Why are the umps so concerned with keeping home plate spotless?

I didn’t grow up playing or watching baseball much–it’s an interest that I’ve developed as I’ve gotten older and come to appreciate the history and the simple, pastoral (as a friend of mine loves to say) pleasure of a day out at the ballpark.

So, I have lots of silly little questions about immaterial parts of the game that don’t make sense to me. One of these would be the devotion of home plate umpires to keeping home plate clean. No home plate ump can refuse the opportunity whip out a whisk broom, turn his back to the field, and sweep all the stray dust off home plate.

So what’s the big deal? I can see needing to keep it from being obscured, since it’s important to things like the strike zone and plays at the plate. But that would only be an issue if it were truly filthy. Google hasn’t helped me here–everyone out there on the interwebs seems to just accept that the plate must be kept clean, but wants to know why the ump always turns his back to the field to clean it. (I’d never even noticed that bit until I googled.)

Because both he and the pitcher need it to be as clean as possible for strike zone reference.

I think it’s a simple as making it easier to see the strike zone, or the exact borders for a close play at the plate.

Don’t have a clue about turning his back to the field. Never noticed that.

I figured they stand in front of the plate so they are’nt mooning the crowd. Not out of politeness, because of the jeers that will ensue.

A lot of times it’s just a stall tactic, for example if the catcher gets hit by a ball in the dirt, especially if it hits him in the nuts. The umpire will make a big deal out of taking out his whisk and cleaning the plate - it gives the catcher time to get comfortable again, plus it takes the attention away from the guy who is clutching his crotch. Catchers will do this too if the umpire gets hit - they’ll go out to the mound to talk with the pitcher even if they have nothing to say.

The relationship between catchers and home plate umpires is very delicate and complicated.

ETA too late

Seems to me the simple reason for turning his back to the field before sweeping is to avoid presenting the spectators with (take your pick) a) the rudeness of his backside or b) an appealing target for frustrated fans.

Thanks **Munch **/ Procrustus. I guess sometimes the simple answer is the right one.

And yes, I have noticed that it’s often a way for the ump to fill “dead air” when there’s a break in the action for whatever reason. Beats standing around with your hands in your pockets, I guess.

That is correct. The media periodically run stories about umpire school, and one such story some years back cited this as one of the first things they teach. Walk around the plate and don’t show your rear end to the spectators.

Unless they’re beyond the outfield fence, in which case they can’t possibly throw anything far enough to hit you with.

[hijack] I take a company shuttle to the train station after work. Lately, it’s been extra full (no seats left), and I’m always one of the people who have to stand because I’m at the last stop for loading passengers. To show my contempt for the sitting passengers, I stand with my buttocks pointed squarely at the face of one of them. I’ve even started polling my fellow standees: should I stick my buttocks in the face of the person on the right, or on the left? The beauty of it is that the victims probably don’t know I’m doing it intentionally.

If someone does, Toronto will sign him.

I remember seeing this one game where the home plate umpire seemed to be extraordinarily determined to keep the plate spotless. But it turned out that he was actually a police officer who was on an undercover mission to prevent the Queen of England from being assassinated, so I was willing to chalk up all of the cleaning he did – and all of the other unusual stuff that he was doing – to a simple lack of experience. I have to think that he got a lot better at it with time.

The vacuum cleaner he used helped too.

I saw that game! Wish more umps would call strikes like he did, added a bit of entertainment to the game.

No, that would be the Cubs…

Was he a cop? I thought he was an opera singer.