The rule of the umpire

Today, umpires in a baseball game play the role of neutral rule enforcement.  Prior to 1882, however, the game’s umpires were known to confer with whomever they wished in order to aid in making decisions.  A rule established in 1876 stated, “If an umpire is unable to see whether a catch has been fairly made, he may confer with spectators and players.”  The rule existed partly due to the fact that each game was typically overseen by a single umpire.  As you can probably imagine, however, hometown fans were often shameless in their biases, which did little to help the decision-making process.

By 1882, the idea of employing a staff of umpires was growing in popularity, and the league implemented a new rule stating, “Umpires may not confer with spectators or players.”  Naturally, the rule has evolved over the year, and today, RULE 9.04(C) reads:

If different decisions should be made on one play by different umpires, the umpire-in-chief shall call all the umpires into consultation, with no manager or player present. After consultation, the umpire-in-chief (unless another umpire may have been designated by the league president) shall determine which decision shall prevail, based on which umpire was in best position and which decision was most likely correct. Play shall proceed as if only the final decision had been made.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

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2 Comments on “The rule of the umpire”

  1. I don’t think most fans got the memo on Rule 9.04C … because, best I can tell, spectators continue to try to help inform umpires of all the calls they miss. And, of course, it’s always done politely and with absolute decorum. 🙂

    • So true. And the lovely pet names fans come up with for umpires just add to the charm. We could chalk it up to the fact that the rule was first instated long before any of us was around, but that would be too forgiving.


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