Quote: Baseball: calling them as he sees them [variant: call em as I see em] (1910 May 24)

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 26 22:58:01 UTC 2011

More early appearances from GNA.

First up, another one in Milwaukee, penned by the same "Brownie" (but
quoting umpire Murray). Here, the expression appears three times without a
short passage.

Milwaukee Journal. August 13, 1913. p. 8/3
Murray Shows He's Game Umpire by Square Decision Against Home Team. By

> After Murray's decision at the plate, Catcher Severeid admitted that he had
> not touched Jones, but claimed that Jones had not touched the plate, but was
> later tagged and should have been called out. Tom Jones when asked about the
> matter at the hotel stated that he was sure he touched the plate with his
> hands as he went over.
> However, whether right or wrong, Murray evidently called the play as he say
> it and after what followed and his actions, we are willing to credit him for
> his nerve. He was one umpire out of a hundred who would have called the play
> as he did, owing to the rivalry between the two teams. After the game Murray
> said, "I called it as I saw it and am sure that Jones touched the plate. Of
> course, I would rather the play had not come up because I understand the
> feeling there is over this series and what it means to the teams, but I am
> out there to call them as I see them and that was what I did."

Boston Daily Globe. October 12, 1915 [PQA--not verified]

> The umpires, regardless of leagues or hopes, call them as they see them.

New York Times. September 9, 1917
One Honest Ball Player. Wilson Rules Against Own Club for Three Runs.

> "Speaking of umpires," said Hans Wagner recently, "I recollect a case which
> will prove that there are some ball players who will call them as the see
> them, too. We were playing the Philadelphia club and a ball was hit to right
> field by one of the Philadelphia batters. It looked like a foul, and, as
> there were three men on the bases, the way I remember it, we put up an awful
> howl. The umpire insisted the ball was fair and we argued strenuously that
> it was outside the foul line.
> " 'Well, I'll leave it to your right fielder if the ball wasn't fair,' said
> the umpire.
> " 'You're on,' we all yelled. We were confident it was foul and, anyhow, we
> thought Wilson, who was playing in the right garden for us, would see it
> that way--not dishonestly, you know, but a player almost always sees a thing
> the way he wants to see it and convinces himself he is right, too.
> "The umpire walked out to Wilson and asked his honest opinion about the
> hit. 'Fair,' said our fielder, without any hesitation. And we all went back
> to our knitting and didn't question another decision during that game."

There is a second hit for the same date as the Boston Daily Globe article
Garson cites from 1915. It appears to be the same article, but from a
different paper. This one is fully available and the full text reveals quite
a bit--it turns out that it ties together all the 1915-1917 GNA hits.

The Pittsburgh Press - Jun 27, 1915. p. [Sporting Section] p. 2/5
Second Story in Wagner Series. Wagner Tells Story of Remarkable Triple
Killing Made of a Pitchout
Defining a Model Umpire.

> Fred Clarke, as any fan or player knows, was some real outfielder when he
> was in the game. He was good in everything, but particularly in an argument
> with an umpire. He never was a "runner-up" as they say in golf, when he was
> exchanging personalities with the ump and, believe me, you have to be might
> quick with the tongue to even hold your own with some of the men who call
> 'em as they see 'em in our league.

A bit further, as a part of the same article:

A Ball Player's Honesty.

> Speaking of unpires, I recollect a case which will prove that there are
> some ball players who call 'em as they see 'em too.

Then it follows the same text as NYT above (1917). The whole article is
composed of several vignettes retelling Wagner's  stories.

There appear to be several vectors here. "Brownie" had two of the earliest
stories with the expression--and, as Garson mentions, it appears that it
might be pushed further back. Second, The Boston Daily Globe had a number of
stories that used the expression in the 1910s and 1920s--more so because
some of them were about soccer rather than baseball. Third, there are
several retellings of Hans Wagner's recollections that appeared at different
times in multiple newspapers. It is quite possible all of these have common
antecedents. It's also fairly obvious how one of these expressions--usually
implying honesty--could have been turned into a joke referring to an
umpire's ineptness.


On Thu, May 26, 2011 at 5:04 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>wrote:

> Dan Goncharoff found an excellent 1919 citation.
> Cite: 1910 May 24, Milwaukee Journal, Nerve Of Umpire by Brownie, Page
> 9, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Google News archive)
> Umpire Van Syckle, whom the crowd got after in St. Paul Sunday, may
> not be the best umpire in the business, but you have got to hand it to
> him for his nerve in calling them as he sees them.
> Cite: 1915 June 27, Boston Daily Globe, Queerest Triple Play I Ever
> Saw by John Henry Honus Wagner, Page 45, Boston, Massachusetts.
> (ProQuest)
> He never was a "runner-up," as they say in golf, when he was
> exchanging personalities with the ump, and believe me, you have to be
> mighty quick with the tongue to even hold your own with some of the
> men who call 'em as they see 'em in our league.
> Cite: 1917 February 25, New York Times, Baseball Salaries Still At Top
> Notch, Page 74, New York. (ProQuest)
> [The speaker is umpire Bill Byron aka Lord Byron]
> Gradually the fellow who pays to see baseball is beginning to realize
> that the  umpire cares nothing for the result of  the game  or a
> pennant race and is out there to call them as he sees them.
> There is a false match dated 1903 in Google Books "Debates: official
> report: Volume 6, Canada. Parliament. House of Commons". A date probe
> shows this volume was published in 1950 or later.
> There is also a false match in a famous baseball history book referred
> to as "The Church Book" by Seymour Roberts Church. GB assigns this
> book a date of 1902, but data at HathiTrust indicates that the
> document is a 1974 facsimile reprint of the 1902 publication. The
> following text appears in the book:
> "I call 'em," runs the present-day umpire's proudest boast, "as I see 'em."
> Extracted text from near this passage refers to "stop-action instant
> replay". So this is from an introduction or foreword added in modern
> times. The longer name of the book is "Base Ball: 1845-1871: Volume 1
> of Base Ball: The History, Statistics and Romance of the American
> National Game from Its Inception to the Present Time" by Seymour
> Roberts Church.
> There are other phrases expressing somewhat similar ideas in a
> non-baseball context. This suggests, to me, that the date can be
> pushed further back.
> [=< 1878] to tell of things as I see them
> [=< 1880] I tell things as I see them
> [=< 1895] I'll call it as I see fit
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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