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July 20, 1990 - Image 45

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-07-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SPORTS

The Natural

HOWARD ROSS

Special to The Jewish News

ressed in navy slacks,
a powder-blue, short-
sleeved shirt and a
chest protector that appears
to have stopped more than its
fair share of foul tips, George
Maskin is having the time of
his life.
His enjoyment, of course, is
tempered by the umpire's un-
written code of conduct: make
your calls in an even, confi-
dent voice; let them know
who's in charge without
belittling them; behave
professionally.
But every so often — like
when a 16-year-old Connie
Mack League shortstop
makes an impressive
backhanded grab — there's an
unmistakable glint in
Maskin's eyes. It's a look that
makes it easy to believe the
73-year-old West Bloomfield
resident when he says he'll of-
ficiate kids' games "as long as
God lets me do it and as long
as they accept me."
For Maskin, that's already
been a long time. A Michigan
High School Athletic Associa-
tion (MHSAA) official since
1946, he's called balls and

strikes, first downs and per-
sonal fouls on the class of
1990 as well as on their
parents and grandparents.
Maskin, who these days
calls about four or five games
a week, refers to his four-
decade passion as "just a hob-
by." He's cut his workload
from more than a dozen
games weekly and has
eliminated basketball, which
requires more stamina from a
referee than do other sports.
"Some guys play golf, some
play tennis, some gamble;'
Maskin says. "This is what I
do.
"I like kids. I've always lov-
ed sports but I was never able
to throw or catch a baseball
right."
Officiating "seemed like a
natural thing for me to do:' he
says. It also complemented
the Hamtramck-born sports
junkie's various day jobs as
sports writer and publicist.
Maskin is perhaps best-
known for his 14-year stint as
public relations director for
the Detroit Pistons. He
retired from the job in 1974.
Maskin has seen a number
of Detroit-area youngsters
make the jump from local
high schools to the big

He once called a game because the weather was too good.

leagues. He proudly lists such
Tigers as Hal Newhouser, Bill
Freehan, Willie Horton and
Frank Tanana. Another
baseball player, Earl Morrall,
went on to stardom as a Na-
tional Football League
quarterback with the Detroit
Lions and Baltimore Colts.
"It's nice to know that you
knew them on the sandlots,"
he says.
He's also seen his share of
unusual situations. For exam-
ple, in the late 1950s, Maskin
halted a baseball game at
Cod Field, adjacent to
Detroit's Hutchins Junior
High, because the weather
was too good.
"The sun was so bright and
the batters weren't wearing
helmets in those days,"
Maskin explains. "The hit-
ters couldn't see the ball corn-
ing in and someone could
have been seriously hurt."
In addition to baseball,
Maskin has refereed high
school football, basketball
and soccer. He worked as an
umpire for the National Col-
legiate Athletic Association
district baseball tournament
and calls countless area
recreational league games.
He says B'nai B'rith games
are more fiercely competitive
than just about any assign-
ment he's ever had and "I
don't think they (B'nai B'rith
players) like me."
Maskin thought briefly
about making officiating his
career, but decided that could
take the fun out of it. "As a
job, it takes a lot of dedica-
tion," he says. "You have to go
to school and even then the
chance that you'll make the
big leagues isn't very good."
Besides, he chuckles, the
pay for high school officials
has increased dramatically
since he broke in — from
about $12 for working a
basketball doubleheader
(both a junior varsity and var-
sity game) to $35 for calling
a single game.
John Johnson, director of
public relations for the
Lansing-based Michigan
High School Athletic Associa-
tion, says Maskin's dedication
is evident by the years he's
devoted to officiating. "He's
the kind of person who really
enjoys what he's doing,"
Johnson says. "He loves the
game and he loves working
with kids.
"When you're in it (of-
ficiating at this level), you're
definitely not in it for the

Maskin worked as a sports writer and Pistons publicist.

bucks;" Johnson says.
Nate Hampton, MHSAA
assistant director and a
former athletic director with
Highland Park Schools,
remembers that Maskin was
one of the first officials to
work girls' volleyball when it
became an MHSAA-
sanctioned sport in 1980.
"He knew that this was go-
ing to be something new for
the coaches and players,"
Hampton says. "Not only did
he perform the duties of a
referee, but he took on a
teaching role. It was
something he did with great
patience."
Maskin worked at the now-
defunct Detroit Times, plus
the Free Press, starting out as
a copy boy and working his
way up to sports writer. But
horse-racing buffs probably
wouldn't recognize him
unless he opened his mouth:
he was the track announcer
at both the Detroit Race
Course and Hazel Park for a
number of years and also
claims some 1,000 broadcasts
on radio station WWJ-AM,
back when the station broad-
cast race results each
afternoon.
But it is the Pistons job —
and seeing the NBA through
its adolescence — that
Maskin recalls most fondly.
"The NBA was small-time

Veteran
official George
Maskin has
enjoyed his
passion for
kids and
sports for over
40 years with
--- happily
no end in
sight.



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

45

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