Just released to the public on Wednesday in print and e-book form, Working a “Perfect Game” by Bill Nowlin vividly details what it’s like to umpire at baseball’s highest level and what it takes to get there. While umps will never be sympathetic figures in the eyes of partisan fans, readers will gain a newfound respect for everything they endure outside of the games themselves.
For the majority of Nowlin’s interviewees, they recall getting the itch to umpire as early as their teenage years. But this route to The Show proves to be almost as competitive as it is for players. The select few you get “hired” by Major League Baseball full time typically don’t earn that job security until their 30s or 40s after numerous years climbing the minor league ladder and several more shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and MLB as fill-ins.
As you might imagine, the topic of instant replay comes up in plenty of Nowlin’s conversations. Greg Gibson was working second base on May 31, 1999 for a Marlins-Cardinals matchup that utilized replay to address a disputed call for the first time in league history. Here is his unique perspective on that Cliff Floyd batted ball: