Sometimes what happens at the ballpark — dancing bears, “Mickey Mouse” allegations, bat flips, even wins and losses — is overshadowed by something off it.
Wally Bell, who umpired the recent National League Division Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, died Monday at age 48, reportedly of a heart attack. MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre learned of the news Monday afternoon and informed the umpire crew at Dodger Stadium prior to Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
“I give these guys credit. There was a ton of emotion in the umpires’ room,” Torre said.
Bell had been a major-league umpire for 21 years, joining the National League staff in 1993. He umpired three All-Star Games (1997, 2000, 2013), seven Division Series (1998-99, ’03-04, ’06, ’12-13), four League Championship Series (2000, ’01, ’05, ’10) and the 2006 World Series, when he was behind the plate for Game Three at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Ohio native was the first base umpire in the 2013 Midsummer Classic at Citi Field in New York. In the 2013 regular season, Bell was a member of Tim McClelland’s crew.
Gerry Davis, the crew chief for the Dodgers-Cardinals series, said he learned of Bell’s death about an hour before the game.
“The umpire network works pretty quickly,” Davis said. “We had to regroup quickly. We kept telling each other that’s the way Wally would have wanted it.”
Participants from both sides of Game 3 chimed in on Twitter Monday night:
Wally kept game fun and loose and I always looked forward to catching with him behind plate. I will miss his personality and professionalism
— AJ Ellis (@AJEllis17) October 15, 2013
Sad to hear the news about umpire Wally Bell. Thoughts and prayer are with his family and friends.
— Jason Motte (@JMotte30) October 15, 2013
Very sad news hearing of the loss of Wally bell. My condolences & prayers to his family. He was a great umpire & even better person.
— Drew Butera (@drewbutera) October 15, 2013