Monday, June 21, 2010


When he was a small boy, my pal Phil, who’s now in his eighties, was taken to see Babe Ruth play in his last season with the Yankees. Phil is one of the only people not now living in New York whose Yankee fandom I can tolerate. So it’s with apologies to Phil, Howie, Rob, Pam & any other Yankee-lovers I know that I must say: GOD, it was great to see this year’s woeful Diamondbacks smack the Boys From NYC around a bit this evening.

A couple more baseball notes: Last week Jim Joyce, whose bad call stole a perfect game a couple of weeks ago from Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers & who subsequently had the grace & guts to admit it, was voted best MLB umpire by the players.

But it occurred to me that there was another notable ump who not only admitted a bad call, but actually reversed it on the field, & who didn’t fare as well: Bernice Gera (1931-1992), the very first female umpire in the history of professional baseball.
The Ernest, PA, native won the right to the job after a three-year legal battle, only to find, in her debut in a minor-league game in Geneva, NY, on June 12, 1972, that her male colleagues wouldn’t talk to her on the field. After she reversed a call, the visiting manager told her that she "should be in the kitchen, peeling potatoes.” She ejected him, then resigned after her sole game. She ended up working in the Community Relations department of the New York Mets.

You can read Gera’s whole story here. I first read about her in an article by the redoubtable Nora Ephron in her fine 1975 collection Crazy Salad, a book of topical essays that’s still entertaining, & still all too relevant, thirty-five years later.

Finally, I just finished Blockade Billy, Stephen King’s new baseball novella, which takes one of the most familiar of the game’s iconic phrases to its logical, sinister conclusion.

It’s nasty little tale—a horror story, really, though not a supernatural one—but King, spinning the yarn in the first-person voice of an old-timer third base coach, infuses the love of the game into every line, as he did with his wonderful 2004 novel The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Blockade Billy doesn’t qualify as a King masterpiece, but it’s a grimly amusing one-sitting read.

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