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Other segments from the episode on April 9, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 9, 2010: Interview with Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson; Interview with Bruce Weber; Review of the film "Date Night."


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Bob Gibson And Reggie Jackson Talk Baseball


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, filling in for Terry Gross.

Few confrontations in sports are as dramatic and personal as a batter standing
in against a pitcher with a baseball game on the line. The batter adjusts his
helmet, tightens his gloves, digs into the batter's box and looks toward the
mound. The pitcher fingers a rosin bag, then drops it, stares at his catcher
for a sign, then grips the ball and begins his windup. If his pitch is a Major
League fastball, it will reach the plate in less than half a second.

The strategies, emotions and sometimes explosive confrontations that arise from
that duel are at the heart of a new book by two legends of Major League
Baseball: Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson. Jackson was a homerun hitter who won
five World Series rings with Oakland and New York and earned the nickname Mr.
October for his post season heroics.

Gibson was one of the most intimidating pitchers who ever played, an eight-time
All Star who won two championships with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both were
extraordinary performers in the World Series, and both are in baseball's Hall
of Fame. Their new book is based on a series of recorded conversations with
writer Lonnie Wheeler. It takes its name from the distance between the
pitcher's mound and home plate. It's called "Sixty Feet, Six Inches." I spoke
with Gibson and Jackson last fall, when the book was published.

Well, Reggie Jackson, Bob Gibson, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Now Bob Gibson, you say in this book that if you were a pitcher today, there
are a lot more coaches and trainers and video analysis and they would get you
to try and change your windup and make it more economical, fewer moving parts.
You had a lot of movement in your windup. Was that conscious?

Mr. BOB GIBSON (Former Professional Baseball Player): Well, it was the way I
learned to pitch. And my idea - it wasn't just my idea - I think back in the
days, and even before I pitched, guys would wind up, and they'd go through all
types of gyrations, and the hitter pretty much had to look for the ball.
Where's it going to come from?

And I think the more that he has to look for the better off you are. They
started pitching with no windup and as little movement as possible, and more
guys started hitting the ball 550 feet. I think that the hitter needs to look
and try to figure out where that ball's coming from.

DAVIES: You write in the book, and this book is a collection of conversations
with you guys, and at one point you say: I had a violent delivery. I wanted to
be a gathering storm and blow that fastball in there with all the force and
fury I could muster. Was that Bob Gibson just really being an intimidating
force out there with that windup?

Mr. GIBSON: Well, yeah. Kind of, except I had just more than a fastball, and I
think what made me such a good pitcher...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. GIBSON: ...was that my slider was just as good as my fastball, and I had
just as good a control with my slider as a fastball. And what makes you really
effective is that you get guys up there looking for a 95-, 97-mile-an-hour
fastball, and you throw them a slider that's 89 and 90, and I think that's why
I did so well in the Series because those guys were looking for all fastballs.

DAVIES: And coming out of that all that different motion, they're worried about
the speed, and then suddenly the ball's curving, it's dipping, it's off-

Mr. GIBSON: Oh yeah. They're looking for the ball off of me. You know, what the
hitter likes to do is to see where that point of release is coming from, and I
think it's more difficult if your arms are waving and flapping and not that
everybody can do that. I was fortunate enough to be able to do that. But I
think the more he has to look at or look for, the better off you are.

DAVIES: Reggie Jackson, would you be bothered by a pitcher's windup if there
was a lot of motion there?

Mr. REGGIE JACKSON (Former Professional Baseball Player): You try not to. I
know that I liked it when a guy had almost a pitching motion of a catcher, just
kind of a nice easy throw, not too much movement. It made it a lot easier to

But following a Gibson, following a Tiant, a Juan Marichal, a Warren Spahn, a
Vida Blue, Jim Palmer, guys with big, high kicks like Steve Carlton, it makes
it tougher. Nolan Ryan had a big kick. Burt Blyleven had a big kick. And when
these guys had all that going on and then threw in the high 90's to go along
with it with a 12 to six breaking ball, it made it an awful lot tougher, I

DAVIES: You guys are both in the Hall of Fame because you were great players in
the regular season, but you really, really stood out in championship games when
it was all on the line. You both were incredible performers in the World
Series. Reggie Jackson, nobody else in the game has hit four homers on four
consecutive swings in the World Series like you did in 1977. You have five
World Series championships. What were those big games like for you? Did it feel
different? Was your focus different?

Mr. JACKSON: It was a battle between me and the guy on the mound. And I knew
everything about who I was facing, even in the other league, we had scouting
reports. I paid attention to them. I watched. I learned. I understood. I felt

And I really wanted the guy that I was facing to be at his best because then it
made the thinking easy because you understood what a guy had, what was his best
pitch or, say, like facing a guy like Bob Gibson in the World Series, be proud
of what you got because then I know what I'm going to get. I may not be able to
handle it, but the thinking gets simple.

