Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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America's Great Pastime: Conclusion

August 12, 2013

Check out Part I (here.)


My difficulties as an umpire fell into two categories: first was a lack of familiarity with the rules of the game, conveyed to players and spectators by the erratic methods I used to communicate my decisions; second, my co-umpire (Mrs. C.) found it all but impossible to remain impartial and not show favoritism to the hardworking smallest kid in the game.


I learned the hard way that it’s prudent to step back when base runners charge the plate, especially if you’ve just lost a contact lens and can no longer see very well. In my case, when spectators griped that I must be half blind, they were right. And I quickly learned that catchers often jump out of the way if they think a pitch too fast to catch. Those protective pads given umpires aren’t as much protection as you might think, particularly if a baseball strikes you where you’re carrying non-regulation balls.


And it isn’t enough for an umpire to make difficult calls; he must communicate them in an easy to understand manner. In spite of the fact that I was struggling and under a lot of pressure to do my best, I had trouble with those animated signals umpires on TV do so well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t consistently remember the proper gesture for, “You’re out!” or “You’re safe!” It proved confusing when I’d pump my fist in the air and shout, “You’re safe!” Similarly, when I raised my arms in a sweeping motion and barked “You’re out” I was scowled at by those who, for some reason, doubted my baseball expertise.


Mrs. C. was having her own problems behind first base. I blame her huge heart and amazing compassion. She tried to do her best but Mrs. C. is a quintessential Libra. Libras should never become umpires. They are all about balance and harmony. Mrs. C. didn’t want to ruffle feathers, make anyone feel bad by being thrown out in a close play at first base. She ended up angering everyone almost as much as I did. Basemen complained about her. Base runners complained about her. Spectators took turns complaining about her.


As the game progressed I did my best to ignore the catcalls and derisive comments, and I might have left the field that day as simply a terrible umpire, except for a play during the last inning that elevated Mrs. C. and I to the Pantheon of all-time terrible umpires.


The game was tied up 6 to 6 at the bottom of the last inning. Little Pee Wee on the home team (not to be confused with any giant Pee Wees out there) had struck out every time he batted, but on his last time at bat he managed a pop fly to first base. Pee Wee looked shocked as he dropped his bat and dashed for first base. The runner on first expected the ball to be caught and remained where he was, but the ball managed to bounce out of the first baseman’s glove.


Mrs. C’s maternal instincts must have kicked in because she momentarily forgot she was a base umpire and not a base coach. She yelled at Pee Wee to run faster and encouraged the runner on first to head for second, which was where the first baseman threw the ball after retrieving it. The ball sailed over the second baseman’s head allowing the runner on second to bolt for third with Pee Wee on his heels.


I needed to remind Mrs. C. that it wasn’t her place to encourage runners and waved my hands to call for a dead ball, but no one was paying attention to my erratic gestures anymore, except the runner on third who stayed where he was.


I won’t repeat the names Mrs. C. and I were subjected to, and it goes without saying that neither of us were again asked to umpire a game, but the experience did teach me something—third base looks really small with three runners standing on it.




