250 years of calling you out

250 years of calling you out

Left to right: Jesse Rogers, John Haygood, Bobby Wright, Sam Kimble (not pictured, Jimmy Kimble, Charlie Kimble, Mike Blythers) The USSSA pre-season Umpire’s Tournament at Henrietta Veteran’s Memorial Park 4/23/16

For about 250 years combined, Jesse Rogers, John Haygood, Bobby Wright, Sammy Kimble, Charlie Kimble, James Kimble and Mike Blythers (the baby of the Old Guard) have brought fairness — if not justice — to softball and baseball fields around Rochester. And, amazingly, in all that time have yet to make a wrong call!

player called out

This live game action shot captures Sammy Kimble making the out call at the pre-season Umpire’s Tournament. 4/23/16

mike b

Mike Blythers

You’ve seen them under the lights of urban ball at Cobb’s Hill, with the senior leagues at MacAvoy Park, or at the Roberto Clemente Men’s Hispanic League at Edgerton Park. And all over the suburbs: under Big Sky azure sunsets at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Henrietta, by the water towers of Harris Whalen Field in Penfield, in the diamond at Hamlin State Park Beach where Lake Ontario glints beyond center field. From chilly evenings in mid April through the long days of summer to chilly evenings when Fall Ball can linger into November.

throwing player out

Clearly the first base coach did not see the photo proving Sammy correct. Sammy really had no other choice.

q's hair

Q of distinctive hair style

Their softball history and memory run deep. Recalling in 1977 when Andy Santillo led Mazzola-Castle to the national championship. And in 1980 when the Rochester Express won the professional slo-pitch title.

There have been too many great teams and players to pick the best. Mazzola and Castle before they merged. Projetti’s, Pace Electronics, and Al’s Green Tavern. Mike DeCillis, John Warren, Don Brown, Joe Nucci, the late Peter Castle, and lest we not forget the ladies, Carol Aselin. They’ve watched the game progress as more and more women compete in women’s and co-ed leagues. To a man, they have no plans to retire.

missing guy

Jimmy Kimble

The group had no problem discussing race. To a man, they said race had not negatively impacted their umpiring career or experience. One said any isolated incidents he remembers were nothing to write home about. They’ve been called every name in the book (including one’s not suitable for our family magazine). And blind on more than several occasions — but the barbs have been color blind. I told this to another umpire, Spider (yes, umpires have nicknames), who said he was heartened to hear it, adding this is Rochester and that’s how it should be.

Jimmy feeding hungry softball masses at the pre-season Umpire’s Tournament in Henrietta’s Veteran’s Memorial Park. 4/23/16

While a basketball referee for decades, James Quinn, “Q”, is in just his second year of umpiring. Q is the one with the distinctive hair down to his (colorful term used by the other umpires). But James knows the Old Guard well. In the community, they are like an extended family:  gathering at home barbecues, church activities and community events.

Q calling strike

Q calling strike

James said people are surprised to learn he is an umpire, adding especially a black umpire. Their surprise points to a disappointing trend as younger generations of African-American young men are increasingly disconnected to baseball.

me first pitch

myself readying for first pitch of the season

So, in the last couple of years James has become an ambassador for the sport he loves. Encouraging young men and women to get involved in baseball and softball — actually any team sport — as James believes the experience gives direction, the opportunity for achievement and the ability to work in a group toward shared goals. He’s actively recruiting others to join him behind the plate calling (always perfectly) balls and strikes.

Speaking of getting involved, our USSSA game assigner John DeMagistris is always looking for umpires. Every year our association is getting older not younger. Recently, John has been recruiting college students home for the summer to give them a taste of what can be a life long involvement in umpiring. John will give you all the training and support you need. And work in games around your schedule. Contact him at [email protected] And the pay is not bad at all.

NOTE: I asked the umpires what was the longest softball they ever saw hit. One said a ball knocked by a Rochester Express over the center field fence at Silver Stadium. Another was at the Baden Street Park when Scott Virkus hit one into the parking lot of Dag Hammarskjold School 6. Today, I revisited the site. That was quite a wallop but I believe the story.

The spot where Scott Virkus hit the ball [Photo: selfie] 5/03/16


The parking lot of former School # 6 where the ball hit by Scott Virkus landed [Photo: Tony the construction guy] 5/3/16

UPDATE: At the Lilac Festival, I saw Scott who confirmed the story. In 1981 when Scott was 19 — home for the summer from Purdue University and playing for Polo’s Grocery — he did indeed land one into the parking lot. Scott estimates the shot must have been close to 500 feet.

Scott Virkus working security at the Lilac Festival, 5/8/16


from the Brighton-Pittsford Post 4/22/09


The difference between guys and girls in coed softball at Brighton Town Park

That Championship Season thirty five years later

East’s groundskeeper/umpire Sam Kimble has a rooting interest in Team Eagle

Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC

Pick up softball games still exist

The 8th Annual Festival of Softball: After 800 Innings the “Tribute to Noah” nears $100,000

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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