Mr. JACKSON: He's not going around me unless the situation calls for it,
meaning pitch around me and face another hitter depending on the score or the
situation. I felt I was going to have a good swing. I felt prepared. So the
game got a little more simple. I didn't have any clutter in my mind. It's me
and you. I'm ready, and so are you. I hope you had a good night's rest. I hope
you had a big breakfast.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACKSON: Kiss your wife and your baby goodbye. Get your insurance paid up.

DAVIES: Because here it comes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACKSON: Grab that can over there before you come in here.

Mr. GIBSON: Well, he's right about that because when we got into the Series, he
was going to get what I had unless there was a situation where I needed to
pitch around him and I didn't have the problem...

DAVIES: Meaning walk him and face the next guy, right?

Mr. GIBSON: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, Reggie's up there, and Reggie's not going
to get a hit every time he's up there, nor is he going to hit a homerun every
time he's up there. But he's probably more capable of hitting one than the guy
behind him

So why do a silly thing, especially if you're in a situation where he could
win, he could beat you a ballgame. You would pitch around him, that meaning
pitch to the next hitter, a guy that you know you can get out or you suspect
you can get out a lot better than him. If I don't make a mistake on Reggie, I'm
going to get him out. I don't know whether I'm going to make a mistake. If I do
make a mistake, he's going to hit it. So let's try somebody else, and that's
the way I looked at it.

DAVIES: Bob Gibson, I've got to ask you about the 1964 World Series, where you
pitched in game seven on only two day's rest - that's very little rest - after
having won game five, took the game all the way into the ninth inning with a 7-
3 lead, then gave up two homers, and your Manager Johnny King left you in. You
finished. You won the game. You were the most valuable player of the series.

And afterward, when Johnny King asked why he left Gibson in, who seemed to be
tired after pitching nine endings on only two days rest he said: I never
considered taking him out. I had a commitment to his heart. Tell me about that
day and that relationship.

Mr. GIBSON: Well, first you've got to - I blame Johnny King for those last two
homeruns that they hit off of me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIBSON: I go out, and Johnny says: Bob, I don't want you to get fancy out
there. I want you to just throw the ball, every pitch a fastball right over the
middle of the plate. He says: I don't think that they're going to hit four
homeruns. And so after the second one, I looked into the dugout, and Johnny was
getting a drink of water. I was looking to see where are you John? Are you sure
they're not going to hit four?

But, you know, I have a commitment to his heart. I can't tell you exactly what
he had in mind when he said that. I know that he had plenty of confidence in me
,and he felt that he was going to just go down the line with me win, lose, or
draw. Now, that's saying something for him.

I didn't want to let him down period. And I was tired. I was really tired out
there. But he was going to leave me in there, and so I was going to give it
everything I had.

DAVIES: Yeah. I think what he meant was that this man has a will to win like no

Mr. GIBSON: Yeah, but you keep throwing that fastball over the middle of the

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIBSON: ...that will might dwindle.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson. They collaborated
with Lonnie Wheeler on the new book, "Sixty Feet, Six Inches." We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guests are Hall of Fame ballplayers
Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson. They collaborated with Lonnie Wheeler on a new
book called "Sixty Feet, Six Inches."

I want to talk about throwing inside and guys getting hit by pitches because
you guys are both on opposite ends of this. And Bob Gibson, with your
permission, I'm going to read a section from you, from the book that you've
collaborated with Reggie here, where you're talking about - you're saying
basically that you liked to pitch on the outside part of the plate, that is the
part - pitch away from the batter, and you say that nobody's really going to
square on a pitch and hit you when you pitch it outside. And then you write:
unless he cheats.

What I mean is unless he leans in and dives at that outside corner. Obviously,
I can't let him do that because that's where I'm trying to pitch. So if he
tries it, I have to stand him up a little bit. Think of the hitter as dog with
an electronic collar. You just administer a slight correction, as they call it,
if he tries to get out of his yard. Throw the ball inside, and he can't wander
into the wrong area. That's what you were doing when you pitched inside, right?

Mr. GIBSON: Pretty much. Yeah. I was getting him to think about the ball
inside. Now Reggie - Reggie likes to hit the ball out away from him. That's
where I want to get him out. So what do I do to keep him from hitting that ball
out away from him? I pitch him inside. And I don't just pitch him inside once,
I come in there often. And so now, he's going to think about me pitching him

If he's thinking about that ball inside, then I can get him out away. If he's
thinking outside, and I throw outside, he's more capable of hitting the ball.
But if I get inside and do it often enough, he's not going to go leaning out
there because sometimes when I'm pitching inside, and he's thinking outside,
you know, the ball comes inside, and I'll hit him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIBSON: So - and he knows it. So, he says well, maybe he's going to come in
here. More often than not, I'm going to be away from him. But it just might be
that one time that I'm not away from him, and he's going to get hurt. It'll
come in and bite him.

DAVIES: Well, and a Bob Gibson fastball can hurt you, no doubt. Reggie Jackson,
you know, the lore is that pitchers now throw at and throw close to hitters a
lot less than they did years ago. I want to - back when you played, how did
you feel when a pitcher, you know, knocked you down, threw it were in so that
you had to jump out of the way? What were the circumstances under which that
was okay?

Mr. JACKSON: Well, you added something there that's very important.


