Harry Wendelstedt, a National League umpire for 33 years who owned a school that developed dozens of Major League umpires, died Friday at the age of 73.
Wendelstedt, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor 10 years ago, according to his son, Major League umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, died in Ormond Beach, Fla., where he lived and where the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School is located.
Wendelstedt umpired in five World Series, seven National League Championship Series and four All-Star Games. He was the crew chief in the 1980 and '95 Fall Classics. His big league career began in '66 and ended in '98.
"There's been no one ever who has loved the game of baseball and respected it more than him," Hunter Wendelstedt told the Daytona Beach 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."
Among Wendelstedt's memorable on-field moments was a notable, bold call in 1968. The Dodgers' Don Drysdale was on his way to setting a record by pitching 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings when he threw a pitch that hit San Francisco's Dick Dietz with the bases loaded. Wendelstedt, the plate umpire, ruled that Dietz made no attempt to get out of the way and did not award him first base, which would have forced in a run. Drysdale wound up pitching a shutout.
The umpiring school, originally named the Al Somers Umpire School, was renamed in 1977. Wendelstedt served as chief instructor there for 17 years.
"Harry's probably taught more umpires than any umpire teacher there ever was," said current MLB umpire Joe West, who worked with Wendelstedt. "He had a school over there for a number of years and he's been around baseball a long team. I've been here 35 years, and he was here long before I got here. He was one of the senior umpires when I got here, so that tells you how long he's been around. I can't tell you how we all feel. In January, we lost Marty Springstead and this month we lost Harry. It's just been a sad month for umpires."
Harry Hunter Wendelstedt III, who goes by his middle name, chose uniform No. 21 to honor his father, who wore that number during his career. In 1998 they became the first father-son combination to umpire a big league game together.