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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Better Know An Umpire: Tim Welke

Illustration for article titled Better Know An Umpire: Tim Welke

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.


Name: Tim Welke

Uniform number: 3 (crew chief)

Age: 54

Height/weight: 6-foot-3, 230 pounds

First year as MLB umpire: 1983

Total MLB games worked through 2011: 3,729 (home plate: 944)

Previous experience: Gulf Coast League, Florida State League, Eastern League, American Association, Florida Instructional League, Dominican Winter League


Career ejections: 71

No-hitters called: Zero

Over/under record (1999-2011): 172-178

Hated in: Los Angeles, Cleveland

Notable alleged blown calls: Giants-Cardinals, May 30, 2011; Cubs-Reds, September 6, 2011; Rangers-Rays, October 7, 2011 (Game 1, ALDS)

Claim to fame: One of the few umpires to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated (October 19, 1998):

Illustration for article titled Better Know An Umpire: Tim Welke

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

Welke is not the heavy-handed type. ... Since 2007, his ejection rate has dropped to one percent. ... Welke's overall K/BB ratio is six percent higher than average, further evidence that he defaults to strikes.


Scouting report from an Internet message board:

I started watching the 96 World Series one up until game 2 when the Braves were absolutely dominating. Then I stopped the show while it was still happy and accidentally(seriously) deleted it. Of course it doesn't matter since I remember those next 4 games in great detail. Fuck Tim Welke, fuck Jim Leyritz, and fuck Tim Welke again. I've never seen an umpire stand in the way of a fielder like that.


Average K/9 (2010): 15.05

Average BB/9 (2010): 5.59

Sample PITCHf/x strike zone: May 21, 2010. Welke ejected Padres outfielder Jerry Hairston for arguing a called strike. (Called strikes on San Diego hitters are shown in red squares.)

Illustration for article titled Better Know An Umpire: Tim Welke

True fact: Wrote a letter to the editor after his SI cover:

I was hurt and disappointed by your use of my picture on the cover of your Oct. 19 issue, which bore the headline KILL THE UMPS! In 22 years as a professional umpire, I have approached games with an ideal of fairness and common sense. I strive to get every play or pitch right.

An essential part of the baseball drama is the human element. An umpire is part of that. I perceive the play, apply the rules and make the decision, all in real time. Under these circumstances, questionable calls sometimes happen, just like rainouts and brawls. My role is to decide what is right. I cannot, like Solomon, split the baby. On any call, half the players and fans will be disappointed.

The dismay I felt when you used my picture was brought home when my nine-year-old son asked me, "Dad, does this mean they want to kill you?" In my job I am accountable to and scrutinized by many. I now ask if you are equally accountable for your irresponsible choice of words, which denigrates the game of baseball and causes me undeserved anguish?


On umpiring: "At the end of the day, the goal is to get it right. Our goal is not to have anything to do with who wins or loses."

Strike 3 call:


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

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