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Baseball umpire Pam Postema
Grant Wahl
April 28, 1997
MARCH 14, 1988
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April 28, 1997

Baseball Umpire Pam Postema

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MARCH 14, 1988

The second shift runs from 3:30 p.m. to midnight at an auto-parts factory in Mansfield, Ohio. Pam Postema likes to work those hours because they match the schedule she used to have as a professional baseball umpire. Nine years ago, when she appeared on our cover, Postema was tantalizingly close to becoming the first female umpire in the major leagues. It never happened, of course, for her or any other woman. Postema hasn't called a game at any level since 1989. Today, the lady is a welder.

Postema, 43, works on the muffler line at Newman Technology Incorporated. Her job consists of inserting tailpipes into muffler housings, turning the assemblages over to a robot for welding and, if need be, repairing the welds bungled by the robot—which happens often enough to keep Postema busy. "The robots aren't perfect," she says with mock wonderment. "Imagine that."

In other words, they're a lot like umpires. In 1988 Postema was one of seven candidates the National League was considering for two vacant umpiring positions. But she was passed over that spring and then again the following year. After the '89 season, her seventh in Triple A, she was released. (Rarely do umpires work longer than four years in Triple A, which looks to uncover fresh talent for the majors.) Postema moved from Phoenix to San Clemente, Calif., where she drove a Federal Express truck and wrote an angry memoir, You've Got to Have Balls to Make It in This League. In 1991 she filed a sex-discrimination suit against Major League Baseball. She settled out of court, under two conditions: that she wouldn't reveal the amount of the settlement and wouldn't apply for umpiring jobs in any league affiliated with Major League Baseball.

A year ago Postema moved to Mansfield, 30 miles from her hometown of Willard, Ohio, where her 77-year-old father, Phil, still lives. She found work at Newman Tech, first as a temp and then, last June, full time. She had never welded before. "It's real laid-back, and they have a good insurance plan," she says. "But I like umpiring, and I'd rather be doing that than a factory job." In fact, Postema is thinking of moving to Florida to umpire at the college and high school levels, and women's fast-pitch softball also interests her. As for big league baseball, she rarely watches it, even on television. "If I'm channel surfing and see a game, I'll stop for 10 minutes, then move on," she says. "I don't care too much about Major League Baseball. They didn't care too much about me."