Media roundup: MLB Network's 'The Third Team' offers mic'd up look at umpires

Bob Levey

We've already mic'd up the players and coaches, so there's only one thing left: the umps. MLB Network special The Third Team: All-Access 2012 World Series offers just that.

Players have been mic'd up during games and coaches have been mic'd up during games. We get plenty of shots of the fans and their reactions. What's left? How about the officials who call the games, or in the case of baseball, the umpires?

Well, if you had a nagging curiosity about the lives of Major League Baseball umpires, then the MLB Network special The Third Team: All-Access 2012 World Series is for you.

This one hour special which premieres Thursday, December 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET and features behind-the-scenes access and audio of MLB umpires Fieldin Culbreth, Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman, Dan Iassogna, Brian O'Nora and Joe West, as they worked this past year's World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers.

The umpires were all mic'd before, during and after the games, giving a complete picture of their routines, including pregame rituals, who they talk to, how they do their jobs and make critical calls, their interaction with players and managers after those calls, and how they unwind after the games.

One segment shows Iassogna's crucial out call of Detroit's Prince Fielder at home plate in Game Two and his subsequent conversation with Tigers Manager Jim Leyland about the play. Iassogna was working his first World Series, and of his assignment to home plate for game two, he said "If I tell you, I'll start crying...I'll just say I had a lot of people out there with me... [My wife] Denise and the girls, my parents, everybody I ever worked with, they were all with me."

Joe West has been one of the more controversial umpires in his career. He's known to Red Sox fans for both bad and good reasons. West was at home plate for game six of the 2004 ALCS when Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of the glove of Bronson Arroyo at first base. Originally called safe by first base umpire Randy Marsh, West, who had a better view convened with the other umpires and the call was changed to offensive interference, wiping a run off the board for the Yankees.

In the special West talks about when a call goes wrong: "I can honestly say, that whenever any umpire makes a mistake, a little bit of him dies inside." He added "The average person doesn't look at us as real human beings. They think we're just robots that go out there and do what we do. They don't look at you as having families, and that's not true. They all have their own lives, their own mortgages, their own car payments. They have a real life, like everybody else."

Brian Gorman was born into the profession, so to speak: "My dad was already in the big leagues when I was born, so I kind of knew growing up what the lifestyle's like [and] what the baseball family's all about. Now that I'm going through it, I have much more admiration for what he went through because he wasn't really making that much money and things like that. The travel was tough on him. My mom died when I was real little, so he was doing it by himself."

Seeing the human side of umpires is a bit different. How often they are the target of our wrath, yet they're just doing a job, trying to make a living, and face all the same challenges and difficulties that we do. This special is a great idea and vehicle to allow us a glimpse into those lives

I'd love to see the NBA to something like this, though they might not like having cameras there when David Stern makes the call to Joey Crawford to make sure that the Celtics get screwed good that night.

Bruce Allen is a Media Columnist for SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @BruceAllen.

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