The Very Life of the Game Depends on This”

5 Jun

Bill Klem said, “There is only one thing I like as well as umpiring or seeing a game of ball, and that is playing golf.”

Klem “wrote” an article for The Pittsburgh Press about his career in 1916:

“It was shear love of the national pastime that impelled me to become an umpire.”

klem

Klem

As for his philosophy of how to do his job, Klem said an Abraham Lincoln quote, “impressed me in connection with umpiring baseball games.”

Except it wasn’t a Lincoln quote:

“He remarked that a government that is least governed is best governed, and I think that applied to our national sport in a large degree.”

The quote, “that government is best which governs least,” is usually attributed to Henry David Thoreau; the quote appears in Civil Disobedience” published in 1849, but a form of the quote was in popular use for at least a decade before that. Regardless, Klem wrongly attributed the quote that informed his career as an umpire.

“There must not be too many umpires. The making of decisions must rest with one or two men and their ruling must be the final word. The very life of the game depends on this. Baseball has attained its tremendous popularity because of the extreme fairness with which the game is played.”

And “the umpiring systems in both major leagues” were critical to that popularity:

“The umpires have had a lot to do in making baseball the grand institution it is today. Every umpire of my acquaintance, and I dare say, others in the smaller leagues whom I do not know, strive at all times to be strictly impartial, to render decisions according to the dictates of their judgment.  In all my career as an umpire I have striven to do this, ever in the belief that I was doing my mite to keep the game at the high moral standard it enjoys today.”

Klem reminded fans that umpires “are always in a much better position from which to judge a play” than their critics:

“(O)ften our decisions ruffle the partisans. I suppose baseball always will be so. This uncertainty and excitement is the very fabric of the game itself. Baseball soon would relinquish its hold on public interest if it were otherwise. However, I should like the ‘fans’ to remember that umpiring is not the easiest pursuit in the game of life. Like all humans, an empire may err occasionally. But it is safe to say that 90 times out of a hundred he is right in his decisions.”

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