I often wonder like any other fan, what some umpires are thinking. It seems that they almost want to show up the players at times by making themselves not only part of the show, but the show itself. The baiting of players into confrontation has never been one of my favorite scenes. I may be old school in thinking like this, but I enjoy when an umpire blends into the scenery and does his job. Umpires do have the opportunity to some degree, to enhance the show, but never have I ever seen them as THE show. That thought brings us to todays book…
Called Out But Safe – A Baseball Umpire’s Journey
By Al Clark and Dan Schlossberg
2014 University of Nebraska Press
I am never quite sure what to expect from an umpires autobiography. In the past, the books that I have read about umpires portray them as pompous and stuffy, not only on the field, but off the field as well. The one exception to that statement is Ron Luciano’s book. He has been viewed as an odd duck and not widely accepted as a traditional umpire.
I have not been very familiar with Al Clark’s field skills until I read this book. Growing up in a National League city and Clark being an American League umpire most of his career, I rarely saw his work on the field. Clark is very forthcoming in this book and leaves no stone unturned. He covers both his professional and personal life in this book. From his upbringing in New Jersey, to the Minor and Major Leagues, prison time and life after prison. He takes the time to chronicle how he was proud of his craft and what steps he took to become better at it. He reviews his personal accomplishments on and off the field and shows a tremendous pride in being an umpire. For me, the most interesting part of his on-the-field explanations, is the descriptions he gives of how to be a technically better umpire. I think someone in the MLB may want to seriously look at getting him into some sort of umpire scouting or training program, just to improve the current batch that are out there on the field.
I have said in previous reviews, sometimes life is full of redemptions and this book is no exception. Clark goes in to great detail about how he wound up losing his umpiring job and wound up in prison. You get the feeling that Clark learned a lot, from both his on and off the field experiences. I believe through those experiences, it has made him more appreciative for what he has now.
My overall feeling of this book is that Al Clark tried to be the best umpire he could be on the field and the best person he could be off of the field. To err is human, you have to live and learn and I think Clark did just that. If you enjoy books about someone on the field but that person doesn’t have to be a baseball player, this is a book for you. It is a very smooth read and flows very good and was a book I learned something from. It may not be as easy to be an umpire as it looks, after all!
You can get this book from the fine folks at University of Nebraska Press