Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

MICKEY FURFARI

May 28, 2014

WVU grad Bob Rine served 52 years as widely known umpire

MORGANTOWN — Bob Rine, who is 88, decided at an early age that he wasn’t good enough to go far as an athlete.

So, as a journalism student at West Virginia University, he withdrew in 1946-47 to attend famous George Barr’s baseball umpiring school in Florida.

Old-timers will recall that Barr eventually became a legend as an umpire in the National League. Young Rine not only became one of his prized pupils, but an umpiring partner over the years with his protégé.

Rine, a native of Valley Grove in Ohio County, wound up umpiring for an amazing 52 years in baseball, his first love.

Rine also served 25 years on the public relations staff at the famed Weirton Steel Corp. Of course he’s now retired from both roles.

His six-week courses strictly learning the skills of umpiring obviously worked to his an advantage. Others who started out from scratch on their own couldn’t be as well prepared, Rine believes.

Rine even worked some baseball games at WVU before getting his J-School degree in January 1952.

Two of those were at Hawley Field, the predessor to what was called Old Athletic Field that was located between what’s now Stewart Hall and the ROTC Armory on N. High St.

Are you old enough to recall such early facilities with which poorly paid coaches and athletes made best use of what they had to work with compared to those existing today?

Rine, who now lives in Wheeling, umpired games in high school, college and American Legion, and two years in baseball’s professional minor leagues.

The latter included the Florida State League and the Western Assosiation.

“After that experience, I realized that I was never going to get to the big leagues,” he recalled with a chuckle.

Rine figured accurately. He never did quite get that high. However, on April 14, 1998, he umpired for the last time a college game between Waynesburg and Bethany in Pittsburgh’s memorable Three Rivers Stadium.

“Yes, I certainly enjoyed all of my umpiring career at every level,” Rine emphasized.

“But looking back on it, let me say that umpiring in the minor leagues is like being in the Army.”

Asked why, he explained, “It’s nice to look back on. But you wouldn’t want to do it again.”

Bob Rine and his mentor Barr also teamed up to work several major baseball events in the 1970s.

Those included three Army World Series in Fort Dix, N.J., Fort Myer, Va., and Fort Knox, Ky.

Before that trio of assignments, Rine worked five American Legion regional tournaments. Those were at Parkersburg (1970), Sumter, S.C. (1971), Salisbury, S.C. (1973), St. Petersburg, Fla. (1974), and Murray, Ky., (1975).

The American Legion baseball headquarters in Indianapolis handed him all of those impressive assignments.

Rine, who served in the Air Force from 1944-46, and wife Joan were married nearly 50 years. She died in 2007.

They had four children: sons David, Bill and George and daughter Susan.

He noted that George was named after Barr, a Hall of Fame umpire who’s deceased.

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MICKEY FURFARI