Mr. JACKSON: There were circumstances where it was okay. If you hit a good
hitter on the other ball club, and somebody on our club was going to get hit,
and, you know, certain pitchers would make sure they hit either the most
important guy, or if you hit the second most important guy over there, you'd
hit the second most important guy on our club. And they may just single out and
say okay, we're going to knock Reggie down.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. JACKSON: We're going to hit him. And you understood it at times, especially
if we started, and a guy hit a couple of homeruns against us, and the pitcher
had to hit the guy in order to just get him to respect him a little bit.

DAVIES: Now I've got to interrupt you there because that's one thing that I
never did understand. If someone hits two homeruns fair and square, is having a
great day, that's a reason to throw at him?

Mr. JACKSON: Yeah. Go ahead, Bob.

DAVIES: Bob Gibson, yeah.

Mr. GIBSON: Well, and let me say this: A guy hitting a homerun off of me is not
a reason for me to throw at the guy. If the guy hits my best pitch in a good
location, and he hits a homerun, that's a reason for me to throw at him. You
know what I mean? I don't want him getting my best pitch. There's a lot of
mistakes that I'm going to make, and when I make a mistake, he's capable of
hitting a homerun. Well, that's my fault. But when he goes out and get my
really, really good pitch and hits a homerun off it, hmm, he might have to get
hit the next time.

DAVIES: Now when you say hit, you're talking about not just coming close,
you're talking about drilling him in the ribs?

Mr. GIBSON: Hit you in the back, in the butt.

Mr. JACKSON: Well, yeah, in the ribs or somewhere in there. Somewhere where
it's not bad. If you through at a guy's head, then we all feel, pitcher as well
as hitter that, you know, you're trying to do some damage or you're affecting -
you're messing with my livelihood.


Mr. JACKSON: But there are times in baseball when I was coming along, and Bobby
too, that you just hit guys and that was part of the game. There is no question
that in the '50s and '60s black players got thrown at more. That's not a
negative comment. It may come out that way, but that's the way it was.

Hitting another player was part of the game. Hitting a player in the head is
not. When you hit a player in the head, you're more apt to get some fisticuffs
or, you know, bring both teams out on the field, but it was more accepted that
- in the '50, '60s and '70s. I think nowadays, it's a little over-policed
because I will always believe that knocking a hitter down, even hitting a
hitter at, sometimes, is part of baseball.

DAVIES: Right. And there was this tradition of retaliation, which still happens
today, where a pitcher from one team hits a guy on another team. Then the
batting team's pitcher, when they get back out on the field, will be expected
to hit one of their hitters.

And then, Bob Gibson that might have put you in the position then sometimes of
having to plunk somebody, who, because of something that had happened while
your team was at bat - how did you feel about that, having to go out there?
They call it protecting your team, right?

Mr. GIBSON: Yeah. I had no problem with it at all. Now, they used to say, well,
wait for the pitcher, and get him. I said, no. The pitcher might not even be in
the game when, you know, it's his time to hit. So, I would usually, the next
inning I'd pitch, I'd hit the first guy up and then maybe I would get the best
hitter on their team. But I wanted to retaliate so they wouldn't forget, you
know, and I just wouldn't wait. And they knew this. The first guy that came up
to the plate, he was really...

Mr. JACKSON: (unintelligible)

Mr. GIBSON: ...light slippers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: And...

Mr. JACKSON: Yeah. Nowadays they promote, wait until the right time, wait until
you have two outs, wait until you have a lead. And so, pick your spot is what
it's called.

DAVIES: Well, and umpires will throw you out. They will warn both benches, and
then when you hit somebody you get tossed out, which did not happen...

Mr. GIBSON: Oh, I don't like that. I had a situation, it was in San Diego. Lee
Wire(ph) happened to be the umpire. And we got somebody hit on our ball club.
And they knew my reputation as retaliating, you know, I wasn't - I'm not trying
to hurt anybody. I'm only going to hit him. And after the inning - the half
inning was over, and I'm walking to the mound, Lee Wire was walking along with
me. Now, Bobby...

DAVIES: Said the umpire...

Mr. GIBSON: Now, Bobby, if you hit somebody it's going to cost you $50. It's
going to cost you $50. And I said Lee - and at that time I was making pretty
good money - I said, Lee, I have a whole bunch of $50, so you start adding them

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIBSON: And he didn't kick me out. First guy up, I didn't hit him. I
knocked him down.


Mr. GIBSON: And he didn't kick me out of a ballgame.

DAVIES: Sent the message. You know, one thing that I've always - it's always
fascinated me is when ballplayers get hit, and I know it hurts, they never rub
it. What's that about, Reggie Jackson?

Mr. GIBSON: Oh, that's not true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACKSON: If you get hit, and it hurts, I'm going to rub it.

Mr. GIBSON: Willie Davis...

DAVIES: I see guys just walk it off, and I don't how they do it.

