Every umpire, regardless how long they have been calling games, wants every call to be correct. Perfection is the unattainable goal. Knowing the rules is only half the battle, umpires must enforce the rules, often quickly, otherwise a baseball game can descend into a night at the fights. Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey might be as close to a perfect umpire that baseball has ever seen. He quoted rules by verse like a theologian. It is little wonder he earned the nickname God. In his book, They Called Me God, written with Peter Golenbock, Harvey recounts his path to and his long tenure in the major leagues. The ups and downs along the way, both on and off the field.
Doug Harvey was born to be an umpire, no one ever doubted that. (The Doug Harvey Collection)
Harvey, like so many umpires, fell in love with the game and umpiring was a way to stay in the sport long after his playing abilities ran out. His ability to call baseball, and basketball, games at the highest level left no doubt about his abilities. The Called Me God reads like a best practices handbook for all umpires, but especially those early in their careers that are working hard to improve. Harvey not only talks about making the time to study the rule book, but he also shows how those long hours of studying the rule book over and over again makes you a better umpire. The ability to cite rules, such as the balk rule or the legality of the third to first move enabled Harvey to handle a manager who was trying to argue that Harvey made a mistake. Once Harvey turned the tables on the manager few ever questioned his authority again. Harvey’s dedication to his craft meant players and managers had little choice but to give him the respect he demanded. Doug Harvey also expected professionalism from everyone on the field and he exuded professionalism. Harvey earned the nickname God from his near infallible judgement on the field, his mastery of the rule book, which caused few people to question his calls; plus the draining of a flooded dugout essentially parting the waters helped too.
The Called Me God is an easy read for everyone. There is excellent information and insight for those who umpire, yet the information is accessible to everyone who loves the game of baseball. Reading the rule book is necessary to understand how to properly umpire a game, but Harvey wrote a case book that takes you out of the rule book and onto the field for real life application. It is this honest story telling that engages the reader and draws them in, leaving them wanting to know more. Harvey tells the good with the bad, he does not sugar coat the toll umpiring takes on the individual physically and emotionally, as well as their family. The long hours at the ball field, the late nights followed by the early mornings push people to exhaustion before they even step onto the field to be judge and jury. Umpiring is demanding, and for those who dedicate themselves to the craft the game of baseball will provide them with love and memories for a lifetime. If umpiring has taught me anything it is how little I know about the game of baseball. So who better to learn about calling the game than God himself?