One of more times
during the course of this wonderful September madness known as the World Series
you will exercise your right as a fair-minded, typical red-blooded American.
From your seat at Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, your own living room or the
neighborhood saloon you will bellow with gusto, "You blind bum, you. He was
safe a mile. Where do they get those umpires?"
That last is a
fair question and easily answered. Anybody can be a World Series umpire who
meets these simple qualifications:
He must be a
publicity-shy egomaniac who can lick his weight in wildcats but runs from
fights; a man who is fond of all normal earthly pleasures yet eschews wine,
women and song eight months of the year. He must have extraordinary health and
reflexes, an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, the digestion of a Harlem
goat, perfect eyesight and a built-in set of professional ethics on a plane
with the saints. It will be helpful, in addition, if his tastes are simple
because such paragons are not overly rewarded on this earth.
You not only
can't hardly find them kind of humans any more; you practically never could.
One of them, however, is a leading figure in this World Series, the man whose
face is shown in" the photograph at right: Bill Summers, veteran umpire of
the major leagues.
Summers has an
awesome collection of superlatives in his biography. He has umpired 23 years in
the majors,-more than any other arbiter now working. He has the World Series
record in that category too (seven) and the All-Star assignment record (six).
An agile, roly-poly little fellow of 59, he has been umpiring in organized
baseball for 35 years, undoubtedly still another record. Summers is quite short
and would have trouble getting a job in the majors today because the fad in
both leagues is for big men. ( Bill Klem, the best of them all, was even shorter
Summers is a
typical umpire. He isn't quite sure the job is permanent (umpiring turnover is
high); he hoped for, but didn't expect, this one more Series assignment in his
career; and he became an ump because "the umpire didn't show up." That
phrase starts almost all umpirical biographies. Bill never played big-league
baseball, in common with most of his colleagues, but he has a distinction none
of them share. He never played baseball at all. He was an uninspired
lightweight fighter around Woonsocket, R.I. 42 years ago when the ump didn't
show up and somebody literally had to tell Bill the difference between a ball
and a strike and fair and foul. "I wasn't much of an umpire, at first,"
he explains, "but I could keep the peace. And that's an umpire's most
important and toughest job."
Umpires travel in
four-man teams, and the Summers team, named for its chief, was the subject of a
recent study I made of umpires in action. His crew consisted of himself, Ed
Hurley, Hank Soar and Ed Runge; and it was Runge's umpiring behind the
plate—his most important assignment in his two years with the big leagues—that
we were discussing. The White Sox had won a 9-8 squeaker in the 10th inning
from the Yanks, and the umpires were exhausted.
know," Summers said, "a good game umpires itself. Anybody can handle
those 1-0 and 2-1 things. The pitching is always real good and there aren't
many men on the bases. A bad game is a cinch too. In those 10-2 things one
pitcher is good and the rest are all so lousy everybody knows it. But this
thing Eddie had was a lousy ball game with pretty good—but not real
"And for all
of that work around the plate he handled the bases perfectly," Summers
added. "Eddie was always in 'position.' "