Cover the Bases Interview II with Perry Barber

by on March 13, 2010

We talk about women in baseball during Episode 2 of our conversation with Perry Barber. We had such a great time talking about baseball, umpiring, and even music, that I decided it would be best to split our time together into two programs for your listening pleasure.  Enjoy!

We find out from Perry that her expected path to adulthood was by way of the usual assortment of life’s milestones, from debutante through married life and parenthood.  It was a suggestion of a different path by her mother, who observed Perry’s reading habits and musical output, that umpiring came into the picture.  Through this connection of baseball it allowed for a unique bond to develop between Perry and her mom.

The first umpire Perry ever met, and was deeply influenced by, was Ed Montague.  Her song The Umpire Stands Alone was written for him.  The book The Men in Blue: Conversations with Umpires by Larry Gerlach was the touchstone of her mother’s suggestion to pursue umpiring.

At her mother’s urging she went to umpire a Little League game in a town nearby, and after the odd looks from the players, she donned her balloon protector and proceeded to use any handy resource available (including Mom in the stands with a rule book) to call the game.  Following the game she had to withstand the letters to the newspaper requesting that she not return.

But prevail she did, through determination and an amazing rush of adrenaline as the target of direct hostility, Perry continued to develop her skills as a highly qualified arbiter of the game.

Perry is not just a participant in the game on the field, she also has a great passion for the historical aspects of the game.  She has discovered through reading about John McGraw’s New York Giants, a player to be admired above all others in Christy Mathewson.

A college graduate among men mostly renowned for drunken rowdiness, Mathewson was one of the game’s first superstars who appealed to a vast majority of the fans.

The books that capture Perry’s attention included Ring Lardner’s You Know Me Al; A Busher’s Letters and Roger Angell’s The Summer Game (Bison Book).  She also likes Pat Jordan’s A False Spring, and he has also written an article about Perry for the AARP that you can read here.  Finally, a personal friend of Perry, Dan Schlossberg has written a book that will be released shortly called The 300 Club: Have We Seen the Last of Baseball’s 300-Game Winners?.

The book that Perry currently has on the Kindle is about a subject near and dear to her heart .. the story of women and baseball .. authored by Jean Ardell Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime.

The book discusses the contributions and influence of women in the game, beyond just the players who were on the field for the AAGPBL, but also in the front offices, stadiums, and of course umpiring crews.

Perry points out that baseball has not been open to accepting of social change, and has always been a bastion of the old boys club,  which continues to hold back women attempting to ascend to the upper levels. Perry will be working some games over the course of Spring Training 2010, and hopes to have a an all women crew as she has in the past (as seen in this photo).

Some may not be aware that tournaments are held in the Far East that Perry gets to umpire.  She recently returned from Hong Kong where a women’s tournament was held. This type of event also gives Perry the chance to interact with other female umpires, including Yanet Moreno who calls games at the Cuban version of major leagues.  However it also points out that it has been 30 years since the height and weight restrictions for becoming an umpire were overturned, in a case where Bernie Gera won the right to umpire through a court ruling.

After 30 years of pushing on the glass ceiling, Perry is a little bit frustrated with the lack of progress so has joined with some other female umpires to speak on the virtues and recruit to the country’s umpire schools. They believe that it all has to start with getting larger numbers of women interested in learning the skills required.

This has to be a grassroots effort because there has been no concerted effort by the MLB to recruit. Perry points out the Rod Thorn of the NBA sent his assistant Darrell Garretson out to find the women who could eventually become NBA caliber refs.

In July of 2010, in Hinsdale MA. there will be a camp called the Girls International Baseball Academy, conducted by women in various positions throughout baseball, where they will gather to educate young girls on a variety of aspects of baseball.   As more information becomes available about the event, you can look for Perry to share it through this and other web sites.

We have to extend our sincerest thanks to Perry for granting us so much of her time to speak with us.  In case you missed Episode One, we talk about her music career and what it takes to be a skilled umpire.

If you like hearing about the baseball books we profile on Cover the Bases, it might be time for you to pick up a Kindle from Amazon, so that you can take all the best Baseball Books with you no matter which stadiums you visit.

Let us know in the comments what you think about the Cover the Bases podcast. We would love to hear from you. Send a Tweet to @baseballisms with a quick message, send us an email or visit our Upload page with a video message. We look forward to growing a community of fans interested in the poetry of the game of baseball!

  • 212eric

    Great interview Joe! Listening to (female) Umpire Perry Barber was extremely informative and very entertaining. I enjoyed hearing about her career and life experiences, but was not surprised to learn that MLB is still far behind the times with regards not promoting female umpires to the major league level. In my opinion, they are really doing themselves a disservice by missing the opportunity to have Ms. Barber working as the first full-time female umpire. She is an intelligent, well-spoken woman and someone who would certainly be one of the best Ambassadors MLB could ever hope to have representing the game.

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