SOUTH HAVEN | When considering his nearly half-century of umpiring, it wouldn't be a stretch to say Phil "Hambone" Hamilton has occasionally missed a call or two.
But one call Hamilton consistently gets right is when he annually calls on his doctor to get his prostate checked.
"I never stayed overnight in the hospital my whole life," the 65-year-old Gary native said, "and I never been operated on."
Earlier this year, Hamilton was told he had prostate cancer.
"I'm glad they caught it when they did," Hamilton said. "I'm going to have to have surgery and treatments, but that can wait until I get back."
Hamilton has been called on to work his second Little League Softball World Series. He will work the Big League division series, which starts Sunday and runs through the rest of week in Sussex County, Delaware.
"It's for girls ages 18 and above," said Hamilton, who umpired the Senior League (ages 15-16) Softball World Series in 2002 when it was held in Jeffersontown, Ken.
Hamilton has been umpiring baseball for 46 years and softball for 32 years. He has worked in youth and travel leagues at all levels, as well as high school.
"I hope to reach 50 years of doing this, and then do it even longer," Hamilton said.
Hamilton found his calling while still in high school, or rather, it found him.
"I always wanted one of those cool lettermen jackets, and I found out you can get one as the team's manager," said Hamilton, a Lew Wallace graduate. "So I became manager of the football, baseball and wrestling teams."
When the Hornet baseball team had intersquad games, Hamilton was often appointed to the umpire them.
"That's when I discovered I liked doing it," Hamilton said. "Soon, I was working Little League games."
Hamilton remembers the heyday of baseball in Gary, and says he has worked games featuring future major leaguers Lloyd McClendon, Ron Kittle and LaTroy Hawkins.
Most disputes Hamilton has with coaches and parents these days involve the equipment.
"There are so many rules regarding illegal bats," he said. "Sometimes the barrel is too big, or when you shake it and hear something inside, that also makes it illegal.
"I can understand a parent who just bought his kid a $300 bat being upset when told it's illegal, but rules are rules."
If Hamilton doesn't get his share of grief from disputed strike and ball calls as well as foul or fair calls, it may be from the way he projects himself.
"You can hear me three fields away when I call a strike," Hamilton said. "People may disagree with the call, but they know I'm sure about it. Many coaches have told me they like my style because some umpires are not as loud and people don't know what's been called.
"I'm the same way when I call a foul ball."
How about when you call a fair ball?
"You're not supposed to call a fair ball ... rather point at where the ball landed," Hamilton said. "If you yell out 'fair ball!', people are likely going to hear that as 'foul ball'.
"So when you don't hear anything from me when it's my call, keep on running."