To be a great umpire, you must do three things: be consistent, always hustle and get the call right. For almost 50 years, these are the things that have made Ray Davis an outstanding umpire.
Some will say one game doesn’t make a career, but in Davis’s case it may just have. In 1957, Davis was wokring as a groundskeeper at Talcott Paige. One night, the scheduled umpire hadn’t arrived to start that night’s game. The league’s director, Jerry Johnson, asked Davis if he would step in and umpire, but Davis elected to wait until the umpire showed up. Finally, after a long wait with no umpire and constant urging from Johnson, Davis agreed to do the job. During the full seven inning game, there were no complaints.
The next year, the Rockford Park District started a slow pitch softball program and they were looking for umpires. Davis asked if he could be one of the umpires in that league, and the rest is history. Having played fast pitch softball in California while in the Army, all Davis needed to do was brush up on the rules and attend some umpiring clinics. Most of the ten teams in that league came from the R.I.A.A. fast pitch program. The slow pitch program was brought to Rockford by Ken Marlin via a physical education program at the University of Illinois in the late fifties.
“Ken and I were partners for years as umpires and we had good times together,” Davis said. “On one evening, it started to rain in the last game of the night. I was behind the plate and the rain was coming down hard, so hard that it made pockets of water everywhere. There wasn’t any lightning in the area so we played on. We were soaked from top to bottom and Ken said ‘Raymond, if you ever do this to me again, look for another partner.’”
With the coming of the USSSA program in the early 70s, Davis became a sanctioned USSSA umpire and traveled all over the state for Illinois USSSA Director Brenda Paulson. Davis also spent some time umpiring in the central part of the state and in the Chicago are. Strong umpiring made the USSSA the program to play in Illinois.
Still an active umpire, Davis still works his craft by umpiring games in the Rockford Industrial Athletic Association and Harlem Roscoe North. In his spare time, he continues to umpire girls’ fast pitch softball for both the USSSA and the IHSA.
“Ray continues with his love of the game of softball by continuing to stay close to the game by umpiring,” Bob Papich said. “Staying in excellent physical condition has allowed Ray to continue to umpire well into his 70s.”
The Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame is happy to welcome someone who has given many hours to a sport and program he loves.