Former National League umpire Harry Wendelstedt, who worked five World Series in a 33-year major league career, died Friday morning. He was 73.
Wendelstedt, who lived in Ormond Beach, died at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
Wendelstedt umpired seven National League Championship Series and four All-Star Games and was behind the plate for five no-hitters. He also owned and ran the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School in Ormond Beach.
His son, major league umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, said his father was diagnosed with brain cancer 10 years ago and had been fighting other illnesses, according to the report.
“There’s been no one ever who has loved the game of baseball and respected it more than him,” Hunter Wendelstedt said Friday, according to the News-Journal. “He lived for baseball. He lived for umpiring. When we were getting him into the ambulance (this morning) he had MLB (Network) TV on. That’s all he would watch.”
The Wendelstedts worked games together in 1998 — Hunter’s first year in the majors and Harry’s last season.
Former major league catcher Jim Campanis said Wendelstedt was fair and honest as an umpire.
“He was fair and if he missed a pitch, he would tell you. If he didn’t think he missed it, he’d tell you, ‘Shut up and let’s get back to the game here,’ ” Campanis told ESPN Enterprise Unit producer Willie Weinbaum. “If he missed it, he didn’t react if you said bad words or called him bad names. He took the punishment, took the heat. But if he didn’t think he missed it, you had better not say anything or he’d run you.”
Wendelstedt was an NL umpire from 1966 to 1998. He was a World Series umpire crew chief in 1980 and 1995 and was also part of World Series crews in 1973, 1986 and 1991.
Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda has championed Wendelstedt for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
“He’s got as good a chance as anybody. He deserves it,” Lasorda told The Associated Press after learning of Wendelstedt’s death.
Lasorda said he was scouting for Los Angeles and was in the stands when Wendelstedt made his most notable call on May 31, 1968, at Dodger Stadium.
Drysdale was trying for his fifth straight shutout — and was heading toward setting a then-record of 58 2/3 scoreless innings — when San Francisco loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning.
Drysdale threw a 2-2 pitch that struck Dick Dietz on the elbow, and the shutout streak seemed to be over. But Wendelstedt, the plate umpire, immediately ruled that Dietz didn’t try to get out of the way. Wendelstedt called the pitch a ball and told Dietz to get back in the batter’s box.
“I’d never seen that call before in the big leagues,” Lasorda recalled. “Never had seen anyone make it.”
After a heated argument, the game resumed. On a full-count pitch, Dietz flied out and Drysdale wound up pitching a shutout and holding the shutout record until Orel Hershiser broke it with 59 scoreless innings in 1988.
“Harry had a wide strike zone, he liked to see hitters swing the bat,” Lasorda said, laughing. “Dick Dietz. Harry, he got him out. And the streak continued.”
Later in that 1968 season, Wendelstedt called balls and strikes when Gaylord Perry of the Giants pitched a no-hitter against St. Louis. The next day, on Sept. 18, Wendelstedt was at third base when Ray Washburn of the Cardinals no-hit San Francisco.
Not that all of Wendelstedt’s contested calls went in favor of pitchers. In the 1988 NLCS, Wendelstedt confiscated the glove of Dodgers reliever Jay Howell after it was found to have pine tar. Wendelstedt ejected Howell, drawing some lip from Lasorda, and the reliever was subsequently suspended.
“We got along pretty well,” Lasorda remembered. “Nothing too bad.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Longtime NL umpire Wendelstedt dies at 73
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