Working the Plate: The Eric Gregg Story, by Eric Gregg and Marty Appel ISBN 0688090893
Four out of five stars
While he was not the first black umpire in the major leagues, Eric Gregg was the first to have a lengthy career. Known for his disarming personality and large size, Gregg brought a distinctive style to the ballpark. He was one of the early umpires to insert some secondary entertainment into the game.
He was not without a bit of controversy, promoted to the majors at the age of 24, there is reason to believe that his appointment was an affirmative action move by major league baseball. He also made some very controversial calls that were branded as some of the worst decisions of the decade.
This is his story and I found myself wishing he had spent more ink describing some of the on-field situations that he was a part of. Some of them are very funny and certainly more entertaining than the more routine descriptions of where he lived and his daily life outside baseball.
In his own way, Eric Gregg was a pioneer for blacks in major league baseball, his 22 years in blue and early “retirement” make him an underappreciated individual that helped expand opportunities for minorities in positions of authority in baseball. He also openly praises and criticizes the players, coaches and managers that he had to deal with on a daily basis.