After I finished playing baseball at ~19…my damaged knees, fewer organized leagues & I didn’t wanna travel from Brooklyn to Pace University’s campus in suburban Westchester (county north of NYC) vs. attending classes at the City Hall site in Manhattan…I ventured more into umpiring.
I felt that it would still “keep me connected” to sports as I also played “the old man’s game” (that’s how I would refer to softball after years of playing REAL baseball)!
While softball is, indeed, very competitive & there are some outstanding athletes playing the game, it’s really “make-believe” baseball.
There is NO comparison whatsoever (re: skill required) to the actual game of baseball, especially in those leagues that are governed by ASA/American Softball Association rules (restricted pitching motions) or, God forbid, “arc pitching”.
ASA rules place many limitations on what the pitcher is allowed to do…and what he isn’t. You must start with both feet on the rubber & cannot “rock back” to build up momentum.
Your arm cannot swing away from your body (“pure underhand” is required) nor can you bring your hand above your shoulder in your delivery
Arc pitching is a whole different animal in that the pitcher must lob the ball, yes, in an arc, where the maximum height must be between 6 feet & 12 feet.
Enough of the lessons.
Just know that there’s a world of difference between competitive baseball (say, from age 16 & up) & any type of softball…with one exception.
Fast pitch softball.
That’s what the girls play in high school, college, in the pros & at the Olympics and damn, it’s the closest thing to real baseball that I’ve ever seen!
These girls are talented. The game is fast. The pitching is so incredible.
Note: There are many documented instances over the years where a top female softball pitcher has struck out Major League baseball players (superstars, no less)!
Yes, in softball, it’s only 43 feet from the pitching rubber (the slab on the mound upon which the pitcher must start) to home plate…17′ 6″, or 29%, shorter than professional baseball…so there’s less time for the hitter to react.
Despite that, these ladies are awesome hurlers with a full array of pitches – – fastball, curve, drop, riser, change-up, screwball & slider!
And the very best ones can throw in excess of 75 MPH which, by the way, reaches home plate much quicker than a 100 MPH baseball!!!
75 MPH @ 43 feet leaves about 50% LESS reaction time for the batter than 100 MPH @ 60’6″!
But the softball that’s played by guys (too old or not talented enough for collegiate or pro ball) is just not that difficult.
I got more & more into umpiring (both baseball & softball) as I simply love the game and just wanted to be around it.
One summer evening, I was umping the bases (there are 2 umps…one handles home plate, including all the pitches, fair/foul calls, etc. while the other basically patrols 1B, 2B & 3B and various plays in the outfield) at an arc league game in Brooklyn.
It can be so frustrating at times umpiring these games as every John-Travolta-wanna-be-cugine, every neighborhood tough guy, every ex-hardball player, every out-of-shape 30-something year old, every beer-guzzling “I coulda been champion!” seem to populate many teams.
Oh, I forgot, and every hot-tempered, what’d-you-say-about-my-Mother bozo would argue every single play, every single pitch.
So here’s the situation…
Top of the 7th (last) inning.
1 ball, 2 strikes on the batter.
Runners on first & third.
The team at bat is losing 2-1.
Batter drives a ground ball right up the middle & into centerfield. Base hit.
Runner on 3rd scores (tie game!!! 💥).
Runner on 1st goes all the way to 3B, while the batter reaches first.
But wait… ⏳
It seems that the ump on the field (🙋🏻♂️), ya know, that wonderful human being & outstanding umpire that he is, notices that the runner (originally on 1B) MISSED TOUCHING 2ND BASE in his haste to get to third.
Stepped right over the bag. (Note: The “bag” was actually a white square painted on the asphalt.)
It’s my responsibility (the ump on the field) to actually monitor stuff like this.
What I was slightly disappointed in was the second baseman!
He SHOULD’VE noticed the runner’s faux pas, but he didn’t! (A good ball player would’ve been watching that in case the runner missed the base…WHICH HE DID! I mean, what the hell else was he doing? He should have been moving toward the base anyway for a possible force play & when that never transpired as the ball went into CF, take a damned peak at the runner passing right in front of you!)
That’s another reason why umpiring can be so frustrating. You got all these semi-good (semi-shitty?) ball players screwing up left & right and then they’re the same idiots who argue on every play!
