is part of what we're projecting out there."
The AL has a few beefy arbiters but Butler says they just look fat, that in actuality their weight is pretty solid, citing 6'1" Ken Kaiser, a former wrestler and weightlifter, who looks heavier than his 200 pounds. The NL, on the other hand, has several plump umps, the most notable being Eric Gregg (SI, April 20, 1981), who is 6'3" and two years ago weighed 357 pounds. Between the 1980 and 1981 seasons Gregg took off 106 pounds, but, he admits, "I've put 50 of it back on. I know I have to get on the stick again. But I love to eat. I live to eat." On how the added weight affects his umpiring, Gregg says, "The only way it bothers me is going out to the outfield on trapped balls. Then I feel I've lost a step."
Other rotund NL arbiters include John McSherry (6'2½", 275), Lee Weyer (6'6", 258), Harry Wendelstedt (6'2", 230) and Bruce Froemming (5'8½", 200). "McSherry is among our top men," Cullen says, "but any time a man is that overweight, it's too much." Butler, peering over the fence into the other league, agrees: "John McSherry is a huge man and he moves as well on his feet as anyone, but he's too heavy."
So it's agreed. Some umpires are just too fat, right? Froemming, recognized as one of the best umpires in baseball, demurs. "I know I'm overweight," he says, "but I don't feel it. Babe Ruth had spindly legs, Pete Rose isn't built like somebody off Wall Street, but the bottom line is how they hit the ball, how they get to first base. Umpiring isn't any different. I've never felt that because I was overweight it hurt me in my job. I stand on my record.
"When they hired me, I wasn't skinny. Weyer and Wendelstedt were never skinny. They hired a lot of skinny guys but let them go because they couldn't do the job. Those guys look the part, but you put them between the white lines and their bellies were empty and they couldn't think. Wouldn't you rather have the guy that's a little heavy and can handle the job, handle Billy Martin and Dick Williams coming at you, than some guy who looks terrific?"
AFTERNOONS ARE FOR PRACTICE?
How best to take note of this week's historic Texas A&M-Boston College football game, in which Jackie Sherrill makes his debut as the exceedingly well salaried—$267,000 per year—coach of the Aggies? Perhaps by invoking the immortal words of a woman who called a talk show in Detroit last winter at a time when Texas A&M boosters, having not yet hired Sherrill, were dangling similarly lavish sums in front of Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler. A lot of people in Wolverine country were shocked that a football coach would be offered far more than Michigan professors or the university president, which may explain the question posed by the baffled woman: "What does AM stand for?" she asked. "Do they only go to school for half a day?"
A PLETHORA OF JIMMYS
"I'll get this shoe on you if it kills me," said Jimmy Connors, 1982 Wimbledon champion, down on his knees in the chandeliered White and Gold suite of New York's Plaza Hotel. Connors grimaced as he tried to squeeze a size-9½ tennis shoe, his size, onto the size-12 foot of Jimmy Connors of Kearny, N.J., manufacturing manager of Hartz Mountain pet supplies. "I have weird feet, really weird feet," said Jimmy Connors, 1982 Wimbledon champion.
"A few gnarled toes around here," mumbled an onlooker, very likely named Jimmy Connors, too. There are 35 Jimmy Connors listed in the phone books serving the greater New York metropolitan area, and all were invited to attend a news conference last week where the Jimmy Connors introduced the new Converse Jimmy Connors Model tennis shoe that he helped to design, a shoe with "a sleek European look," a shoe that is supposed to "reduce wobble action."
RESERVED—Jimmy Connors read the sign at the roped-off area where the nine Jimmy Connors who showed up sat together. They were given lunch, a short lecture on the biomechanics of the foot, a pair of Jimmy Connors tennis shoes, the experience of having Jimmy Connors, 1982 Wimbledon champion, try to fit his size shoe onto their feet (it fitted five of them, each of whom received tickets to the U.S. Open) and the chance to share stories with each other about the joys and woes of sharing the name. "All the time," said one Jimmy Connors when asked how often he's confused with Jimmy Connors the tennis player.