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Old Wed Jul 06, 2011, 10:54am
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Ken Burns Baseball

In my summer boredom, I have been watching the forementioned documentary on Netflix for the first time. I can't help watch the umpires and their positioning in some of the old movies they show.

At the turn of the 20th century, plate umpires often stood a huge distance behind the catcher. I'm sure this was because the protective equipment wasn't very good back then.

As time progressed, the plate umpire proceeded to get closer to the catcher. It still looks extremely humorous to me to see a profession baseball umpire use a giant balloon protector! During this time the field umpires also got extremely close to any tag or force play at the bases.

I'm all the way up to the 1960's, and the umpires are often within 5 feet from a tag or force play. I just watched a play at the plate involving a sliding Frank Robinson in the mid 60's in which the umpire was actually straddling the plate and had to move out of the way to avoid being taken out by a sliding Robinson!

Anyway, its a part of the documentary series that I doubt few people outside of the umpiring world would recognize. Does anyone know when the current school of thought that backing up a bit in order to see more of the play began?
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Old Wed Jul 06, 2011, 12:43pm
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Originally Posted by TwoBits View Post
Anyway, its a part of the documentary series that I doubt few people outside of the umpiring world would recognize. Does anyone know when the current school of thought that backing up a bit in order to see more of the play began?
It dates from the creation of the schools in the late 70's/early 80's, and the creation of standardized and studied mechanics. The current mechanics have evolved over that time with a somewhat more scientific approach than trial & error to the task of getting efficient coverage.

Evans talks about how he became a pro umpire: basically, another umpire asked him to do it. If my recollection is correct, he learned on the job, and never worked much in the minors. Things have changed.
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