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Perry Barber: Renaissance Umpire


By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Perry Barber is a very extraordinary lady. This 61 year old dynamo is a Jeopardy game show champion from 1972 when Art Flemming paved the way for Alex Trebek and is also a musician who’s talent took her to the same stage as the ‘Boss’, Bruce Springsteen, as his opening act. She is also an MSBL umpire in her third year of working the MSBL World Series down here in the warm sun of Arizona.

She hails from New York and works various leagues back there throughout the summer, as well as traveling to tournaments around the country, and logs 150 to 200 games per year. As the only woman umpire down here, and usually the only one elsewhere, one wonders what keeps driving her to wedge into the good old boy fraternity of men in blue.

"My mother loved baseball and encouraged me to start reading about it. I didn’t even like baseball until I was 27 years old,” explained Barber.The unfortunate practicality of the day dictated that a young lady didn’t have much of a future in the sport as a participant. "I loved everything about baseball and wanted to be involved in the game and not just as an observer or a fan. I wanted to take part,” added Barber. "I picked up ‘The Men in Blue: Conversations with Umpires’ by Larry Gerlach and was hooked. I immediately knew what path to take.”

Now comes the dilemma of how to start. "I started umpiring in Little League in 1981. I had no idea what I was doing but just jumped off the dock,” she explained. "In my second game ever I had a manager who pulled his Little League team off the field because I was a woman.I am a very quiet person but this time I got in his face and told him to get over it for the sake of the kids being able to play. That was an eye opener for me but it made me want to succeed even more.”

This prompted Ms. Barber to work even harder to get better and improve her technique in this game that completely took over her life. Her love of baseball encouraged her to enroll in a professional umpiring school. "I enrolled at a school that had over 100 attendees but I took my twin sister so that we could always work together and guarantee that I wasn’t the only woman,” Barber explained. "It was a great experience and taught me a lot. My sister worked in the game for about six years but then she sought a ‘normal’ life and went to nursing school and got married.”

Perry has bigger aspirations for women in the sport and is a catalyst in this effort. "My mission is that I am looking for a woman to be the first female Major League umpire and also I can hopefully help send women to umpiring school and get them into the umpiring pipeline,” she said. "Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage women, they just don’t recruit them.I would like to help someone make it all the way.”

Barber is hoping to bring some of her fellow lady umpires with her next year to the MSBL World Series because she loves working here during this tournament. "The staff has been so supportive and the players have been wonderful. I want to be able to share this experience with some of my colleagues.”

Some players the other day came up to Perry and said they Googled her and said they admire what she has accomplished. "That makes me feel very good,” she said. "People don’t realize just how hard we work out there. I’m just dumb enough and stubborn enough to persevere because I love baseball so much. It’s been 35 years working out here and as long as I’m ambulatory I plan on calling them the way I see them.”

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