Mr. GIBSON: Willie Davies was hitting off of me, and my slider was 89, 90 miles
an hour. And he swung at a slider of mine and it hit him in the knee...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIBSON: ...and he didn't rub it. And I was wondering, oh, I wonder what
that's all about? And he hit a ground ball, and he got halfway to first and
fell. I said, now, that's more I like it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIBSON: Now I knew. He's got to rub his finger or something.

DAVIES: You know, Reggie Jackson, I know that you were hit in the head a few
times and hit once in the face by Dock Ellis. And I'm just wondering, after
something like that, how do you stand in ever again 60 feet away from a guy
that can throw a fastball? How - does it affect your nerves? Mr. JACKSON:
Well, I went out to the ballpark after I got hit in the head one time - in the
face by Dock Ellis - and around 1 o'clock because I was - I sat out two days.
And I went out to the ballpark the next day with a big swollen face and almost
a closed eye because I was going to play that night.

And I had the batting practice pitcher throw at me in batting practice. And I
hit for about 45 minutes and got over that. There was another time in Texas, a
guy had hit me in the head by the name of Mike Paul, a left- hander for
Cleveland. I played against him in college. He hit me in college, and then we
got together in the pros.

I hit a home run off him in Cleveland, and then about four or five years later
he was pitching for Texas. And I came up to the plate, and there were two guys
on, and the catcher was kid named Kenny Suarez, who was about five-foot-seven,
and I got in the batter's box and the first pitch that this guy threw to me was
up and in. And I turned around to Ken Suarez, and I said: I'm not going to be
able to get to the pitcher's mound, but if he hits me, I'm going to rip your
face mask off and whoop you right here at home plate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACKSON: He called time and went to the pitcher's mound, and he looked at
the umpire, and the umpire looked at me, and he went to the pitcher's mound and
said something to Mike Paul(ph) and the next three pitches was over in the
right hand hitter's batter's box.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACKSON: I got walked.

Mr. GIBSON: I like that, I like that. I'm going to fight you. I think though if
I had been catching, you and I would have been rolling in the dirt.

Mr. JACKSON: (Unintelligible).

Mr. GIBSON: Oh, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter) DAVIES: Reggie Jackson, I have to ask you one thing
that I've always wanted to ask a great hitter. And that is: When a pitcher
releases the ball, it's on top of you so quickly, and you have a much better
chance if you can tell whether it's a fastball or a slider or a curve. Can you
actually see the rotation of the ball and tell what kind of pitch it is?

Mr. JACKSON: Dave, if you can't see the rotation and tell if it's a sink - a
fastball, then you have to be able to tell whether that fastball is a two
seamer or a four seamer. You have to be able to recognize if it's a slider or a
curveball. You have to be able to recognize if it's a changeup or a split-

And if you can't, you're not going to be a Major League player. You're not
going to be a good player. Any other player that's playing every day, that's
hitting above .275 or .260, he can see what's coming when it leaves the
pitcher's hand.

DAVIES: So in that spilt second you can pick up the rotation and see what’s...?

Mr. JACKSON: Yes, you better.

DAVIES: That's amazing.

Mr. JACKSON: You better.

DAVIES: That's amazing.

Mr. JACKSON: A guy with a slider like Bob, you'd see a dot, you'd see a dot in
the ball, and you would - yeah, you'd see that dot. If that dot got big and you
saw it too clear, it was a bad slider, and it was going to leave the ballpark
when you swung at it.

DAVIES: You saw a dot. What do you mean by the dot?

Mr. JACKSON: Just the spin of the baseball with a slider...

DAVIES: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JACKSON: ...the rotations in the seams form a dot, a red dot, you know, on
the ball as it comes at you...

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. JACKSON: ...when it's a real good slider. The guys will say, boy it's
tight, it's electric. If it got sloppy, the dot got big, and then it became a
hanger. It became a bad fastball.

DAVIES: Well Bob Gibson, Reggie Jackson, thanks so much. It's been fun.

Mr. JACKSON: Okay, my friend, thanks for having us.

DAVIES: Bob, thanks a lot.

Mr. GIBSON: You're very welcome.

DAVIES: Reggie Jackson and Bob Gibson, recorded last fall. Their book is called
"Sixty Feet Six Inches." You can read the first chapter on our Web site, I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
A Writer Enters The 'Land of Umpires'


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, filling in for Terry Gross.

Baseball is a game where imperfection is the norm. No team wins every game. A
pitcher who wins two-thirds of his starts is a star, and a player who gets a
hit a third of the time can win a batting title.

But there's one guy on the field who we expect to perform with perfection every
day: the umpire. He has to discern which of 300 pitches, thrown at blazing
speed, are balls and strikes, and make split- second calls on close plays, all
the while enduring abuse from players, managers and especially fans.

New York Times writer Bruce Weber says the experience has made umpires an
usually isolated and circumscribed group, like the inhabitants of a remote
country that few people have ever visited.

To understand their world, Weber went to umpiring school himself, called games
and interviewed dozens of present and former umps, as well as players, managers
and baseball executives. The result is his book, "As They See 'Em: A Fan's
Travels In The Land Of Umpires." It's now available in paperback. I spoke to
Bruce Weber last April, when the book was published.

