The Big Pitch: How can PR salvage the reputation of umpires in Major League Baseball?

Dan Collins

Dan Collins

Dan Collins

Mercy Medical Center


Curt Flood, a former baseball player for the Cardinals who refused a

trade to Philadelphia back in the late 60s, started a process which

would eventually result in the concept of free agency. He said that the

general public had no sympathy for him because he was ’talking to people

who would give their first-born child to do what I was doing - playing

baseball.’ This concept applies to the umpires as well. People must be

made to realize how difficult an umpire’s job is, how few are really

qualified to be a major league umpire and what dues they had to pay to

get there. Personally, I don’t think the public’s view of umpires is

truly that bad. People don’t hate umps, they just don’t care about


Kevin Donnellon

Donnellon Public Relations


Umpires must put their egos in check and use their position as guardians

of the game to rebuild their reputation. That could mean community

outreach work and some ballpark involvement with fans, something akin to

what players tried to do after the baseball strike a few years ago. The

umpires can bridge the generations when it comes to baseball knowledge

and passing on a love of the sport. If they’re not the essence of the

sport, I don’t know who is. I think they could be in a position to build

goodwill for the sport. If they really want to distinguish themselves,

then why don’t they give something back to the fans? It will take a

significant investment of time and effort.

Dick Barnes

Independent Sports Marketing Consultant

Washington, DC

To baseball fans, the most visible evidence of the umpires’ collective

sagging reputation is their individual sagging beltlines. For an

aggressive counterattack that would even make them a few bucks, the

umpires’ union should negotiate an endorsement deal with Weight

Watchers, Slimfast or another major national diet program or product,

and conduct a very visible, featured-in-ads program of organized weight

loss for all umpires who don’t meet the standard height/weight

guidelines. This program should make its first pitch with ads during the

World Series, then continue through the off-season until spring training

2000. Self-deprecating humor works. If the umpires persist in bluster

and denial, there will be no salvaging their reputation.

Scott Tattar

Tattar Cutler-LD&B Public Relations


The only way for the umpires to save face is to use union leader Richie

Phillips as a sacrificial lamb. Blame him for misleading them into

thinking their resignations would simply be a ploy to get the powers of

MLB to pay attention to the union demands. The fact is that Phillips did

give them bad advice that backfired, and only the truth will set the

umpires free. Like good PR pros, umpires were meant to be in the

background, but too many men in blue have stepped out from behind their

masks in an attempt to become part of the show. No matter what PR spin

the union employs, the public will never go to a game to see an umpire

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