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 11, 2017

Check out Part One (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 base runners standing on it.




Happy weekend everyone!





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Oh my- at least there wasn't someone making a YouTube video back then!
By: Kathe W. on August 11, 2017
Good thing parents weren't quite as rowdy as they are now where you'd think each Little League game is the World Series. To do that job you really have to like being yelled at.
By: PT Dilloway on August 11, 2017
Thank goodness enough time has passed, That is one delightfully funny story. I'd have absolutely done what Mrs. C did. Then with all the runners ending up at third, was priceless. Bet you are both legend in that community.
By: Arkansas Patti on August 11, 2017
Have you considered painting a little league game and the umpire making a game deciding call at home plate?
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 11, 2017
You did the best you could. I probably would have pulled a Mrs. C. and told the players what to do except for the fact that I wouldn't have agreed to help in the first place. I would have totally screwed up the game. I have no idea what a dead ball is, so you're way ahead of me. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 11, 2017
Loved this funny story, Steve. Could be a chapter in a book? About little league and a parent(s) who decide despite their extreme dislike of team sports to broaden their son's world beyond their own narrow, unathletic view of it.
By: Jo on August 11, 2017
Pop fly? Dead ball? Third base? I haven't a clue what it all means so it sounds like I'd be a worse empire than you.
By: LL Cool Joe on August 11, 2017
See I don't even know the difference between an empire and an umpire.
By: LL Cool Joe on August 11, 2017
Well at least you gave it a good try, Stephen. And you got a great story out of it.
By: Mr. Shife on August 11, 2017
One of the funniest stories I've read in a long time!!
By: fishducky on August 11, 2017
That is an hilarious story. Just wonderful. Sorry you had to suffer the wrath of angry parent/fans but you generated one of the best all time baseball stories. This is a classic!
By: Tom Cochrun on August 11, 2017
Good thing they weren't selling pitchforks and flaming torches at the concession stand!
By: Val on August 11, 2017
Oh my gosh did you need security to escort you to the parking lot. Seriously well done for stepping up to help out.
By: Jimmy on August 11, 2017
This is hilarious. But, well, i expected much more of... MRS. C.
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 12, 2017
If they ask inexperienced people to umpire a game, they get what they deserve -- people doing their best under a difficult circumstance. That's when they need to remember this isn't the Major League World Series, just a children's game.
By: messymimi on August 12, 2017
So naive! I would not have taken that assignment in a million years...Umping is very difficult and takes a special type of authoritative thick skinned person. Not me! and LL parents are merciless now and then and always have been.
By: cranky on August 12, 2017
Too funny! And if it makes you feel any better, I couldn't have been an umpire, either.
By: scott park on August 13, 2017
You were put in a difficult position and did the best you could so YOU BOTH WIN!!
By: jenny_o on August 16, 2017
I didn't understand many of the words in your post...but I did understand non-regulation balls! You are too funny!
By: Pixel Peeper on August 19, 2017

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