Bruce Weber. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires. New York, NY: Scribner, 2009, 356 pp., $16.00 (cover price). ISBN 978-0-7432-9413-3
If you've been a fan of baseball, at any level, for more than 15 minutes, you have an opinion on umpires. For better or worse, whether they're right or they're wrong, whether you notice them or not, there they are. But no one really knows much about them. As critical to baseball as the pitchers mound or home plate, the umpires are also the most criticized, and often the most threatened, part of the game. So it's good to see things from their perspective.
Bruce Weber allows us to look into this odd fraternity of officials with artful and interesting thoroughness. He covers all aspect of umpiring from schooling, to toiling in the minors, to making it in the bigs, to the history of the profession, to the current state of umpiring. Every topic that has an impact on the men (and very few women) who are charged with representing the rules of the game is covered in this great book.
Well-researched and packed with first-hand accounts, this book is rich with interesting detail and fascinating examination. Weber not only does his homework thoroughly, but he also attended an umpiring academy and officiated a few games himself.
Baseball is prone to cliche and hyperbole, but Weber's accounts and descriptions are so well written and creative, this book is quite engaging and enlightening. While he reveals the umpires' perspective favorably, he remains honest and neutral. And even though it's robustly complete, it's not dry or stodgy. He inserts plenty of humor and cleverness to make this book charismatic.
I really enjoyed this book, and I learned a lot reading it. I highly recommend reading it if you care about baseball or umpiring at all; it's worth your time. Grade: A