You’re Out and You’re Ugly Too!: Confessions of an Umpire with Attitude
by Durwood Merrill and Jim Dent

Umpire Durwood Merrill’s autobiography is a lot like the ghost written autobiographies of hockey goon Tiger Williams and football goon Conrad Dobler in telling the story of a deviant with little or no insight as to how and why others regard them as screw-ups. In the cases of Williams and Dobler, they describe themselves as semi-heroes who manage to have major league careers in their sports because they will go beyond the limits most players set in trying to win at any cost, with little or no insight into why other people dump on them. Likewise, Merrill seems to have made up his own personal rules for his own satisfaction, while ignoring why other people have been so upset about them.

What Durwood Merrill’s book has in common with these other treasures of jock literature is a strong will to succeed and willingness to make up and play by personal rules not shared by others, combined with ridiculous rationalizations of personal behavior. In all these cases, the autobiographers and their ghosts describe their conflicts with public opinion and officialdom as being based on issues other than problems that others consider obvious and fundamental (but get mangled in the spin cycles of the autobiographers’ minds).

Merrill’s book has a quote (at least once) of someone claiming that it’s worth the price of admission just to watch Merrill ump. That’s a bit of what Merril and ghost would euphemize as “horse manure”. I don’t remember (or want to bother to look up) where the repeated quote came from, but I’m pretty sure that it’s from someone with a vested interest in stroking Merrill’s big fat ego (i.e. a player or manager who is making the quote for his benefit, rather than another umpire or a sportswriter).

For me, a major theme of Merrill’s ghost written autobiography is self-delusion. There seems to be no insight into why highly competitive superstars like Reggie Jackson, George Brett, and Ken Griffey, Jr. are in a hurry to flatter him, or why Nolan Ryan would want to help with his grandson’s birthday tour or Arlington Stadium. Merrill and ghost encourage the notion that it’s because he’s such a neat guy, but I’m more inclined to believe that it’s because Merrill has set himself up as a capricious dictator who can affect the outcome of ballgames by imposing his own rules that aren’t in the rule book, that some players are willing to go for that competitive edge, and that Merrill is so self-deluded that he won’t admit what’s really going on, even to himself.

The title of Durwood Merrill’s book seems to summarize a lot of his problems as an anti-hero; You’re Out and You’re Ugly Too! includes an unnecessary insult, with an exclamation point in the wrong direction for someone who allegedly cares more about baseball than person power trips. Someone who is really into baseball (or even personal show-boating) can declare “You’re Out!” (with an exclamation point there, and even cap flying off for emphasis), but when you add “and You’re Ugly Too!”, it sounds to me like someone who’s acting like an authoritarian who enjoys telling other people they’re ugly, and can get away with it because he’s simply an authority figure.

There’s also a subtitle, “Confessions of an Umpire with Attitude”, which seems to underscore the theme that Merrill is someone who glorified being in a position to put other people down, along with a sense that there’s stuff that people can get away with in an authoritarian system, and he’s someone who can do it with flamboyance (and we’re supposed to enjoy that as much as he seems to).

Where the book degenerates into the same themes as other jock goof rationalization books is in his apparent lack of insight into why other people are upset with him. Like other goofish jock rationalizers, Merrill and ghost describe the problems as being based on other authority figures dumping on his personal showmanship, instead of more fundamental problems of his ways of being an authority problem with an over-blown ego.  Merrill’s book goes to great length about hassles he had with league officials about incidental issues like his choices in wearing cowboy boots rather than jacket and tie (or his allegedly entertaining methods of calling a game) rather than his tendencies to make himself the centerpiece of a game by getting into hassles that could have been avoided, then making himself the most important person among the thousands present by ejecting someone from the game. At various points in the book, Merrill and ghost seem to be bragging (at least earlier in his career) about having the power to determine the outcome of a ballgame by kicking out someone on grounds as capricious as not liking the smell of their aftershave. --Tony Formo

Baseball Products • PC Baseball Products • Basketball Products • PC Basketball • Ordering/Shipping • Contact