Author’s Flashback — Perry Barber: You Gotta Love the Ump!

Stephen Hanks
8 min readMar 12, 2021

By Stephen Hanks
Published on August 5, 1986 in
The Village Voice, New York City


I first heard the phrase “You gotta love the game” during my college baseball days. It was uttered with a combination of sincere passion and mock self-justification by my coach, Nick Testa, who is still the prototypical baseball lifer — late ’50s, former minor-leaguer, never married, pitches and catches batting practice for the Mets and Yanks, plays third base on weekends with an over-35 league team. One day Nick was so intent on playing that he poured gasoline on and set fire to the dirt part of a rain-soaked infield. When an astonished onlooker suggested a postponement, Nick stopped raking, looked up, smiled, and uttered those words that have endeared him to me for life. I’ve kept an eye out for such on-the-field characters ever since; people for whom the game is not just the thing, but the obsession; who are potential inductees in my “You Gotta Love the Game” Hall of Fame.

Perry Lee Barber has the credentials to merit an entire wing. She’s a walking personals ad for baseball nuts: Attractive SWF, 33, loves movies and the Mets; baseball trivia buff, guitarist who has recorded orig. baseball tunes and sung Anthem in bigs; seeks fulfillment as pro ump after six yrs. in bush leagues.

I didn’t meet Perry through the personals, but at a place where you’d expect to meet an ump — behind home plate. I was catching a game in a sandlot league (populated by “YGTLTG” die-hardballers from 18-48) and here was this 5-foot-2 lady in blue crouching close behind me. So, I flirted. Me with a wink: “No cheap feels back there now.” Her with sarcasm: “I’ll try to restrain myself.” Catchers will do anything to get the calls on borderline pitches.

After the game, for which she earned $30, I was curious to hear what other macho chatter had been thrown at her.

“When I first started, I took a lot of heat,” Barber said, as she removed the protective equipment she’d been wearing for two-and-a-half hours in 90-degree heat. “But the players had been pretty good until this one guy a few weeks ago. After I called him out on strikes, he walked back to the dugout throwing bats and helmets and calling me ‘cunt’ and ‘bitch.’ I let him act like an idiot…

Stephen Hanks

Award-Winning Magazine Editor/Writer who is a Patriotic and Passionate Progressive Pontificating on Politics, Media, Sports, Music, and Social Issues.