LOS ANGELES — When Ted Barrett was a minor league umpire, he supplemented his income by leveraging his size. A three-sport athlete in high school, Barrett stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed 255 pounds. Having the frame and agility to be a heavyweight sparring partner, he traded jabs with champions like George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.
“I’ve taken a beating physically before,” Barrett said before Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, in the umpires’ dressing room beneath the third-base stands at Dodger Stadium. “This is a lot easier — physically, much easier. I’m a better umpire than I was a sparring partner.”
Barrett took his spot in right field for Game 4, about 16½ hours after Max Muncy homered to lead off the bottom of the 18th inning of Game 3. Muncy’s blast lifted the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Boston Red Sox, 3-2, capping the longest game in World Series history.
At 7 hours 20 minutes, it was the third-longest game in the last century, topped only by an 8 hour 6 minute marathon between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox in 1984, and a 7 hour 23 minute slog between the Mets and the San Francisco Giants in 1964. The Brewers-White Sox game was suspended and finished the next day, meaning that Game 3 was nearly the longest to be played in one sitting.
Actually, forget the word sitting. For Barrett and crew, there was no sitting at all. Not once in the 440 minutes of Game 3 did Barrett take a seat. He paused for a bathroom break in the 14th, he estimated, but otherwise stayed upright and alert for all 561 pitches.
“It’s hard, just because of the squatting and the up-and-down behind the plate with your legs and your muscles,” said Barrett, 53. “Now a major league game is three and a half, sometimes four hours, but we prepare for that. We try to get our rest and we try to work out to get ready for a long game, but the mental part is really tough, because you’ve got to concentrate. It’s just complete concentration every pitch, just staying in the moment and fighting any temptation to let your mind wander.”
Barrett, who worked his first game in 1994, is the only umpire to call balls and strikes for two perfect games — David Cone’s in 1999 and Matt Cain’s in 2012 — but he seems to have a knack for unwieldy World Series games. His first Series plate assignment was Game 3 between the Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies in 2007. It lasted 4:19, setting the nine-inning record.
The Red Sox and the Dodgers used 18 pitchers on Friday, each with a different array of pitches and deliveries. Of course, all that mattered was whether the pitch had crossed through the invisible strike zone, and Barrett said he was eager to study the feedback each umpire receives on his performance.
No umpire is perfect, Barrett said, but he believed he had done well in Game 3. Data collected at BrooksBaseball.net shows that Barrett correctly called all but a handful of pitches.
“Two good teams playing hard, and they were very respectful anytime they did disagree,” Barrett said. “That part of it was nice, because it’s not always that way.”
The play on the field was sloppy at times; both teams scored in the 13th inning on an infield hit and a throwing error. But Barrett and his crew had a clean, mostly quiet performance, just how umpires want it.
To help make it through, Barrett received regular supplies of water and Gatorade from the ball boy, Javier Herrera, whom he called “the M.V.P.” of the night. Herrera supplied Barrett with about 30 dozen baseballs, Barrett said, hundreds more than he needs for a typical nine-inning game, which requires 10 to 12 dozen.
Barrett also steeled himself through prayer, as Orel Hershiser did on the bench in Game 5 of the 1988 World Series, the last time the Dodgers won it all. Barrett earned a master’s degree in biblical studies from Trinity College of the Bible in Indiana in 2013 — his dissertation was titled: “An Investigation of Faith as a Life Principle in the Lives of Major League Umpires” — and he is an ordained minister.
“For me it’s a lot of prayer, it’s quoting verses in my head, and that just helps me stay focused, stay locked in,” Barrett said, mentioning the verse he leaned on most in Game 3: “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ And it’s like, ‘You can do this.’ ”
He did, but he managed only about six hours’ sleep after the game. Fieldin Culbreth, the left-field umpire for Game 3, had even less — about five hours, he said, because his legs ached so much. The adrenaline of the World Series, and the knowledge that the long off-season is almost upon them, helps the umpires stay strong. Everyone has some discomfort.
“We’re no different than the guys in those locker rooms over there,” Culbreth said. “Go over there and ask them who feels good. None of them’s going to tell you, ‘Not me.’ It’s time to be ready. It doesn’t make any difference how you feel.”
As Culbreth and Barrett spoke, about 90 minutes before Game 4, a finished plate of ribs sat on a table beside them. The umpires eat before games, but with no snacks for many hours in Game 3, Barrett could feel his stomach grumbling by the end.
When it was over, Barrett retreated to the locker room, where he could sit down, exhale and treat himself to a feast. He had earned it.
“We had steak and fish, our choice,” Barrett said. “And I took both.”