THE UMPIRE STRIKES BACK by Ron & David Fisher Luciano


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The memoir of a bumptious baseball umpire turned TV broadcaster--with lots of good yams and a sprinkling of insider detail (but few sharp comments on the game or the players). Ex-footballer Luciano arrived for the American League's opening day in 1968 (after four years in the minors) without equipment or uniform and stayed through the 1979 season--when, though still president of the Umpires Association, he left to do color commentary on NBC's Game of the Week. At 6'4"" and 300 pounds, Luciano was always a conspicuous diamond presence; he made himself more visible with flashy gestures that included rotating leaps on close calls and the ""shooting out"" of dead-duck base runners with an imaginary pistol. What caused him trouble, though, was his gift for gab. More than once, Luciano broke up prospective double plays by getting in the way of infielders with whom he'd been yakking; other times, he was out of position to see whether batted balls had left the park fair or foul. He waxes anecdotal, too, about others: good-hit/no-run Leu Pinella--who once ran for the cycle (i.e., was put out on every base in one game); pitchers Goose Gossage and Nolan Ryan--whose 100-mph fastballs are called as often by sound as by sight; Baltimore's cagey pilot, Earl Weaver--with whom Luciano has feuded since both were in the international League. He also confirms a few suspicions. During the dog days of summer, most umps will do whatever they can to speed play (so as to get off their sweaty, aching feet); in the absence of enforcement pressures, circumspect spitballers can practice their skill with relative impunity; and, ""after good hitters, good guys do get a slight advantage."" No wallop--but a mild diversion for undemanding hot-stove leaguers.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Bantam