Bruce Weber, welcome to FRESH AIR. For your journey into the world of umpiring,
of course you talked to lots and lots of umpires, big league, minor league, at
all levels, but you also went to umpiring school, and there, you note, learned
that a lot of things that look easy and routine to people watching the game
actually isn't so easy and routine and among the simplest things like taking
your mask off. What's hard about that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRUCE WEBER (Author, "As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels In The Land Of
Umpires"): Mr. WEBER: Well, actually taking it off is not so hard. It's keeping
your hat on that's hard. The umpire wears a hat under his mask, and it has a
little bill on it, and you have to clear the bill before you pull it off, and
there is actually a lesson in umpire school in this.

And the reason you have such a lesson is so that you don't end up looking like
a jerk when your hat comes off when you're trying to call a play, or if it tips
or - you don't want it tipping in your eyes.

The umpire is a figure of authority on the field, and he is in such a tough
spot most of the time that anything that he does that might bring ridicule upon
him is something to be avoided, and that's the whole reason of learning to take
your mask off without upsetting your hat.

DAVIES: So for example, ball's hit to left field, you have to jump out in front
of the plate or go to a base and be ready to make the call.

Mr. WEBER: Correct.

DAVIES: You pull your mask off, and instead, you've got this cap hanging at a
cock-eyed angle over your eye. Not what you want, right?

Mr. WEBER: Correct, or if it falls off and lands on the baseline, and you've
got this stripe of lime on your hat that you won't be able to get off for the
rest of the game.

DAVIES: You know, people who watch the game a lot know that players rotate
positions. They know that a pitcher, when a ball's hit to the outfield, will
run to backup third or backup home.

But I don't know that a lot of people realize that the umpires are doing the
same thing, that when there is a play at the plate, it's actually not the home-
plate umpire making the call, it's the guy from first base because everybody's

Mr. WEBER: Well in that particular circumstance, yes. I mean, they don't rotate
on every play. The thing that I think most people don't get about umpiring is
that learning to be the home-plate umpire is in many ways a lot like learning
to be a catcher, or learning to be a first-base umpire is a lot like learning
to be a first baseman.

Any time a ball is hit, any time there is a play, you have responsibilities.
You have to be able to read the play and react with baseball instincts and get
to the place that you need to be in order to do what you need to do. It's the
same for an umpire as it is for a fielder.

DAVIES: And it doesn't necessarily mean following the ball. It means getting
into a position where you will see the play as it unfolds. So you have to
anticipate the play, right?

Mr. WEBER: That's correct. That's correct. I mean, in fact, one of the things
that - one of the reasons that ballplayers don't necessarily make good umpires
is that the instincts turn out to be different.

A player's instinct is generally to run towards the ball. You're taught that as
a player from, you know, when you're – when you first play Little League. But
an umpire almost never runs toward the ball as though he's going to make a play
on it. He's running toward the place he needs to be in order to make the call.
Those are two different things.

DAVIES: Let's take one example. It happens a dozen times in a game, ground ball
to an infielder, third baseman, shortstop. They throw it across the diamond,
and these guys run fast. The batter crosses the base right about the time as
the ball gets there. Now where does that first- base umpire need to be to hear
and see what he needs to to make that call accurately?

Mr. WEBER: Well, if there's nobody on base when the ball is hit, the first-base
umpire is lined up about - along the right-field line, about 15 feet behind the
first baseman.

When the ball is hit to an infielder, he races into the infield and tries to
assess from where the throw to first is going to come, and he sets himself up
at a 90-degree angle to the anticipated throw, about 15 feet from the bag.

At that point, he stares at the bag, listens for the ball hitting in the
fielder's glove. That's the chain of events that an umpire goes through.

DAVIES: All right, so when the ball hits the glove, it's either pop, step,
which is to say he's out, or it's step, pop, in which the runner is safe,

Mr. WEBER: Correct.

DAVIES: Right, right. What happens when an umpire has to make a call like on
the basis - on a base and they just can't see it, and they're just out of
position and they just don't know?

Mr. WEBER: Well, it happens frequently - well maybe. I don't want to say it
happens frequently. It happens from time to time. You just make the call,
you've got a 50 percent chance of getting it right. You make the call, and you
sell it as if you had seen it.

There is - there really is no alternative, you know, it's - and if you blow it,
you blow it. But admitting that you have - admitting that you can't see it is
not an alternative because once you do that you've completely lost your
authority in the game.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. WEBER: And every decision from then on is open for question.

DAVIES: Nobody's happy then.

Mr. WEBER: Right.

DAVIES: But can you look for help, can you look at another ump and say did you
get it? I mean...

Mr. WEBER: In certain situations you can. In certain situations, even if you
didn't see it, even if you could you wouldn't. I mean if it's just, say, a call
at first base say on a pick-off throw and, you know, you just didn't see it,
and everybody's yelling, get some help, get some help, get some help. You won't
do it because if - what you're saying is I didn't do my job. I can't do my job.
I need some help.

There are certain situations in which you - there's a legitimate reason for
your not being able to see the, you know, see - to have the proper angle, say,
on a spectator interference on a foul popup, or something in which another
umpire might have a better angle, in which case you can ask for help, or
another umpire might say, you know what, I had a better angle. I saw it this
way. That does happen from time to time.

