Welcome to Better Know An Umpire, an effort to educate ourselves on the human elements who have ultimate decision-making power over some 2,500 Major League Baseball games a year. (All cumulative statistics are through the 2011 season, unless otherwise stated.)

Name: Sam Holbrook

Uniform number: 34

Age: 46

Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds

First year as MLB umpire: 1996

Total MLB games worked through 2011: 1,469 (home plate: 371)

Previous experience: Appalachian League, Midwest League, Carolina League, Texas League, Eastern League, International League

Career ejections: 43 (led all umpires in 2006 with 11)

No-hitters called: None

Over/under record (1999-2011): 156-134

Hated in: St. Louis, Philadelphia, Toronto

Notable alleged blown calls: Cardinals-Rockies, September 27, 2009; Braves-Nationals, August 17, 2010; Blue Jays-Rangers, May 1, 2012; Cardinals-Pirates, September 13, 2011.


Claim to fame: For ejecting Mark McGwire from a game in August 1998, after the Cardinals slugger went into a rage over a called third strike. After the game, Holbrook said, "I warned him three times. ... I listened to what he had to say. The furthest thing from my mind was ejecting Mark McGwire. I bent over backwards. At some point, I had to draw the line. I tried to walk away, and he kept coming back around."

The ejection came just a week after the AP's revelation that McGwire was using androstenedione, a banned, testosterone-producing supplement that was (at the time) legal in MLB.

Scouting report from Major League Umpires' Performance, 2007-2010, by Andy Goldblatt:

Aside from an anomalous R/9 in 2009, a year in which he also got strikeout-happy, Holbrook has solidly favored hitters in both run production and strike zone. ... Although Holbrook led the majors in ejections with 11 back in 2006 ... in 2010 he had three ejections.


Scouting report from angry Twitter user ‏@leg_and_dairy:


Average K/9 (2011): 13.3

Average BB/9 (2011): 7.2

Sample PITCHf/x strike zone: June 19, 2010. Holbrook is generally regarded to have one of the smallest strike zones in MLB, but this one from 2010 defies all logic and classification.


True fact: Earned a master's degree in sports administration from Eastern Kentucky, where he also pitched. Was recognized with a resolution passed by the Kentucky state legislature in February 2011, for "his years of dedication to Major League Baseball and for his outstanding career as a Major League umpire, and commends him for representing the Commonwealth with the highest integrity and professionalism."

On umpiring:

We have always went out there and did our best to get every pitch and every play absolutely correct. Today, with the HD television, the lasers, the computers, the pitch counts and things like that, there is just a lot more pressure to be as perfect as you can be.


Strike 3 call:

To check out other installments of Better Know An Umpire, click here.