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Eric Eugene Gregg (May 18, 1951 – June 5, 2006) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1975 to 1999. He was known as a pioneering black umpire, his longtime weight problems, and his controversial home plate umpiring in Game 5 of the 1997 National League Championship Series, when his generous strike zone helped the Florida Marlins' Liván Hernández strike out 15 Atlanta batters.[1]

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Umpiring career

Gregg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and upon his debut at the age of 24 he was the third black umpire in the big leagues, following Emmett Ashford and Art Williams, and among the youngest in major league history. He officiated in the 1989 World Series, and was the third base umpire for Game 3, which was postponed due to the Loma Prieta earthquake; he also worked in four National League Championship Series (1981, 1987, 1991, 1997), the 1995 and 1996 National League Division Series and the 1986 All-Star Game at the Houston Astrodome. He was the home plate umpire for two no-hitters (Terry Mulholland in 1990[2] and Ramón Martínez in 1995) and worked third base for Tom Browning's perfect game on September 16, 1988. On August 8, 1988, Gregg was the home plate umpire for the first night game at Wrigley Field. The Phillies and Cubs were rained out and the first official game was played August 9, 1988.

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Resignation

Gregg was one of 22 umpires who resigned in 1999 as part of a labor action. Richie Phillips, executive director of the umpires' union, felt that by doling out millions in severance pay Major League Baseball might reconsider its stance in contract negotiations with the union. However, MLB chose to accept the resignations, though they later rehired several of those who had resigned which did not include Gregg. On August 7, 2001, Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.), a member of the United States House of Representatives, wrote a letter with 25 other House Members urging Commissioner Bud Selig to rehire Gregg. Selig failed to consider the request of the 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and refused to rehire Gregg.[3]

Weight problems

The "Plump Ump" battled weight troubles throughout his career. His weight was generally listed in the 315-325 pound area, but Gregg admitted that this was often an understatement and that he frequently approached 400. In 1996, fellow umpire John McSherry died in Cincinnati of a heart attack; the two had planned for a long time to try to lose weight together, but McSherry's death motivated Gregg to take a leave of absence from umpiring and enter a program at Duke University.

His frame, still hefty and recognizable despite the weight loss, encouraged publicity for Gregg. He was honorary commissioner of the Wing Bowl, an annual competitive eating event in Philadelphia, and also umped at various celebrity softball events. He also occasionally worked at Chickie's and Pete's Philadelphia restaurant and at the restaurant's stand at Veterans Stadium as a bartender and server. Aside for his girth, he was also well-known for his jocular personality and wide smile, which had a disarming effect on game participants who took issue with his signal-calling.

On December 31, 1974, he married Conchita Camilo, with whom he had four children.

His autobiography, "Working the Plate" (written with Marty Appel), was published in 1990.

Eric's son Kevin worked with the Philadelphia Phillies as an intern while a student at James Madison University, and from 2005 until 2006 was a public relations official with the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers before returning to his dad's game, and the Phillies, on November 22, 2006 as the Media Relations Assistant.

Death

Gregg suffered a massive stroke on June 4, 2006, and died the following day.

References

External links


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