DAVIES: When you get behind the plate and have to call balls and strikes, what
about just seeing a ball coming at you at 80 or 90 miles an hour - these guys
throw hard, and you're right, you know, you're right in the path of their

Mr. WEBER: You do place an awful lot of trust in the catcher, who is, after
all, a guy who might not like you very much. And it is something that you need
to get over - the fear that you might get hit with the ball.

One of the ways in which I was taught this at umpire school, was Jim Evans,
what was - who ran the school that I attended and was a major league umpire for
28 years - was watching me one day in the cage as I was practicing calling
balls and strikes, and he said you're flinching.

You know, I was just calling pitches from a pitching machine, and there was a
catcher in front of me, and he wasn't throwing very hard. The machine wasn't
throwing very hard, but Jim said look, you're flinching. The ball's coming in,
and you're flinching.

Here's how we're going to cure you of that, and he took a basket of baseballs
and took me aside. He said look, you have to learn to trust your equipment, and
from a distance of about four or five feet, he started throwing baseballs at
me, hard, hitting me in the mask - bang, bang, bang - and they were glancing
off in all directions.

By the time he got to, you know, the 12th or 15th ball, I was beginning to
absorb the idea that, you know what, these things are not going to hit me in
the eye, and I had stopped flinching, and I was cured.

DAVIES: Bruce Weber's book is called "As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the
Land of Umpires." We'll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, we're speaking with New York Times reporter
Bruce Weber. He's a lifelong baseball fan who's written a book about the world
of umpiring. It's called "As They See 'Em."

In other sports, when a football referee signals a touchdown, it looks like any
other football referee signaling a touchdown. His hands go up. Umpires, you
note, each have a signature strike call, a certain way of yelling strike and
extending that arm.

Mr. WEBER: Yes.

DAVIES: This is something they kind of take some pride in and kind of develop
and make their own?

Mr. WEBER: I think so. There is such a thing as umpire vanity. I have been in
locker rooms where these guys have been practicing their calls in front of a

In the minor leagues especially, they try out different things, and they
comment on each other like judges at a fashion show, you know. That was - you
know, I noticed you went to the pistol shot as a strike call.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WEBER: Oh yeah, yeah. How did it look? Oh, you know, not too bad.

DAVIES: And what's the pistol shot?

Mr. WEBER: The pistol shot is you feign shooting a pistol, bang. You know, you
shoot out your right hand from the elbow with a finger pointing out, bang.

DAVIES: Right, and then the sounds aren't uniform, either. Each has their own
way of calling a strike, right?

Mr. WEBER: That's right.

DAVIES: Now, I'm going to - I don't know if you feel comfortable doing this,
but could I ask you to, like, maybe back off the mic just a little bit and give
us your strike call?

Mr. WEBER: Sure, sure.

Mr. WEBER: (Shouting) Strike.

DAVIES: All right. Now let's say it's a third strike. A curve ball drops in,
and the batter freezes. He's out.

Mr. WEBER: (Shouting) Strike three.

DAVIES: Oh yeah, that takes me to the ballpark.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: All right, let me do one more. Now you're on the bases. There's - a
runner breaks for second. It's a steal. It's a very close play. You call him
out. What does it sound like?

Mr. WEBER: (Shouting) Out.

DAVIES: And what are you doing while you're saying that?

Mr. WEBER: Pumping down with my fist at the runner, and you pump - when it's a
really close play, when it's a really close play, you want to be demonstrative
because you want to sell the call. You want to let everybody know look, I know
it was a close play, but I saw it. Don't argue with me.

DAVIES: Right, and then maybe you turn on your heel and walk away, right?

Mr. WEBER: Exactly.

DAVIES: Except when somebody argues, and that brings up a whole other great
subject in baseball. You know, it's the one game where, except for on balls and
strikes, you're allowed to run onto the field and get in the umpire's face.

Mr. WEBER: Yeah, it's the only sport where non-participants are actually
allowed on the field of play.

DAVIES: Did they teach you in umpire school how to handle an argument, and...?

Mr. WEBER: Oh yeah, I mean, it's very much a part of umpire school. In fact,
there's a whole kind of slice of umpire school that reminds me of acting
school. One of the things that they - they set up plays for you that are
virtually impossible to call, that no matter what you call, there's going to be
an argument.

So you'll make the call, and one of the instructors posing as a manager or
coach will come on the field to object to the call. The idea is they want to
see how you, as an umpire, are going to handle this kind of situation, which
happens all the time in the, you know, in both the minor leagues and the major
leagues. And these instructors are generally using the kinds of arguments that
they themselves hear, because they themselves are minor league umpires.

DAVIES: Yeah, it's angry and profane, I assume.

Mr. WEBER: It is, and manipulative, and you know, if you're going to make that
kind of call, you're going to die here in single-A. You think you're going to
get promoted? Forget it. You can't make a call like that - that kind of stuff.