This article makes a good case for instant replay in Little League. You shouldn't feel too bad; there are some terrible umpires in the major leagues. I mean those guys get paid probably hundreds of thousands of dollars and still make terrible calls. Google "Jerry Meals" or "Armando Galarraga perfect game" for a couple of recent examples.
By: PT Dilloway on August 12, 2013
Serious question first...why did you call "dead ball?" Second, oh yeah, I feel your pain. It is one of the most complicated games in the world. It's amazing we learned how to play. "Dropped Third Strike" is an especially confusing play (and not only because it's actually an "Uncaught" Third Strike. Ditto on Infield Fly. I've been called a diverse variety of things. But, it IS gratifying to eject a coach or player.
By: Al Penwasser on August 12, 2013
You're a braver man than me. And believe it or not, probably a BETTER umpire than I would have been, too.
By: Scott Park on August 12, 2013
I think umping and school bus driving are the two hardest and least respected jobs there are. At least it was a memorable game~
By: Shelly on August 12, 2013
I suppose the journey and experience were one in the same. I'll give you an A+ for effort and Mrs. C bless her heart a B- for playing favourites.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 12, 2013
Somehow, i don't doubt that umpires earn their keep, and unpaid ones must be the most selfless people there are, to stand all of this.
By: mimi on August 12, 2013
OMG- you were lucky to get out of there alive! Thanks for the very entertaining story!
By: Kathe W. on August 12, 2013
THis post demonstrates how difficult a job umpiring is and how underpaid the Major League umpires are. LL umpiring is especially hard. There are plays and rules in LL that NEVER happen in other leagues because the players are inexperienced (batting out of order for instance.) I think I know the rules, but I would never volunteer to ump. So funny about compassion having no place in umpiring! Instant replay in LL. In what world is that a good idea? In most cases 99.5% of instant replay shows how incredibly good major league umpires are!!
By: Cranky on August 12, 2013
oh my gosh... too funny!
By: TexWisGirl on August 12, 2013
I would NEVER umpire!!
By: fishducky on August 12, 2013
Oh, I loves me some good baseball stories!
By: Catalyst/Bruce on August 12, 2013
This proves that you and Mrs. C. are outstanding individuals, to put up with all the antics of the parents.
By: David Walston on August 12, 2013
That last line killed me - thank goodness I had already swallowed my drink :)
By: The Bug on August 12, 2013
I feel you pain, brother. By the way, I' a Libra too - perhaps this explains my lack of success as a football (soocer) referee?
By: Bryan Jones on August 12, 2013
I'm smiling. This reminds me of my nephew's t-ball games: with players running in the opposite direction, throwing the ball to players on the opposite team, and passing each other up when running to home-plate. I would be laughing too much to umpire or coach a game like that. You and Mrs. C. did well to make it through to the end. Fun story, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on August 12, 2013
Hilarious! Better you and Mrs C than the Cochruns. Would love to have seen you mix the call with the signal!
By: Tom Cochrun on August 12, 2013
I feel your pain. I refereed basket ball. I wasn't good enough to play!
By: Red on August 12, 2013
I'd like to make a comment, but since your post today was written in some language that I don't speak, I'm not sure what exactly it was all about. I did understand that "base runners charge the plate." I take it that there is food being consumed at this sport then?
By: Pixel Peeper on August 12, 2013
So, you'll never get asked to ump again? I think you could count this as a success, right?
By: jenny_o on August 12, 2013
I wish you had umpired my son's games. Then there would have been fewer people yelling at HIM.
By: Val on August 12, 2013
Just as I imagined. Hell...
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 13, 2013
Once again, proving how hard it is to be a parent . . . I used to umpire for my daughter's softball team, and was told again and again, it doesn't matter whether your call is right or not, you just have to SELL it!
By: tom sightings on August 13, 2013
Never being asked to umpire....that has to be one of your and Mrs. Cs life's blessings. I know next to nothing about the "real" rules pertaining to any sport and admire that you gave it a try. I think it is hysterical that Mrs. C was so encouraging.
By: Cheryl P. on August 13, 2013
Oh my.. I don't even like sports but I so enjoyed this story. You and your wife are such fine people to take on a thankless, task of such uncertainty. You're both winners in my eyes.
By: Hilary on August 15, 2013
A great tale. It makes one appreciate how difficult refereeing is.
By: John on August 16, 2013
Stephen: I have no knowledge of the Zodiac. But if a Libra is all about balance and harmony, I may just need to take a closer look at single women who are Libras! Those are two admirable traits:)
By: Michael Manningm on August 17, 2013
I never grew up with baseball, but now my room mate watches all the time. Those rules are confusing and intricate.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on August 24, 2013
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By: coachonihon.com on August 25, 2013

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