Friday, November 6, 2009

Champro Indicator Pleases Baseball Gods

Recently Champro sent me a plastic indicator to review. The Champro Baseball 4-Dial Umpire Indicator (A048) has a "new configuration" with balls on the left and strikes on the right (backwards from most umpire indicators). My initial impression is that this configuration makes sense, but will require some reconditioning. Umpires are generally well rooted in tradition and habit, and the indicator becomes a part of the umpire. Balls and strikes are recorded with very little thought while the umpire views a steal attempt, past ball, or buxom blonde in the third row.

But then I got to thinking, “Why are strikes on the left side of the indicator and balls on the right?” How did this tradition develop? My question led to some research on the internet. What I discovered is that there is a controversy regarding the origins of the umpire hand signals to indicate balls and strikes. I have found three different versions:

The first version is that the coaches of legendary 19th century outfielder William “Dummy” Hoy (who was deaf) would indicate the umpire's call for Hoy by raising a right arm for a strike and a left for a ball. The story goes that the umpires liked the practice and started copying it.

The second origin is a 1901 game in Chicago when the plate umpire wore a red sleeve on his right arm to indicate a strike and a white sleeve on his left arm for a ball. The umpires in this game raised the appropriate arm for the call.

A third account involves an military umpire at a prison camp during the Spanish-American War that would pick up a pebble in his right hand for a strike and one his left for a ball to keep track of the count. That umpire also indicated the count with his raised fingers in noisy situations.

Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem is also credited with introducing hand signals to the big leagues, as is National League umpire Cy Rigler, who reportedly started using them in the minor leagues.

But what about the reason the modern umpire indicator places strikes on the left, and balls on the right?

Indicators from the 19th century list balls first, then strikes (L to R). Later metal indicators (beginning in the 1940s?) listed strikes on top, balls in the middle, and outs at the bottom of the indicator. While I have not yet found an answer, I will continue to research this issue and perhaps one day write a report with a final answer (I have also written the Baseball Hall of Fame for information).

In the meantime, take a look at the new Champro indicator with balls on the left and strikes on the right (the way the baseball gods intended). The dial action is smooth and precise and the optic yellow wheel is easy to read.

The Champro Baseball 4-Dial Umpire Indicator (A048) is available for $24.96 at Epic Sports (pack of 12)


Anonymous said...

I think the website that you have as selling the indicator is actually selling a pack of 12 of them and not a single one. 24.96 would be a very expensive indicator.

Pete Reiser said...

Yep. $24.96 for a pack of 12.

Anonymous said...

my first indicator was this champro balls first indicator. Sometimes I end up using my partner's spare indicator when I forget mine and find it extremely odd to have strikes first and to have strike 3 and ball 4 and out 3 on the wheels as well.
Even if i'm using the backwards indicator, I still use the top left wheel as balls and top right wheel as strikes, since the top left wheel still has 1,2,3 and the other wheel has 1 and 2. I just have to scroll past 3 and 4 to reset the strikes for me...