The umpires are back in business at Cobb’s Hill

The umpires are back in business at Cobb’s Hill

[4/24/21 Umpire Mike Blythers at the first softball tournament of the season at Cobb’s Hill. See Mike in 250 years of calling you out Except where indicated, all photos by David Kramer]

During the pandemic, last season was a difficult one for recreational softball. Play did not begin until July. Participation was down. Several towns did not run their leagues.

Fortunately, a full season is scheduled this year, with the first tournament played at Cobb’s Hill on April 24th.

The April 24th tournament at Cobb’s Hill (Roc Sports)

The season also marks the retirement of the legendary trio of John DeMagistris, Gary Godden and Bob Reed who founded the umpiring organization, SORA (Sports Officials of the Rochester Area), about 35 years ago. The three built the group into a state and nationally-know association that regularly included over 125 officials in multiple sports. John, Gary and Bob will be missed on the playing fields of Monroe County and beyond. This, year Patrick Nothnagle and Jim Muir, operators of Roc Sports, will handle umpiring — partnering with USSSA — at Cobb’s Hill and other venues.

Today, we take an inside look at the umpires without whom the show can not go on.

April 18th at the Cobb’s Hill shed during the spring umpires meeting (t-b,l-r) Paul “Ice” Dorris, Ed Schroll, Gary Rouse, Tom Mulholland, Jim Burley, Tony Scotti, Dave Kramer, Eddie Hussar, Jim Kalaska, Tom “Spider” Wentworth, Caleb Rodriguez [Photo: Pat Nothnagle]

Previous seasons (l-r,t-b) 2016 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 from 250 years of calling you out; 2016 Umpire Hill dodging a bat in Genesee Valley Park from The difference between softball and kick ball: Shotgunning; 2015 Trained medical personal rushing to Umpire Kramer’s assistance after being struck by a softball in Genesee Valley Park from Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC;  2016 Umpire Kramer conducting a discussion, not argument, at Brighton Town Park from The difference between guys and girls in coed softball at Brighton Town Park

4/24/21 In the softball shed at Cobb’s Hill, Pat Nothnagle holds the trophies for the first tournament of the season.

In his softball career, Pat has experienced many memorable moments. Once at the Kreag Road Fields, a teenager playing a prank streaked across Diamond 1, wearing nothing but the beer can he carried. The nudist disappeared onto the canal path, presumably continuing his cavorting.

Back when games were played at Ellison Park, Pat recalls how after heavy rainfall, Irondequoit Creek would expand and overflow into the softball fields, and with it the carp living in the creek. The water became so deep that the carp were actually swimming in huge puddles in the outfield, leaving the games cancelled Due To Fish.

(left) 4/18/21 Umpire Ed Schroll inside the umpire’s shed at Cobb’s Hill. Ed has spent plenty of time in the shed waiting out lighting and thunderstorms; (right) 4/24 Ed at the first tournament of the season.

One of Ed Schroll’s most memorable games was in a men’s league when one team blew a fifteen run lead in the last two innings. The team tempted fate by removing its starting pitcher. The replacement pitcher was shelled, while the defense wilted. Actually, Ed says the team was not as shell shocked as you might expect. They were notorious for squandering big leads. Ed calls the collapse a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

4/24 Umpire Schroll at work. (l-r,t-b) In coed, if a man walks and a woman is up next, he automatically takes second base, and she has her choice of batting or taking first base. The woman told Ed she wanted to bat! (The crowd cheered.) Her infield hit sent the runner to third as Ed was up the line trailing the play. The next batter singled home the run as Ed watched for a possible play at second base. See The difference between guys and girls in coed softball at Brighton Town Park

4/18 Cobb’s Hill. Umpire Paul “Ice” Dorris

This is Paul Dorris’ 14th season as an umpire. Paul umpires because softball is “his game” and for the people who play the game. Paul vividly remembers the November 17th, 2017 Fall Ball championship game when snow fell on the frigid Cobb’s Hill diamond. Paul is famous for never once umpiring in long pants, including that chilly night.

One of Paul’s favorite stories is about a call he made many years ago involving a potential triple play. With two men on in the last inning of a close game, a grounder to third led to a bang-bang play at first that would have completed a triple play. Paul called the runner safe, leading to howls of protest, especially by one irate player.

Both Paul and the player frequent Shamrock Jacks on Culver Road. Ever since the incident, every time they are together at Shamrock Jacks, the player indignantly asks Paul, “How could you make that call?” and then sometimes buys Paul a beer.

4/24 Umpire Mike Blythers at work. (above, l-r) Player Bowerman; not pictured is the ball Mike just dodged. (below right) Mike giving his patented strike hand sign. See Mike in 250 years of calling you out

4/24 Umpire Bill Burley

Bill Burley says for the umpire the most important player in a game is the catcher. A catcher who can cleanly field each pitch and accurately throw back to the pitcher keeps the game going smoothly. This catcher, also a good hitter, removed bats blocking the plate and stayed focused throughout.

4/24. Umpire Wentworth signing Lindsay’s scorebook after a game at the first tournament. While not strictly required, Spider signs every scorebook. As Spider says, no game is official until he signs the book. Lindsay says the the most of important part of score keeping is having a good pen. (For more softball score keeping, see Keeping score at Cobb’s Hill)

Jim Talaska has umpired softball, as well as High School and Babe Ruth baseball, since 1995. Jim played softball since his high school days, finally hanging up his cleats in 2015.

4/18 at the Cobb’s Hill shed. Jim Kalaska (left) and Tom Mulholland

Jim Kalaska thinks no one should officiate a sport unless they have played it, understand it fully and actually enjoy it, which he does. For Jim, the key to umpiring is to let both coaches know, before the game, the rules you expect them to follow, to be fair to both teams and keep the game moving along. In all his years of umpiring, Jim has experienced excessive heat, bitter cold including snowfall, deer running across the outfield, dogs running onto the field, players getting injured and coaches complaining about calls who have no idea what the rules are.

2020 11th Annual Halloween Costume Coed Softball Tournament at Cobb’s Hill (Roc Sports)

One of Tom Mulholland’s memorable moments was at the 2020 11th Annual Halloween Costume Coed Softball Tournament at Cobb’s Hill where the players dressed in Marvel superheroes and villains costumes, Captain America, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Black Widow, you name it.

In Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC, I included some memories:

Almost all the time, along with the players, we relish summer evenings and weekend afternoons outside: Big Sky azure sunsets at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Henrietta, the electricity of urban ball under the lights at Cobb’s Hill, the diamond at Hamlin State Park Beach where Lake Ontario glints beyond center field. The barbecue after the Sunday Fireman’s game in Mendon.

7/17/16. Another enjoyable venue was the coed games at the lighted fields of Brighton Town Park, no longer in operation. The players were good sports. Here the Guys and Girls of the The Brighton on East team give each other the cooties finger sign. From  The difference between guys and girls in coed softball at Brighton Town Park

Perhaps my favorite venue is the University of Rochester Medical Center League (most players are affiliated with the Center) in Genesee Valley Park. The mood relaxed and good humored. The play can be spirited but always in good fun. A nice blend of socialization and softball. And on some Wednesdays are entertained by a popular Drum Circle and a throng of dancing Hula Hoopers. With a certain light but distinctive aroma wafting over the field.

Brighton-Pittsford Post (4/22/09) “Even the umpires are having fun” by David Kramer


250 years of calling you out

The umpires are back. No complaining!

The difference between softball and kick ball: Shotgunning

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

Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC

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

That Championship Season thirty five years later

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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