Baseball whisks the umpires along in its fresh start, with a four-year contract that their negotiator says finally recognizes their worth and indispensability by putting them "into the top 1 percent of all salaried employes in our country."

Peace, it's wonderful, as the pastime removes any lingering strike cloud from its image-refurbishing new dawn. Wonderful, too, says Richie Phillips, Major League Umpires Association attorney, that the majors have raised his guys' starting salaries, from $18,000 to $26,000, immediately, and $36,000 in the fourth year; senior umps' pay from $50,000 to $70,000 this year, $75,000 in 1985. Plus, in the settlement eight hours before "Play ball!" in Baltimore and Cincinnati:

* A 100 percent increase in pension benefits, 50 percent in insurance. Even help for previously retired umpires: upped about $150 a month per year of service.

* Per diem (hotels, meals, transit) up from $77 to $90.

* Selection for postseason play on merit, rather than rotation. Pay raises to $15,000 for a World Series, $10,000 for league championship series.

* Addition to 1982 major league staffs of several minor league umpires who refused to work during the 1979 umpiring strike in the majors.

* And agreement by the league presidents to crack down harder on players and managers who physically abuse umpires.