April 01, 1996: Umpire collapses during game
Submitted by BTGrimes on Sun, 04/01/2012 - 9:00am
A Death in the Family
CINCINNATI, OHIO - It was opening day, the unofficial beginning of spring, a sign of rebirth, a starting over. Everybody's in first place. The Cincinnati Reds are hosting the Montreal Expos. Reds pitcher Pete Schrouek fires the first pitch to John Grudzielanek right down the middle. Home plate umpire John McSherry shouts, "Ball." Schrouek is stunned. Grudzielanek eventually flies out. Mike Lansing strikes out. The count on Rondell White is 1 and 1. "Hold on," McSherry says. It's only the seventh pitch of the game, but the 380 pound man in blue is in trouble. He walks haltingly toward the dugout then staggers and falls face forward. A gasp rises from the crowd. The opening day air is the source of John McSherry's last breath. He is pronounced dead an hour later. McSherry was 51. The game is postponed. Players, coaches, managers are in no mood to continue.
John McSherry was truly one of the game's most beloved umpires. Reds shortstop Barry Larkin stood helplessly on the field the day McSherry died, "It's often thought that baseball players and umpires have an antagonistic relationship. If any one person could prove that theory wrong, it was John McSherry." McSherry had one of the lowest ejection rates of any umpire.
McSherry battled weight issues in his adult life, in fact had a physical scheduled for the day after he died. His death spurred a movement to require fitness of umpires.
The New York Times, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2, 1996
This story is brought to you by TODAYinBASEBALL.com.