Friday, April 2, 2010

Baiting the Umpire

George Jean Nathan (1882–1958)
From Baseball: A Literary Anthology

For American baseball fans, heckling the umpire is a perk of admission, a noble tradition that parents and children indulge in equally. Whether or not the call in question is correct is beside the point; when a call goes against the home team, the crowd shares one reflex: skewer the ump. Even a century ago, the rule of mob prevailed; the only noticeable change has been the number of referees available as targets.

Published in Harper’s Weekly in 1910, “Baiting the Umpire” slyly punts its pokes at the Greek chorus in the bleachers while it simultaneously celebrates the play on the field. Its author, George Jean Nathan, would later become especially renowned for his wit and insight on American theater—and what is baseball if not theater? As the 2010 season opens, most reports will celebrate the players (and their salaries), but we offer this Story of the Week in homage to the unsung, brave warriors of America’s beloved pastime.

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Baseball is the national side-show. The baiting of umpires is the real big-tent entertainment. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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