Triple Play Umpires provides training for baseball umpires that helps keep our national pastime safe and fair. This noble profession has changed a great deal over the many years it has existed.
Traditionally regarded as villains by fans, adversarial autocrats by players, and invisible men by the press, umpires have been, as Furman Bisher put it, "submerged in the history of baseball like idiot children in a family album." Since William R. Wheaton officiated the first recorded "modern" game on October 6, 1845, umpires have made important contributions to the National Pastime.
From the creation of the modern game in the 1840s through the Civil War, the umpire was the personification of base ball (two words then) as an amateur sport. According to the September 23, 1845, rules of the Knickerbocker Club of New York, the president of the club "shall appoint an Umpire, who shall keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the Bylaws and Rules."
As "match" games between clubs became more frequent, three officials were commonly used with one umpire chosen by each team and a neutral "referee" to decide the often partisan split decisions. In 1858, the National Association of Base Ball Players sanctioned a single umpire chosen by the home team with the consent of the rival captain.
Despite increased status, umpiring in the major leagues was an uncertain, stressful, and even dangerous occupation through the end of the century. Frequent revisions in the rules and innovations in playing techniques made the umpire's job exceedingly difficult, while the physical and verbal abuse from fans and players alike often made an umpire's life intolerable.
Between World Wars I and II, when baseball dominated the nation's sports consciousness as the National Pastime, umpiring became a career vocation instead of a limited occupational opportunity. Expanded schedules meant seven months of employment, and umpires received better salaries and more recognition.
Staff stability became the norm, and an umpire who passed muster the first two or three years could look forward to a long career. Umpires continued to be vexed by arguments with players, insults from fans, and occasional flying objects, but the vicious rowdiness declined.
The physical abuse was curtailed significantly because of the stiff penalties imposed for fighting and bottle tossing, while the verbal abuse abated as league officials and the press did an about-face after the infamous Black Sox Scandal by proclaiming the umpire the personification of the game's integrity.