A History Saskatoon Softball Umpires 1972-2014
Just as we have many decorated players and organizers with a long history the SASA has been fortunate to have a tradition of excellence with it’s umpires. The Saskatoon Softball Umpire Association (S.S.U.A) was formed in 1972 with the amalgamation of the group led by Ed Bitz and the group of Eugene Hearne (seen on right). The Hearne group had been working the lower divisions of the S.A.S.A. and the Industrial League, etc. while the Bitz group worked Sr. A Men’s and the Special Men’s division. They had 43 members of which about 24 were rated to do Sr. B Men’s or higher.
The association grew to 45 members in 1980 and 4 of those members: Harvey Hildebrandt, Jim Grant, Doug Schultz and Dave Moore were selected to umpire the Sr. A Men’s and 3 more: Ed Bitz, John Haider and Ed Reimer were UIC’s for Canadians. The association reached a high of 64 members in 1984, dropped to 55 members in 1988 and 44 members in 1992 and this included both Fast Pitch and Slow Pitch members. The number of umpires continued to drop to 42 in 1996, 36 in 2000, 30 in 2004, 22 in 2008 and then up to 31 in 2012 but with only 12 members rated to do Sr. B Men’s or above. The S.S.U.A. changed it’s name to Hub City Softball Umpire’s Association (H.C.S.U.A.) in 1985 and to Saskatoon Bridge City Softball Umpire’s Association (S.B.C.S.U.A) in 1994.
One has to go through a rigorous evaluation process to become level 5, the highest level in the world. During it’s long and illustrious history the association has produced 9 level 5 umpires who have umpired over 25 International Championships and supervised many Softball Canada or Western Canadian Championships. The names of the Level 5 umpires (in order of their appointments) are: Ed Bitz, John Haider, Harv Hildebrandt (seen at left) , Ed Reimer, Jim Grant, Brian Rae, Dave Moore, Jimm Barr and Lyle McGowan. Three of these members have been inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame and three have been selected to the Softball Canada Hall of Fame. The level 5 members also contributed to the initial Level 1 to 4 manuals and the S.C. Casebook and all are still in use today.
Harv Hildebrandt Ed Reimer Dave Moore
Perhaps the most renowned of the prestigious umpires from Saskatoon was Ed Bitz (seen to the left). A dislocated shoulder ended his athletic days and he turned to umpiring. Ed distinguished himself as an umpire during a 29-year career which began in 1963. During this time, he was the first Softball Canada umpire-in-chief (1972-1984), served as Umpire-In-Chief for 33 national championships, initiated and developed the first softball officials' program in Canada, conducted numerous clinics across Canada, and was responsible for national rule interpretations. On four occasions he attended umpire schools in the U.S. and was on hand at seven world championships. His knowledge of the game and his excellence in officiating has taken him to New Zealand, El Salvador, and China, along with many centers in the U.S. and Canada.