By STEVE KRAH
Growing up on the southeast side of Indianapolis, James Robinson was drawn to sports.
Robinson played baseball as a junior for Woodchucks coach Ed Ward and was a basketball student manager for his last three years at Harry E. Wood High School, where he graduated in 1966.
When Robinson became an adult, he was attracted to officiating. After high school, he attended Indiana Business College in Indianapolis for two years, entered the working world and wound up in Kokomo, Ind., in the mid-1970s and began making calls.
After a few years of umpiring slow pitch softball, Robinson became a Indiana High School Athletic Association-licensed baseball umpire and a basketball referee the same year.
“Being involved in the game and being in-charge, I liked that idea,” says Robinson. “I could help the game and do the right thing.”
Doing the right thing to Robinson meant making the right call.
He also set a goal for himself.
“I wanted to work the State Finals in the three sports I had licenses for (football, basketball and baseball),” says Robinson. “I did attain that.”
Robinson, who was elected to the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association‘s Hall of Fame in the Class of 2021 and will be honored Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 at the Sheraton at Keystone Crossing in Indianapolis along with the Class of 2022, began umpiring high school games in 1980.
He worked for 35 years with 33 sectionals, 25 regionals, 14 semistates and six State Finals — the first in 1990 (LaPorte beat Bedford North Lawrence in the final and semifinalists were Logansport and Wes-Del with Robinson working a foul line and the bases) and the last in 2007 (Jarrod Parker and Norwell beat Evansville Mater Dei in the Class 3A title game and Robinson worked the plate).
He umpired six IHSBCA North/South All-Star Series and was voted IHSBCA Umpire of the Year five times.
In 1994, Robinson was elected to the National Federation of State High School Associations Baseball Rules Committee and served from 1995-1998.
In 2002, he was named IHSAA/ NFOA Baseball Official of the Year and he was named as the National Federation Distinguished Official of the Year.
He coached Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball for 10 years.
He has been a rules clinician at the IHSBCA State Clinic since the mid-1990s. Prior to the clinic, he attends National Federation rules meetings in Indianapolis and talks with IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens about rule changes.
Robinson went far and wide to blow a basketball whistle for 30 years.
“I tried to travel all over,” says Robinson. “I wanted to be seen by as many coaches as possible and rise in through the tournament structure.”
He’d trek as far from Kokomo as East Chicago, South Bend or New Albany. He officiated the 2001 3A state championship boys basketball game between Muncie Southside and Evansville Mater Dei.
He attends the biannual “Rosie’s Round-up” basketball dinner at Stookey’s Restaurant in Thorntown, Ind.
His 33 years as a football official included the 1993 2A title contest between West Lafayette and Providence.
In football, Robinson is now an IHSAA officials observer, Big Ten Conference replay official and back-up clock operator for the Indianapolis Colts. He worked six years in NCAA Division II and seven in the Mid-American Conference. He has also been a replay official for the MAC. He was a replay official for the 2014 National Championship game at the Rose Bowl between Florida State and Auburn.
Robinson, who turned 73 in October, is very appreciative of the recognition by the IHSBCA.
“It’s an honor,” says Robinson. “I’m very, very thrilled to be thought of with all the coaches and players who came through Indiana who played the great game of baseball and be known as an umpire where you’re supposed to be neutral.”
Jame’s wife Nada is deceased. He has one daughter and grandson — Chiquita and Kameron — in Kokomo. One of seven children (four boys and three girls), James has two living sisters residing in Indianapolis.