When it came to scheduling baseball umpires and making sure every game was staffed even in the face of last-minute or emergency cancellations by the men in blue, nobody did it better than Jack Kramp.
Kramp's behind-the-scenes dedication to making the Anne Arundel Baseball Umpires Association the state's most reliable and professional group were unmatched.
Unfortunately because of health reasons, Kramp had to resign this spring as scheduler and umpire in chief of the local association. His extraordinary ability to handle the pressures of what can be a thankless job will be sorely missed.
"I'm 41 going on 200," Kramp said recently in announcing his resignation. "Because of my health, every time the phone would ring, it made me cringe.
"I hate to give it up, but I have to for my own good."
One of the more serious conditions that Kramp has incurred is inflammation of the nerves. While driving his car recently, both of his legs cramped up with severe spasms, forcing him to get off the road in a hurry.
"The spasms were so bad they tore a muscle in my calf," said Kramp, who was describing just one of many ailments that have beset him over the years.
Over the last 10 years, Kramp, a Glen Burnie resident originally from Brooklyn, has been in and out of the hospital and had numerous operations on his back and knees .
Kramp scheduled umpires for Anne Arundel County high school (varsity and JV) and summer league baseball (ages 14 and up) for over a decade and is one of the charter members of the association that is celebrating its 20th birthday.
"It's pretty amazing that he has stayed as long as he has, because I know how bad he has felt on various occasions, and how depressed his health has gotten him," said close friend and fellow umpire Frank "Jocko" Svoboda, who urged Kramp to join the association.
"Trying to replace him is not going to be easy because he did the job full time. His health problems have really worn him down and he doesn't look good. We all hope he gets well."
Charley Morse, one of the top umpires in the group, has taken over Kramp's scheduling duties and will do an excellent job, but the fact he still likes to umpire won't make him as accessible as Kramp was.
Continual back and knee problems took Kramp off the field at a time he was considered one of the top umpires in the business. He attempted a few comebacks, but his ailments would not go away.
There were times he would get so disgusted with inconsiderate coaches, administrative types and even some of his own umpires that he would resign the position, only to return within days. The association knew all along it could not get someone to put in the hours by the phone that Kramp did.
The cost of umpires has dramatically risen throughout the state in recent years, but the Anne Arundel umpires have remained more reasonable than the rest at Kramp's urging. It's always been his priority to avoid pricing amateur teams and sponsors out of business.
For example, there are some summer umpire organizations that charge $40 to $50 an umpire for 18-and-under or 16-and-under baseball.
With Kramp at the controls, the Anne Arundel umpires have only raised their fees slightly in recent years with the current fees $30 for 16 and under, and $31 for 18 and under. And while the local umpires are so much cheaper, the quality has remained top level.
To provide quality service during the high school playoffs, Kramp sends three men (normally two work a game) for the price of two. Now that's class and does not overlook that it is still a game first for the kids.
While he will be missed dearly, baseball coaches and league organizers will never forget him. Anne Arundel County has gained a reputation as a hotbed for amateur baseball, and when you start naming those who have contributed the most, Kramp has to be at the top of the list.
The games start with the umpires and it all started with Jack Kramp. Get well, Jack.
Pub Date: 4/02/97