Every rec coach and high school baseball player believes he knows the rules of baseball. Heck, even the casual baseball fan thinks he knows the rules. For red-blooded American males (and some females), its like baseball is part of our DNA - we know the rules instinctively.
Well, umpires know differently. We know that the baseball rules are far more complex than the plain meaning of the rulebook. Baseball rules are made up of the printed rules, interpretation, and tradition. Understanding and correctly applying the rules of baseball is quite complex. For instance, did you know that the professional rules require the ball to be pitched within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied? That’s Rule 8.04, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t know it. That rule and many others like it are largely ignored or only selectively applied.
So how do you know “the real rules” of baseball? You study. . . a lot.
The Official Rules of Baseball (OBR) is a convoluted mess. It is poorly organized and in many cases vague. Reading the OBR is like reading Moby Dick – it will give you a brain freeze. Consequently, there are several secondary resources on the market for amateur and professional umpires. These books present the rules of baseball in a more systematic and organized manner. One of these books is the Wendelstedt Umpire School Rules and Interpretations Manual, or the Wendelstedt Umpire Manual (WUM).
The WUM is “A Complete Annotated Rewrite,” which means that its supposed to make sense of the rules. The WUM succeeds on this point and baseball rules are presented in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner.
While the interpretation and explanation of the rules is first-rate, the organization of the manual is challenging. Its layout follows the progression of the Wendelstedt Umpire School five week course, which does not make the manual conducive to quick reference.
Harry Wendelstedt makes suggestions as ‘Harry’s Hints” for certain rules. These suggestions are sprinkled throughout the book. Cites from MLBUM and PBUC are also used, when appropriate. Reference Plays put the rules into a scenario for further study. One of the best features of the manual is the historical references. The WUM explains the genesis of some of the rules, which enhances understanding of its purpose and place in the rulebook.
The WUM contains some OBR rules that are reprinted in a small font that is tough to read. I speculate that the smaller font is used to set the rule apart from the rest of the book, and also to save printing space. For umpires over 40 (like this writer), the smaller font is a nuisance.
There are A LOT of errors in the WUM. I can appreciate grammatical errors, sh*t happens all the time on this blog. However, there are A LOT of errors (A LOT). Even the cover of the WUM contains errors:
“Our staff includes some of the most experienced MLB umpires in baseball.”“Our students routinely receives higher placement in professional baseball. . .”
These errors are pervasive throughout the book (e.g. “When the ball goes out of play, the umpire should call time and the runners be awarded their bases.”) These typos distract from the content and undermine the authoritative nature of the book. Maybe it is unfair to hold an umpire manual to the same standard as a book mass-produced for the general public and professionally edited. Unfortunately, as an umpire (howbeit “amateur umpire”) I know that appearances matter. When I present myself to the world as an umpire, my shoes are shined, my uniform is neat and clean, my hat does not show sweat stains. . . This book is full of sweat stains and seems hastily prepared, which calls into question the thoroughness and accuracy of its interpretations.
The regular advertised price of the WUM is $54.99 + tax and shipping. That is considerably steeper than a competitor resource, the Jaksa/Roder Manual, which sells for $39.99 plus shipping.
FAIR or FOUL?
I’m calling this one FAIR because the WUM is one of the very few authoritative secondary resources for umpires. If you get the opportunity to buy this manual, I recommend getting it and reading it cover to cover.
However, while the content of the manual is good, the organization of the WUM is not. The higher price tag and lack of editing makes this manual a disappointment.