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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 9, 2009 14 Nissan 5769

Hail the ump

By George Will


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," a time-traveling American brought baseball to 6th-century England, where arguments with umpires were robust: "The umpire's first decision was usually his last. ... When it was noticed that no umpire ever survived a game, umpiring got to be unpopular." But it remains a necessary, extraordinarily demanding and insufficiently appreciated craft.


Now, however, comes "As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires" by Bruce Weber of The New York Times. Forests are felled to produce baseball books, about 600 a year, most of them not worth the paper they should never have been printed on. Weber's, however, is a terrific introduction to, among much else, the rule book's Talmudic subtleties, such as:


A great fielding play can cost the fielder's team the game. With less than two out, if a player makes a catch and falls into the stands, every runner moves up a base. So with a runner on third in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game, if a fielder makes a catch but his momentum flips him over the railing into the seats, his team loses.


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Also: There is a play on which the umpire must give a manager a choice of two different outcomes on a batted ball. With one out and runners on first and third, the batter swings, his bat ticks the catcher's glove but drives a fly ball that is caught by an outfielder. The runner on third tags and scores, the runner on first stays there. But because the catcher interfered with the batter's swing, the umpire awards the batter first base, moving the runner there to second. Because that nullifies the sacrifice fly, the runner who scored is returned to third. But why should the batting team lose a run because the other team's catcher committed an infraction? So the manager of the team at bat is given a choice — bases loaded, one out, no run in, or man on first, two out, one run in.


Umpires — the only people who are on the field during the entire game and the only ones indifferent to the outcome — were depicted in pre-Civil War drawings wearing top hats and carrying walking sticks. An account of the (supposedly) first game between organized teams — June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, N.J. — mentioned the umpire fining a player six cents for swearing.


Umpires still are custodians of decorum: "As the umpire," Weber writes, "you are neither inside the game, as the players are, nor outside it among the fans, but ... the game passes through you, like rainwater through a filter, and ... your job is to influence it for the better, to strain out the impurities."


Baseball is, Weber notes, the only sport that asks an on-field official to demarcate the most important aspect of the field of play — the strike zone. Although defined in the rule book, its precise dimensions are determined daily by the home plate umpire.


Umpires are islands of exemption from America's obsessive lawyering: As has been said, three strikes and you're out — the best lawyer can't help you. But because it is the national pastime of a litigious nation, baseball is the only sport in which a nonplayer is allowed onto the field to argue against rulings.


Umpires are used to having their eyesight questioned — when someone criticized Bruce Froeming's, he said, "The sun is 93 million miles away, and I can see that" — but their integrity is unquestioned. As Weber notes, players, not umpires, conspired to fix the 1919 World Series; a manager (Pete Rose), not an umpire, was banned from baseball for betting on games. As umpires say, "If they played by the honor system, they wouldn't need us."


Sport — strenuous exertion structured and restrained by rules — replicates the challenges of political freedom. Umpires, baseball's judicial branch, embody what any society always needs and what America, in its current financial disarray, craves — regulated striving that, by preventing ordered competition from descending into chaos, enables excellence to prevail.


"You can't," Weber says, "hide on a baseball field." But a batter who fails two-thirds of the time for 15 years goes to Cooperstown. An umpire can fail once in a high-stakes moment and be remembered for that forever. It is amazing how rarely they fail as they strive not to be noticed in their pursuit of unobtrusive perfection.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

George Will's latest book is "With a Happy Eye but: America and the World, 1997-2002" to purchase a copy, click here. Comment on this column by clicking here.

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