“Calling Balls and Strikes,” by Michael Ceraolo

Here’s a poem by Michael Ceraolo, recently published in the poetry journal Ygdrasil.  Umpires serve as the police, judge, and jury in any given game, and while it sometimes seems dictatorial, it’s really more of a combination executive-judicial process, I think.  The rules of baseball are already in place, and it is up to the umpires to ensure that the rules are followed, and to make decisions when unexpected questions are raised.  It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.


One of the more egregious dictatorships
was the human home plate umpire,
disregarded the rulebook’s definition of a strike
in favor of a manifesto that said
a strike was whatever he said it was,
a ball was whatever he said it was
(a philosophy rigidly maintained
even when the pronoun changed genders),
not even a modicum of consistency
was shown in their calls
And this was made worse
by the fascist dictum that to even question
the umpire’s calls in this area
was to be exiled from that day’s game
This state of affairs went on for decades
after technology for calling balls and strikes
had been developed but went unused,
eventually the umpires’ union yielded
and the automated strike zone was a reality
It took about half a season
for the players to adjust to it
The home plate umpire remained on duty
to call safe or out on tag plays

5 thoughts on ““Calling Balls and Strikes,” by Michael Ceraolo

  1. As a young man, I did a little umpiring, and I tried to be honest with the hitters–“Son, it’s getting late and I’m getting hungry. If you can reach it, you better swing.”

  2. I never road a trabant car. They probably don’t exist anymore, except at museums, but this kind of umpire cold enjoy a bullpen car entrance equivalent, only in a trabant, not a golf cart. Give defiant fans an opportunity to throw rotten vegetables and what not at his car. Purge a little.

    1. It would help, though I don’t know that fans would be entirely satisfied. It would probably seem like yet another way in which the umpire is imposing his own strike zone.

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