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Midwest League Profile

An Umpire Named Christine

The Midwest League's 1977 umpire staff included Christine Wren, age 27, from Spokane and Seattle.

1977 was Wren's third professional season; she'd worked in the Northwest League during the previous two summers. She'd also worked in spring training for two years, though she'd not been invited to participate in the 1977 spring. In 1975, she'd umpired a Dodgers/Southern Cal exhibition game before 51,000 baseball fans.

Wren's umpiring received generally good reviews, even from those who didn't approve of a woman ump. According to most reports, she was an excellent balls-and-strikes umpire; as a basepath umpire, it was claimed she needed some work. It was also reported that her basepath work improved from year to year. Some baseball men, including Baseball Umpire Development administrator Barney Deary, expressed concerns about her stamina which, quite frankly, read like sexism.

Wren's Midwest League season was a success. MWL President Bill Walters consistently said positive things about her performance, and selected her to umpire the 1977 MWL All-Star Game (our best against the Iowa Oaks, that summer).


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Bill Walters invited Wren to return in 1978. Instead, she took a leave of absence, and never returned. She'd become convinced that organized ball wouldn't give her an opportunity to succeed.


Christine Wren was an excellent athlete. Before taking up umpiring, she'd played for touring fast-pitch softball teams. She'd done this for a decade, beginning when she was 13. Her usual position was catcher.

The press coverage of Wren's career is fascinating. An amazing proportion of it has to be called condescending, casting Wren as a "girl" in a profession of worldly men. It's quite clear that she learned the hard way that she couldn't tell reporters everything she believed; by her MWL summer, she was pretty careful about what she said and who she talked to. H.A. Dorfman, a college prof and umpire who followed Wren's career for the New York Times, stands out as a balanced and sympathetic reporter.

I've been unable to learn anything of Wren's life after baseball.


Notes:

My first encounter with Wren's story was a short note and photograph in the 1980 yearbook for the Cedar Rapids Reds.

My thanks to Tim Wiles of the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his assistance in preparing this essay.


Ria Cortesio, a Midwest League umpire in 2001, counts the following umpires as her predecessors in the profession:

  • Bernice Gera
  • Christine Wren
  • Pam Postema
  • Theresa Cox

Only Wren preceded her in the MWL.


Cortesio's umpiring career came to an end after the 2007 season. I put some comments about this on my blog.

This profile originated as the April 22, 2001, Midwest League Tidbit on the Midwest League Mailing List.

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The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

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