The shortstop (who just missed catching the ground ball base hit) went out into short centerfield to take the throw in from the center fielder.
I’m absolutely busting at the seams now as I KNOW & SAW the runner miss 2nd base…but I can’t say a damned thing! Oh, how I wish one of the fielders would’ve saw it!
Meanwhile, the team at bat is going delirious as they’ve tied the score when they were just one pitch away from defeat!
Another base hit (or error) & they’ll take the lead!
OH, NOT SO FAST THERE, WISE GUY!!!
The shortstop (who took the throw in from the centerfielder) is now “walking the ball” back to the pitcher to give him the ol’ “Don’t worry, Donnie boy, it’s only tied now! Get this guy & we’ll win it in the bottom of the inning!” pep talk.
…as if guided by the very same “Star of Bethlehem, you know, the bright one in the East that led the 3 Wise Men, a.k.a. the Magi, to the Baby Jesus”…
* * * * Hold on one damned second now! I got the gold thingie down & I have a pretty good idea what frankincense is, but what the Hell is this myrrh stuff? 🤔 * * * * *
…the shortstop just happens to step on second base on the way to the mound!
Totally unintentionally, but he had the ball & he indeed stepped right on the base…there’s no rule in baseball/softball that you must know what you’re actually doing.
Adage #1: Rather be lucky than good!
Adage #2: The only thing is what you do, results…not why nor how.
Adage #3: The older you get, the better you get…unless, of course, if you’re a banana!
“RUNNER FROM FIRST (as I 👈🏼 to the dude standing on third) MISSED SECOND BASE.
“SHORTSTOP STEPPED ON THE BASE, HOLDING THE BALL! THATS A FORCE-OUT!
“3 OUTS!!! NO RUN SCORES!!! THE GAME IS OVER!!!”
Both teams are in complete & utter shock!
The team that lost is arguing like insane maniacs with me! They simply can’t understand that a force play (or a play at first), which represents the 3rd out of an inning, negates any runners from scoring…REGARDLESS of whether the runner physically crossed home plate before the 3rd out.
Even a few players on the winning team (the ones on the field) are siding with them & telling me I’m wrong!!!
In all of the thousands & thousands of ball games in which I’ve played, umped, coached or watched, I have NEVER seen the benefactor of an umpire’s call argue with the umpire.
I completely maintained my composure throughout this entire madness!
The game was over…what did I care?
I made my call, the correct call. I didn’t give a shit who agreed with me, who actually understood the rule & who threatened to kill me!
(Although when one of the hothead losing players grabbed a bat & came charging out of the dugout, I had had enough!
“You even think about using that bat & I’ll have 50 guys down here in 10 minutes who’ll wipe the place with your faces!
“And if you run away, they’ll find you & then beat the livin’ shit outta you & your whole family!
That I promise you.”)
Sometimes, you just gotta sound tough or these tough guys will eat your lunch.
Over the past 40+ years, I’ve discussed this play with “many” very knowledgeable baseball people…and I have yet to find someone who totally agrees with me.
Even a minor league umpire!
They all reference the need for an “appeal play”, that is, after play resumes, the pitcher declares that they’re appealing the fact that the runner missed the base. He steps off the rubber, throws the ball to the appropriate base & the ump makes the out call.
But that usually happens AFTER the play has transpired & where “Time Out!!!” wws called.
To this day, I maintain that the play was still “live” & time was NOT granted by me nor the home plate ump. As such, all the player had to do was tag the base (force play), which he did!
The fact that he, nor anyone else in the entire park (except me), had no idea what he had done is not simply relevant.
Similar to what could’ve (should’ve) happened had the second baseman actually paid attention, noticed the runner missing the base & called for the ball from the shortstop.
I’ve researched this particular play ad nauseam & cannot find any rule anywhere that requires a formal appeal play in this situation. Again, time was not called, the play was still live & the force at 2B was still in effect.
Just because the runner made it to 3B doesn’t negate the fact that there was a force play situation @ 2B & the ball…despite the circuitous route it took to get there…beat the runner in question to the bag.
Runner on 1st, ground ball…who got the 2nd base first?
⚾️ “YOU’RE OUT!!
What say you?
As always, thank you so very much for listening!