umpire "mechanic(s)"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Oct 14 09:31:31 UTC 2005

On Thu, 13 Oct 2005 13:03:57 -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:

>On 10/13/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
>> The instructors stressed timing, clarity, and the power of each
>> mechanic to help 'sell' the call.
>"... '_Self_ the call"? Say what?

Assuming "self" is a typo, I take it Wilson is questioning the notion that
an umpire has to "sell" his calls. This also seems to be a common umpiring
expression, and indeed the ump at the center of the ACLS controversy used
it in an interview with the New York Times:

But Eddings criticized himself for not being more emphatic in signaling
that the ball was in the dirt. After the pitch, he made a hand motion to
his right before pumping his fist, which most observers thought was his
sign that Pierzynski was out.
"The only thing I'm down on myself is I should have sold it either way,"
Eddings said. "I should have either said, 'No catch,' or, if I did have a
catch, that he was out. Which I never said: 'He's out.' "

So "selling" a call with an emphatic mechanic establishes the authority of
the ump's decision (and avoids the sort of mess that Eddings found himself
in). More here:

[interview with former MLB ump Doug Harvey]
On a close play, you have to sell the call. You want to let them know
that, hey, I see it, and I know what I'm doing. So, whamm, you put
something behind it. Like a home-run call down the line. You take a look
at it; now you come up, and you kinda half skip, jump, and bam, sell that
thing with your hand hard to let them know you saw it good. Same way with
an out call. You give a little bit more to your motion—bingo!—so that they
can see the action, and it makes you look more sure of yourself, that
you've nailed it.
Selling the call is a part of umpiring that brings the crowd on to your
side. The woo'ers can't say you missed the tag if you signalled the tag
was high after you gave the safe sign. They know you are claiming the
fielder did not have possession when you are juggling with your hands
after the safe call. That little bit of confidence and showmanship can go
a long way towards you taking charge of the diamond.

--Ben Zimmer

More information about the Ads-l mailing list