Saturday, May 21, 2022

Review of "Center Field on Fire," by Dave Phillips and Rob Rains

 Review of

Center Field on Fire, by Dave Phillips and Rob Rains, ISBN 1572435690

Five out of five stars

Insight to the game from a longtime man in blue

 Willie Mays once said that baseball is a simple game, “they throw the ball and I hit it, they hit the ball and I catch it.” While that makes sense from the perspective of Willie Mays, baseball is a far more complicated game than that. There are strategies within strategies and some of the plays are a matter of inches. Furthermore, not all of the rules are unambiguous, instances arise where the umpire must interpret them. Finally, one single call on the field can lead to a shift in millions of dollars of revenue.

 Longtime major league umpire Dave Phillips was present at many of the more complex and controversial plays in the last half century of baseball. He also has seen the rise of salaries, where players and owners are spending and receiving massive amounts of money, driving agendas that are not always in the best interests of baseball.

 This rendition of a life in baseball rendering decisions that are sometimes guaranteed to make half the people angry is a joy to read. Baseball is unique in that the players and managers are allowed to argue with the umpires, generally in full view of the viewers. Nothing can excite a crowd faster and to a higher level than an umpire and manager going chin to chin and screaming at each other. The event even has the special name of “rhubarb.”

 One of the best things about this book is that Phillips does engage in some criticisms of his fellow umpires. He describes personality conflicts between the umpires that are inevitable between human beings, but rarely acknowledged in public.

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