John McSherry: Wikis

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John Patrick McSherry (September 11, 1944 — April 1, 1996) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1971 to 1996. Although McSherry originally wore uniform #9 when he entered the National League, he switched to #10 in 1979 when the league reorganized the umpires' numbers and he wore that number for the rest of his career. A respected arbiter, he was one of several umpires who were noticeably overweight. The 6'-2" (188 cm) McSherry was officially listed at 328 pounds (149 kg), but some sources place his true weight possibly close to 400 pounds (180 kg); it was generally accepted to have been a major factor in the massive, fatal heart attack he suffered on the field during the opening game of the 1996 major league season in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 1, 1996.

Contents

Umpiring career

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Post-season games

Born in New York City, McSherry umpired in the World Series in 1977 and 1987. He also officiated in the National League Championship Series in 1974, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, and 1992, and in the National League Division Series in 1981 and 1995.

All-Star Games

McSherry worked the 1975, 1982, and 1991 All-Star Games, for which the umpiring crew consisted of three American League umpires and three National League umpires during the years 1949 to 1999.

Other notable games

Death

As Cincinnati was the home of baseball's first professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the Reds had traditionally played the first game of the major league season at home. For this particular Opening Day game, the Reds were playing the Montreal Expos, and McSherry was assigned to work home plate. Seven pitches into the game, McSherry called a time-out, spoke briefly to Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee, and walked slowly towards the Reds' dugout. Moments after signaling for the second base umpire to come in and replace him (per standard umpiring procedure), McSherry stumbled and collapsed. Despite all efforts to resuscitate McSherry, he was pronounced dead, at age 51, at University of Cincinnati Hospital within the hour.

It was later revealed that McSherry had actually been scheduled for a medical examination the following day. [1] As the Reds' Opening Day in Cincinnati is seen as a special occasion, McSherry likely didn't want to risk missing out on an assignment he felt was an honor. Third-base umpire Tom Hallion followed the ambulance to the UC medical center, leaving umpires Steve Rippley and Jerry Crawford to decide how to proceed regarding the game. Shaken and tearful players on both teams consoled the grieving umpires, and ultimately it was decided that it would be best to postpone the game.

Said Reds manager Ray Knight: "Barry (Larkin, the Reds' shortstop), told me very quietly and with very much emotion: 'Ray, I've had a lot of deaths in my family. In good conscience, out of respect for life, I can't go out there.'" [2]

Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott, considered a controversial and polarizing figure in the sports world, was quoted as having said: "Snow this morning and now this. I don't believe it. I feel cheated. This isn't supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati. This is our history, our tradition, our team. Nobody feels worse than me."

The headstone of McSherry in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Her many critics saw it as yet another public gaffe; her supporters contended that she was thinking of the some 50,000 fans who had expected to see a baseball game, and that some would be unable to attend a makeup game. The next day, the Reds defeated the Expos 4-1. The remaining umpires in the crew worked the game, with Rich Rieker as an emergency replacement at third base.

McSherry's funeral was held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Catholic Church in the Bronx, and he was interred in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery [3].

A story published in the Dayton Daily News after the funeral stated that the flowers Marge Schott sent to the service were actually flowers given to her on the day of the game by WLWT, the Reds' television affiliate in Cincinnati. According to the story, Schott hastily wrote a sympathy note and attached it to the flowers [4].

Aftermath

After the incident, Major League Baseball compelled its umpires to be more physically fit. Another National League umpire with long-standing weight issues, Eric Gregg, who was likely as heavy as McSherry, made a concerted effort to lose excess weight via exercise and diet. Gregg resigned after the 1999 season in a dispute with Major League Baseball. Any weight Gregg lost was gained back in his retirement. He died at age 55 on June 5, 2006 after suffering a stroke.

The New York Mets honored McSherry's memory by embroidering "J.M. N.L. Umpire 10" in a homeplate crossed by two baseball bats on the right-sleeves of their 1996 game jerseys.[1] In memory of McSherry, the Reds dedicated Riverfront Stadium's umpire's dressing room to him.

References

  1. ^ "New York Mets: Patches", MLB Jersey Lettering & Style Guide: The Double-Knit Era Collectors's Reference, ©W.F. Henderson Version 4.0, 2007

External links


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