As former athletes and coaches, Jackie Brown and Patricia Briscoe thought they had heard it all. And, on occasion, they even had been known to use some colorful language themselves to voice their displeasure. Now they are baseball umpires and understand what life is like on the other side.

As a basketball and softball player at H.D. Woodson High School and Federal City College (now the University of the District of Columbia) and a coach at H.D. Woodson, Brown was feisty and sometimes quick-tempered. So when she decided to become an umpire, she knew her attitude would have to change.

"Believe me, now I know what they go through," she said. "Now that I'm an umpire, I see it from a different perspective. I know you can't be hot-headed and quick-tempered when you're challenged. Being an official takes a lot of patience."

Remaining calm also is a strength of Briscoe, who also coached in the Interhigh League before officiating.

"I coached 12 years at Anacostia before I was promoted to athletic assistant in the athletic director's office in 1988," she said. "I got involved in umpiring softball games about eight years ago because I enjoyed the sport. That blossomed to baseball and I enjoy that just as much."

Brown and Briscoe umpired countless softball games before trying baseball. The transition to the male-dominated sport has had its problems, but the two say they knew the pressures would be different and don't mind being pioneers of sorts.

They are the only females in the Metro Baseball and Softball Umpires Association doing varsity baseball and, according to several commissioners of umpire organizations, are among a handful of black women in the nation umpiring high school varsity games.

"There are not too many women, black or white, umpiring baseball, period," said Brown, who works for the security division of the D.C. Public Schools. "I love softball and I still play, but I grew up with baseball and always wanted to umpire baseball games.

"I feel very comfortable either on the bases or behind the plate. I know this is a man's sport and you run across some umpires who resent working with you. It's bad enough dealing with the kids and coaches; you certainly don't have time to listen to stuff from your partner."

Briscoe agreed working in an all-male environment adds pressure to each call. "I know I might miss a curve now and then, but it helps your confidence when the teams tell you 'good job'," she said.

"I think the toughest time I had was when I called some semipro games a few summers ago. Those guys knew the game and sometimes gave me grief. But it made me conscious of knowing the rules and remaining alert at all times. I know they were harder on me because I was female, but it only made me a better umpire."

Mentha Beverly, the commissioner of the Metro Baseball and Softball Umpires Association, said he has enough confidence in Brown and Briscoe to pair them. He said he also doesn't feel there is any conflict of interest with Briscoe umpiring games involving the coaches she works with daily.

"I have no reservation at all assigning Briscoe games in the {Interhigh} league," Beverly said. "She does an excellent job. She is very aggressive and everyone knows she won't take any guff. She knows the rules and doesn't back down. You can't always see her, but you can hear her.

"Brown is more known because of her athletic prowess," he said. "She gains a different kind of respect because she's played the game. But both are excellent umpires and I have no problem putting them together on the field."

Because they have faced the same problems, Brown and Briscoe say their on-the-field chemistry is good.

"Jackie has so much knowledge of the game and we communicate really well," Briscoe said. "I feel very comfortable working with her." That communication has come in handy when Briscoe has had to call a game involving Anacostia.

"At first, the kids would tease me in class and make comments. Then they began to enjoy me working the game. They knew I was fair and knew what I was doing," she said. "I learned from from such umpires as Roosevelt McIllwaine, Russ Harris, Ernest Harris and Mr. Beverly. They really helped me get to this stage. I'm satisfied with my progress."

Brown endured the same problems at H.D. Woodson, but her reputation as the "mean lady" eliminated any teasing or thoughts of favoritism.

"I've been around a long time and people know me and what I'm about. I don't worry about what coaches say; they know they can't intimidate me and they know I'm fair," she said. "I must be doing okay. I was the first woman to ever work an Interhigh championship game behind the plate {last year}. That was an honor for me. Nothing exciting happened except Bell and Wilson played a good baseball game."

Unlike Briscoe, who is content working Interhigh League games and a handful of softball games in the summer, Brown is looking to umpire college games in the near future.

"I don't mind being a pioneer. I would love to work in college, if possible," she said. "I know the caliber of baseball in the Interhigh isn't as good as it should be, but I maintain my same level of efficiency. I think I've done a good job despite the obstacles.

"I've learned to be patient, fair and stay in control of the game. When I'm challenged now, none of that quick temper from me. Patience, patience and more patience."