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Best Seat in Baseball, But You Have to Stand

Best Seat in Baseball, But You Have to Stand

The Game as Umpires See It

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Lee Gutkind. Foreword by Eric Rolfe Greenburg


6 x 9, 15 illustrations

Writing Baseball


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About the Book

To provide this unique—if controversial—look at major league baseball as umpires see it, Lee Gutkind spent the 1974 season traveling with the umpiring crew of Doug Harvey (crew chief), Nick Colosi, Harry Wendelstedt, and Art Williams, the first black umpire in the National League. The result is an honest, realistic, insightful study of the private and professional world of major league umpires: their prejudices and petty biases, their unbending pride in their performance, their inside perspectives on the game, and their bitter criticism of the abuse often directed at their profession and at their conduct. As relevant today as it was in 1974, this illustrated chronicle shows how little has changed in the lives and duties of umpires in the last quarter century.

Guided by his passionate love for the game as he wrote The Best Seat in Baseball, But You Have to Stand!, Gutkind attempted to present the umpires in a positive but realistic light: "I portrayed them as real people, honorable, hard-working and dedicated, but with warts and flaws like the rest of us. But they didn't want to be compared with real people; they wanted to be umpires—on a plateau above most everyone else." Since the publication of this book in 1975, neither Harvey nor Wendelstedt have communicated with Gutkind, with Wendelstedt even denying that Gutkind traveled with the crew.


Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of the journal Creative Nonfiction, has performed as a clown, scrubbed with heart and liver transplant surgeons, wandered the country on a motorcycle, and experienced psychotherapy with a distressed family—all as research for eight books and numerous profiles and essays. He is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.


"An umpire's lot is not a happy one, and this dramatic account of a season spent with a National League team of four shows exactly how unhappy it is. . . . [A]s a whole the book will intrigue any baseball fan."—Publishers Weekly

"Instruction manuals (which is what the umpiring crew assumed Gutkind was writing) need no dramatic arc, but other books do, and it is that arc that makes The Best Seat in Baseball a compelling read twenty-five years after its original publication, leading the reader to contemplate what remains the same and what has changed."—Eric Rolfe Greenberg, author of The Celebrant, from the Foreword

"[Gutkind is] superb in conveying the difficulties of the umpiring profession, as well as both the umpires' keen sense of multifaceted aggrievement and their counter-balancing pride in their profession. [He] lets the subjects tell their own story, and he does a fabulous job of getting their mannerisms, appearances, actions, and speech down on paper in a very convincing way."—Mike Shannon, editor of Spitbal