Perry Barber is a rock star of a New York woman.
She is one of a nearly invisible number of ladies who have literally had the balls to go for baseball umpire-hood.
The men in her league were not happy about it, and let her know.
This was a first, but not a last for a beautiful New York girl, who had made her debut at the Plaza and Waldorf Astoria, then hosted parties in a twenty plus room Eastside apartment; the one which she and her twin had to all to their awesome twin-some selves.
They were the belles of the New York Ball, and could have easily remained so.
Perry can’t resist a good challenge, and the role of baseball umpire, was beyond a challenge.
“They treated me with hostility,” Perry says in reference to the male dominated baseball world she had traded for any number of permutations of a cushy life.
“I had always been treated well, so this was a new experience for me. It was a battle out there and they could sense my vulnerability.
Instead of letting it make me feel bad, I took it as a challenge. With experience comes confidence. After thirty-two years of being an umpire, there has been very little change in the attitude towards women umpires. It’s starting to give a little now,” says Perry.
Perry Barber was always a great beauty. Double Perry and there was her twin, Warren.
“Double your pleasure, double your fun,”as a once-upon-a-Double Mint gum ad sing-songed on a black and white TV, remote control not included.
The Barber twins were the epitome of the feminine dream of their era. They were beautiful, talented, and the boys lined up, tripped over themselves, and changed their routes to school to get a glimpse of them.
When I first saw the Barber twins, I thought that one girl was getting around the school in lightning speed. It seemed like she was everywhere, this perfectly beautiful blonde angel of an image, who you just couldn’t be that angelic.
“I don’t think of femininity as showing weakness, shyness, or frailty, but as women being strong and capable and finding their own way in life. It’s not about wearing sexy clothes or looking hot,” Perry emphasizes.
A Renaissance woman, after dropping out of college, Perry became a “wandering troubadour.”
Perry Barber was a songwriter and singer, who opened for Bruce Springsteen, Hall and Oates, and Billy Joel in her twenties.
Are we dazzled yet?
Did Perry Barber always want to become a baseball umpire?
It started with Jeopardy, the original show, where answers precede questions, and the slamming of the fastest buzzer, coupled with the right question, makes for a Champion who takes home the big moolah.
In 1972, at nineteen years old, Perry Barber became a Jeopardy Champion.
She buzzed onto other quiz shows, won some more, now secure in her strengths, and taking note of areas that needed a boost.
Sports were on the top of the not-quite-a home run list.
Perry bought one baseball book after another. She became fascinated by the sport.
Her mother saw her reading a book on baseball umpiring, and suggested that Perry become a baseball umpire. Perry thought her mother was crazy.
Her mother didn’t flinch.
There was an ad for a little league baseball umpire in an Indio, California newspaper. Perry applied for the job. She was twenty-seven years old, and like many New Yorkers, didn’t have a driver’s license.
Truth be told, her mother drove her to the game.
That was the better part of the day.
Her mother stood on the sidelines with the rule book.
“Mom, could you look up ‘foul ball’ for me?” Perry yelled.
The Little League parents described the game as a three and a half hour nightmare.
It was off to a $5,000 umpire school in Florida, where Perry and Warren were the only two women out of approximately two hundred students.
Then the big time arrived; kind of, sort of.
She umpired college ball, Little League, and even spring training in the Major League. Perry became baseball obsessed and a fan of “the adorable lousy Mets.”
Perry has excelled in umping for decades, in spite of the condescension and hostility that hisses around her.
Her advice to women umpires-to-be?
“Most of us have had terrible times, because we were too far ahead of our times. We were treated like interlopers, not partners. It’s improving now. It’s a fun, stimulating rewarding way to make money. Stay confident and strong, and keep of honor.”
After all, it’s just a game.
The debutante takes a bow, sliding with panache into a now familiar field.
Perhaps you’re next!
Featured image courtesy of Perry Barber