DAVIES: And how are you taught to respond? I mean, what's a good way of
handling the ump's end of an argument?

Mr. WEBER: Well, the thing about umpires and arguments is that an umpire goes
against his instincts as a human being. Most people, they get in an argument,
and they try to win it, but an umpire's job is not to win the argument, it's to
end the argument.

If the guy just wants to come out and yell and scream, you fold your arms, and
you let him yell and scream a little bit, and then you say okay, okay, you've
had your say. That's enough. If he keeps going - you know, you sort of have to
read your opponent.

If he starts kicking dirt on you, well you know, get off the dirt and onto the
grass where there isn't any dirt to kick. If he wants to go nose to nose with
you and start yelling and screaming, don't let him do it if he's chewing

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WEBER: Don't let him get his – don't let him get the bill of his cap
underneath the bill of yours because as he bobs his head, he'll be knocking you
in the forehead with it. I mean, these are - and in the end, don't do things
like bait him. Don't try to get the last word in. Don't insult him. You know,
don't do anything that is going to perpetuate the argument.

Now this is all easier said than done. When a guy is calling your mother all
kinds of different names and questioning your ethnicity and your heritage and
your manhood and all the other things, all the other really important issues
that come up in an argument like that, it's kind of hard to keep your head and
remember that really - and forget that what you really want to do is punch this
guy in the nose.

DAVIES: Well, just as arguing is part of the game, so is tossing a manager or a
player out of the game, and I'm sure they also gave you practice at ejecting
somebody. How do you know when to give somebody the heave-ho?

Mr. WEBER: Well, there are certain guidelines for this. There are certain
explicit guidelines. In fact, there are 13 explicit reasons that you are
allowed to throw somebody out of the game, and you know, some of them are
pretty self-evident.

I mean, if somebody throws equipment out of the dugout, if you slam your helmet
down in evident displeasure with an umpire's call, if you make contact with an
umpire or spit at an umpire, those sorts of things.

DAVIES: Now what about profanity? I mean, can they...?

Mr. WEBER: Well, you can use all the profanity you want, as long as you don't
make it personal. You know, as one umpire said to me, people always want to
know what the magic word is. Is it, you know, is horse- bleep, is it mother-
bleep, and no it's not. It's none of those words. The magic word is you.

So you can say that was a horse-bleep call, but you can't say you're horse-

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. WEBER: If you know what I mean. I'm speaking in code.

DAVIES: No, it's clear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Right, right. It's the ad homonym attack that will get you run, as they
say. That's why I run him. You'll hear that expression.

Mr. WEBER: That's right.

DAVIES: What's the right way to run somebody, to get them out of the game?

Mr. WEBER: As demonstratively and authoritatively as possible. You know, you're
taught to throw your right arm over your head and say something like - you're
out of here, or that's it, you're done, or enough, goodbye - something like

DAVIES: Yelling at the ballpark is a part of the tradition of going to a
ballgame. Can you think of some of the more memorable things you've heard from
hecklers of umpires?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WEBER: Well, let's see. One that I just heard last season - you know, the
problem is most of them are...


Mr. WEBER: ...most of them are dirty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Well, if you can clean them up then do so and if we can't, you know...

Mr. WEBER: You know...

DAVIES:'ll be our little secret.

Mr. WEBER: You know, bend over and use your good eye.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Oh gosh. Right.

Mr. WEBER: You know, it's usually it's that level. But to be honest with you,
most of the - and this is I think one of the great shames of baseball. And
baseball fans should be ashamed of themselves for this, which is that the
imagination of the fans and their abuse to the umpires is sorely lacking.

I mean it mostly it's just, hey poke a hole in the mask, or you're blind you
bum, or you stink. And most - one of the things that umpires say is that they
never hear it anymore because they've heard everything 10,000 times and that
they only notice when they've heard something that they haven't heard before,
which is only maybe once or twice a season.

DAVIES: Well, Bruce Weber thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. WEBER: You are very welcome, I enjoyed it.

DAVIES: Bruce Weber's book about the world of umpiring is called "As They See
'Em." Here's a memorable argument on the diamond from the film "Bull Durham."
Catcher Crash Davis, played by Kevin Costner, thinks the ump has missed a call
at home plate.

(Soundbite of film, "Bull Durham")

(Soundbite of baseball game)

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As Umpire) Safe. That's it.

Mr. KEVIN COSTNER (Actor): (As Crash Davis) No, no, I got him. Oh, I got him. I
didn't miss him. He still ain't touched the plate. Oh (censored), (censored)

Unidentified Man: (As Umpire) Did you call me a (censored)?

Mr. COSTNER: (As Davis) No, I didn't. (Censored).

Unidentified Man: (As Umpire) You can't call me that.

Mr. COSTNER: (As Davis) Well, you can't run me for that. Well, you missed the
tag, buddy.

Unidentified Man: (As Umpire) You just spit on me.

Mr. COSTNER: (As Davis) I did not spit on you.

Unidentified Man: (As Umpire) (Unintelligible). You're pushing it, buddy.
You're pushing it. Do you want me run you? I'll run you.

