IN LOVING MEMORY

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Frank Giamartino, Umpire

By Brian Mooney

Saturday, June 24

The historian Jacques Barzun is famously, though abbreviatedly, quoted as having said, "To understand America, one must first understand baseball."

It's a sensible quote, if one wishes to hold a mirror up to Major League Baseball and attempt to see certain facets of our country reflected there. In that particular looking glass we can often see our childhood dreams reflected, we can see our favorite televised moments of goat-and-glory replayed, and we can see the personified history of our country staring back at us in the faces of Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jackie Robinson and Satchell Paige, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds.

But Barzun didn't simply say, "To understand America, one must first understand baseball."

What he actually said was, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game -- and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams."

The baseball Barzun was talking about is the baseball played almost every night in our Green Mountain summers; it's played first by children whacking a t-ball for the first time in their lives, then by teenagers in Babe Ruth League and high school, and finally by adults in their twenties, thirties, forties, and even fifties every Sunday in the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League.

This is the baseball that Barzun was talking about. This is where one goes to see and understand the heart and mind of America. This is where we find the healthy spirit of competitive sportsmanship taking shape in the space outside of work and school.

And this is where, without fail, Frank Giamartino would preside as umpire.

We place great faith in the umpire to be uncannily observant, fair, calm, clear, unbiased, respectful (even if respect is not given to him) and to know the rules better than anyone else. And, whether we realize it or not, we expect the umpire to preserve the dignity and continuity of a game that helps give shape to our lives.

Above all, this is what we expect from the umpire: that he should work so that we may play.

How many of us can honestly say we are cut out to be an umpire? And yet, we rely on them so. Would we even have this game of baseball without the umpire, without that rare person who works so that we may play?

Frank Giamartino was a good umpire. He loved baseball and was selfless in his devotion and service to the heart and mind of America.

Frank, our Green Mountain summers will be such the emptier without you behind the plate. Our hearts and minds are emptier without you. You were a damn good ump, Frank. Baseball itself mourns your passage.

Goodbye, Frank. And thank you.

Brian Mooney is a coordinator for the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League and bats lead-off for the Putney Fossils.