Major league umpires earn about $87,000 during their rookie season, but salaries can go as high as $250,000 for umpires, with many years experience. It can take many years of umpiring in the minor leagues, before even making it to the major leagues as an umpire.
The longest tenured major league umpire is Bill Klem who umpired from 1905-1941 for a 37 year career. Not surprisingly, he also umpired the most games of any umpire having umpired 5,368 major league games.
Joe West has umpired for 33 years, the most of any umpire, still currently umpiring in the majors. Only nine umpires have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are only four umpires that have been inducted, since Cal Hubbard was enshrined in 1976. Al Barlick was inducted in 1989, Bill McGowan 1992, Nestor Chylak in 1999 and Dough Harvey in 2010.
Four umpires admitted in the last 36 years shows how little recognition they get for a thankless job. Bob Uecker hit the proverbial nail on the head with his quote about major league umpires:
“Let’s face it. Umpiring is not an easy or happy way to make a living. In the abuse they suffer, and the pay they get for it, you see an imbalance that can only be explained by their need to stay close to a game they can’t resist.” – Bob Uecker in Catcher in the Wry (1982)
This umpire explains what it is like to not have a home during the season:
“The worst thing about umpiring is the loneliness. It’s a killer. Every city is a strange city. You don’t have a home. Ballplayers are home fifty percent of the them, umpires are not.” – American League Umpire Ernie Stewart
Unless an umpire lives in a major league city, there are very few chances for them to see their family. And if they do that doesn’t mean his schedule will allow him to be home much. Umpires are away from home from February through the end of September and if they umpire in playoffs and World Series they won’t be home till late October or early November. That leaves only November, December and January with their families. Umpires not umpiring in postseason only get one more month at home, giving them four months with their families.
Umpiring the Games
Umpires will never win any popularity contests. If they blow a call against the home team, they know they will hear a cascade of boos coming from the stands. And if they blow a call at first base that ruins a perfect game bid, like Jim Joyce did a couple of years ago, the media will play it for all it is worth. Armando Galarraga the victim of the bad call by Joyce, handled the situation better than most players and it made the situation a little easier for Joyce to handle.
Batters who can’t pull the trigger on a good pitch will sometimes look back at the umpire, giving the crowd the impression that the umpire had made a bad call.
An umpire’s worst nightmare is an extra inning game that goes into 20 or more innings. It is even worse if the game is a night game and a day game is scheduled the next day.
Most umpires will take only so much before ejecting a player or manager, while others will go nose to nose with a manager during an argument and give back as much as they take, to the extent of even using bad language.
Bill Kunkel who pitched for Kansas City Athletics and New York Yankees from 1961-1963 was the last major league player, to umpire in the majors. He was a major league umpire from 1968-1984 who had his number retired….Steve Palermo was an American League umpire who was eating in a Dallas restaurant and became involved in a mugging of two waitresses. He was shot by the assailants suffering a bullet wound in his spinal cord paralyzing him. He is now an umpire supervisor….Emmett Ashford (1966-1970) was the first black umpire….Bill Dineen pitched and called a no-hitter during his playing and umpiring career….The Runge family had three generations of umpires in Ed Runge (1954-1970) Paul Runge (1974-1997) and Brian Runge 1999-present. There have only been six years since 1954, that there wasn’t a Runge umpiring major league games, in a span of 58 years.
With the 2012 baseball season looming on the horizon, this would be a good team to salute the umpires who will be umpiring this season and thank them for doing a thankless job. Nobody is perfect including umpires so there will be mistakes made, but as long as they are honest mistakes I can condone them.