Ump brothers on calls

Umpiring brothers Tim and Bill Welke say working on the same crew can have its confusing side...

Umpiring brothers Tim and Bill Welke say working on the same crew can have its confusing side effects. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

As one brother said to the other: "Wanna go to the game tonight?"

Tim and Bill Welke will be at the Rogers Centre tonight when the Blue Jays play host to the Boston Red Sox, just as they were for the first two games of the series. Tim will be working home plate and younger brother Bill will be umping at third base.

The Michigan natives worked the season opener when the Texas Rangers played the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, marking the first time brothers had umpired in the same major-league game.

John and Mark Hirschbeck are major-league umpires, but were in different leagues. When baseball consolidated American and National League umps under the same umbrella, both were crew chiefs.

"On the field, we are umpires who happen to be brothers," Tim said. "And off the field, we are brothers who happen to be umpires."

Tim, 47, is in his 23rd season in the majors as a travelling nomad, part of a four-man crew without home games, team charters or team buses. Bill, 37, is in his seventh season.

Hitters are considered a success if they bat .300 or have an on-base percentage of .400. Umpires are supposed to bat 1.000, from the first pitch on opening night until the dugouts empty after the final out of the World Series.

In January, when the crews were being put together for the 2005 season, Tim, as a crew chief, asked umpiring supervisor Richie Garcia if Bill could join his crew. Garcia said yes.

"Our parents only have to read one box score now," Tim said.

The best thing about working with his older brother?

"You don't have to hear: 'Didn't we just have you in our last series?' from catchers," Bill said.

Tim says the two never fought as children growing up. It won't be like when brothers Wayne Primeau of the Buffalo Sabres and Keith Primeau of the Philadelphia Flyers fought during the NHL playoffs.

When Tim left home at 19 for the Al Summers Umpiring School in Daytona Beach in 1977, Bill was just nine.

"I was an amateur ump. I went to get better, so people would stop yelling at me," Tim said. "It was a labour of love for me. I didn't realize they placed the top umpires in the school in the low minors."

While attending Western Michigan University, Bill went to Tiger Stadium when his big brother worked games. Eventually, he got the bug and asked his brother for help.

"He told me he wouldn't (help me) if I quit school," said Bill, who graduated with a business degree and discovered that Tim's help was old equipment and free advice.

In 1991, Bill was off to the Jim Evans Umpiring School in Chandler, Ariz.

Al Newman, the Minnesota Twins coach, told the brothers: "I was just getting the two of you figured out. Now, I don't know which is which."

"Now that you two are together in the same crew," Cincinnati Reds first baseman Sean Casey once said, "I'll never figure you two out."

But as Tim pointed out: "There is a lot of warm sentiment expressed by managers, coaches and players."

Ernie Whitt, the Jays' first base coach, spoke to Tim this spring and asked who else was on the crew. Tim said: "Gary Cedarstrom, Brian O'Nora and my brother."

"I said: 'That's great. You'll have a wonderful summer together,' " Whitt recalled.

Tim was part of Joe Brinkman's crew which ruled that Whitt hit a rare ground-rule single on fan interference at Yankee Stadium in 1985. Two years later, Whitt scooped a check-swing, third strike out of the dirt and tossed to third. Phil Lombardi wound up on first, via the on-deck circle.

Despite all this, Whitt still speaks highly of the Welke duo.

"I always got along with Tim (and), for that matter, I always got along with Joe," Whitt said.


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