A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Friday, February 12, 2010

BOOK: Eric Gregg "Working the Plate"

I must admit, I picked this book up recently at a used book store for a couple of bucks. I am glad that I did. I haven't seen any other copies, and it is a very nice read. I have never been disappointed with a book written by an ump. The umpire stories are often better than the basic ball player perspective books.

One thing that is sad though- Eric resigned as an umpire in 1999 as part of a labor action. He was not rehired. He passed away in 2006.

So, when this book was published in 1990, 20 years ago, the later parts of his life that we know now are obviously not included. You read the book about a good guy, a happy baseball professional who works his way up. You assume, and hope, that he stays with baseball forever and lives happily ever after.

Still, Eric leaves behind his legacy, and a great book about his progress through baseball until the 89 World Series.

Eric starts out talking about a blown call he made in 1979. He watched a ball going up and towards a foul pole during a game between the Phillies and the Pirates. He briefly watches as the ball goes toward a light source, and he is briefly blinded. He isn't really sure about if the ball was foul, or a home run. He notices the attractive ball girl at the Phillies park jumping up and down, so he assumes she was excited about a home team home run. He signals for a homer.

Of course, the Pirates players get upset. He consults with his umpire colleagues, and the call is changed. This was not a popular ruling against the Phillies in Philadelphia- not to mention in Gregg's home town.

Eric talks about growing up in a rough family (his dad beats his mom and his siblings drop out of school). He does the best he can, at one point even lying about his address to change to a better school.

Eventually, after hearing a mention of umpiring school on the game of the week, he makes plans to go to Florida to attend.

Eric starts out in the New York Penn League. I really enjoyed reading Gregg's descriptions of the towns in this league.

He moves on through the Leagues. His career seems to follow that of Jim Rice at one point, as they keep bumping in to each other at different levels.

Eric talks about being the victim of racism in Florida a couple of times in the 70s. He accompanies a white umpire to a barber shop, and the barber refuses service to his friend, simply because Eric, a black man, is with him.

Mr. Gregg talks about how exciting umping his first game is. He talks about the good guys in baseball, and how he admires certain players for their attitude or ability, but he tries not to show any favoritism.

Eric covers the stress in his personal life that occurs while he is establishing himself as a reputable ump. He deals with his sadness relating to drug use and legal trouble among his siblings. Another big part of the book involves Eric dealing with weight issues.

The book is a very easy read with good stories. You could read it on a weekend. Eric Gregg comes off as a a nice guy that was probably easy to get along with. When you see old photos of him, he just looks like a fun, happy guy. I am glad he wrote this book.

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