Camp Borden

Local umpire calling it a career after 57 years



By Ron Giofu


The spring and summer of 2019 and beyond won’t be quite the same for Tony Ross.

The Amherstburg resident has retired from umpiring baseball games after 57 years and will be pursuing other interests this summer rather than call balls and strikes. The last 30 years of his umpiring career has been in Amherstburg or in surrounding municipalities.

Ross said he was 18-years-old when he first started umpiring.

“I was in the air force and I was playing baseball for Camp Borden in the Barrie Senior ‘A’ League,” Ross recalled. “One day, as I was walking to practice, the coach said ‘Tony, I need an umpire.’ It was an intramural game in Camp Borden. I loved it.”

Admitting his positioning was “terrible,” Ross said he still enjoyed the experience and was thrilled to be paid $5 for his first game. He also went from disliking umpires to being one of them.

“Everywhere I went, they were looking for umpires,” said Ross. “Even in Amherstburg today, they are looking for umpires.”

Ross said people, including youths, can make “good money” umpiring games. His talents on the diamond have included various stops around Ontario and even in games in Edmonton and British Columbia. He’s battled injuries over the years, including a shoulder injury when hit with a pitch, a knee injury when he pivoted to make a call and heard something pop and a muscle tear that felt like getting hit in the leg with a hot bat.

Tony Ross has retired from umpiring after 57 years, the last 30 of which were in Amherstburg. (Submitted photo)

All that said, Ross only left one game due to those injuries. In all, he estimated he has umpired in more than 10,000 baseball games.

“I’m carded (certified) in both baseball and softball,” he said, the latter including fast-pitch and slo-pitch. He has umpired games with small children right up to adults, both men and women.

“I can remember doing tripleheaders in Windsor all by myself,” he said. “I did a lot of running. You couldn’t get umpires.”

Ross acknowledged that every close play is going to be wrong and “half of the people are not going to be happy,” but recalled advice from a Major League umpire that he heard at a clinic – call what you think you see and you will never be wrong.

“I’ve never made a bad call that impacted the outcome of a game,” said Ross. “There may be some coaches that would argue that, but in my mind I know.”

Though his umpiring career lasted 57 years, Ross said he wasn’t the oldest in Ontario as he knows of a 90-year-old umpire in the province. He said he umpired more than he ever did last year due to a shortage of umpires.

“I umpired almost every weekend last year,” he said.

Ross now hopes to cross more items off of his bucket list, including travelling. He hopes to visit the Grand Canyon and drive the West Coast Highway.

“Travelling to a tournament is not travelling,” he quipped.

Accomplishments included being the umpire-in-chief at tournaments and working home plate at numerous Ontario championship tournaments.

“That’s when you know you’ve made it,” he said.

Even with his accomplishments, Ross said he always worked to stay on top of the rules and said he was always learning.

“I always learned something,” he said. “I learned something every game.”

Ross looks back at the last 57 years on the diamond and is satisfied.

“It’s been a good career, lots of exercise,” he said. “It’s been a long career. It’s been fun for the most part. Am I going to miss it? Darn right I am, but there are more things to do.”