Mr. COSTNER: (As Davis) Well, you want me to call you a (censored)?

Unidentified Man: (As Umpire) You called me a (censored), and you're out of

Mr. COSTNER: (As Davis) (Censored).

Unidentified Man: (As Umpire) You're outta here.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Kevin Costner bringing it, in the classic baseball film "Bull Durham."
You can read the first chapter of Bruce Weber's book, "As They See 'Em," on our
Web site, Coming up, David Edelstein on "Date Night," the new
film with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. This is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
On 'Date Night,' Fey And Carell Should Have Stayed In


Sitcom fans will be excited to see that two TV superstars, Steve Carell and
Tina Fey, are on the big screen in a new romantic action comedy called "Date
Night." Film critic David Edelstein says they haven't brought their
sophisticated brand of comedy along with them.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: One of the funniest things in "Date Night" isn't actually in
"Date Night" but on one of the movie's several posters. Tina Fey is in her
gauzy purplish party dress spattered with mud, her hair all splayed out — but
with her right hand she's smoothing the ends in a cool, sexy way.

That pose gives a hint of Fey's brilliance: It's the teensy neurotic - or maybe
obsessive-compulsive - gesture that's totally at odds with what's happening in
the moment. She's not just a gifted mimic. As she proved in her Sarah Palin
impersonations, Fey grasps the continuum between her characters' vanity and

The movies haven't done her justice - but then movies are increasingly the
lesser medium for comic actors like Fey and her "Date Night" co-star Steve
Carell. They're the stars of two network sitcoms that have moved the boundary
posts, yet their comedies on the big screen are bloated and generic. You see
them working too hard to be funny, doing broad shtick that's only tangentially
related to the characters they're playing.

The premise of "Date Night" is perfectly serviceable - classic even. It's the
old "North by Northwest" mistaken-identity nightmare. A New Jersey couple named
Phil and Claire Foster fear their domestic life has become stale and wearying
and decide to hit the town and rekindle their youthful passion. But they
overreach - they get in way over their heads.

At a super-trendy Manhattan restaurant where they don't have a prayer of
getting a table, Phil takes another couple's reservation when that couple
doesn't answer the hostess' page. They have such a great meal and so much good
wine that they almost don't mind when two men they think work for the
restaurant order them to leave the table and bring them out to the alley.

(Soundbite of film, "Date Night")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (as Phil Foster) I want to talk to your boss right

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) I think we both know that's not
going to happen, Mr. Triplehorn, or should I say - Phil Foster?

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as character) Next time you make a dinner
reservation, don't use the same alias as your ransom notes, genius.

Ms. TINA FEY (Actor): (as Claire Foster) Let me explain. My husband very
sweetly but delusionally thought that we could make it here early enough to get
a table, and we didn't. We were late, and when we heard them calling the
reservation for Triplehorns, he was like us, us, and we took it.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (as character) So you just took somebody else's

Ms. FEY: (As Claire) For the record, I was against it, but my husband gets
these plans in his head, and it becomes like a thing.

Mr. CARELL: (As Phil) I'm an idiot.

EDELSTEIN: Even with material this uninspired, Fey and Carell have style and
aplomb. Carell has a good frozen deadpan — he's often funnier when he's just
about to speak than when he finally gets the words out. When the camera sits
back and just watches them, their rhythms are rather exquisite.

So are their scenes with Mark Wahlberg as an old real-estate client of Claire's
who helps them figure out who's hunting them. Wahlberg is shirtless and so
pumped up that his trapezoid muscles have their own trapezoid muscles, and Fey
stares at him and babbles away, glassy-eyed, while Carell stares at him with so
much shame at his own puny status, he can barely speak.

But "Date Night" is not a movie that honors exquisite rhythms. It's a movie
that calls for big whacking hysteria and dumb slapstick, and car chases. The
director, Shawn Levy, made "Night at the Museum" and its sequel and the Steve
Martin remakes of "The Pink Panther" and "Cheaper by the Dozen."

He's considered one of Hollywood's top comedy directors, probably because he
bashes things along so that kids have a good time and parents don't get bored.
But he's a comedy killer. Even potentially great bits - when Carell and Fey
pretend to be a pimp and a prostitute and perform the nerdiest pole dance in
film history - don't build and pay off. The supporting actors who have to carry
the plot, something to do with a corrupt D.A. and a blackmailing gangster,
which is lazy and slapdash, even by dumb-comedy standards, look marooned.

There are great TV comedians who push the envelope onscreen. Ricky Gervais, who
created the role on "The Office" that Steve Carell Americanized, made the
daringly irreverent "The Invention of Lying." Will Ferrell hit dizzying
slapstick heights in "Stepbrothers." I'm not sure Carell and Fey are in their
league, but if they keep working in vehicles like this, how will we ever know?

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're ending today's show with music from jazz pianist John Bunch, who
died last week at the age of 88. His graceful playing and elegant touch was
grounded both in the swing era and in bebop. As jazz critic Ira Gitler(ph)
wrote: There are ways to swing at virtually any tempo, and Bunch knows them

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at NPRFreshAir,
and you can download podcasts of our show at

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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