Wally Bell had been a member part of an officiating crew for the Major League Baseball playoffs last week. And there was a space for the veteran umpire as the crew for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series lined up Tuesday afternoon.
But this time he wasn't there.
Bell died Monday at age 48 of an apparent heart attack in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. He was honored with a moment of silence before Tuesday's Red Sox-Tigers game as the umpires lined up shoulder to shoulder, leaving a gap between the fifth and sixth members of the crew to signify the loss of 21-year big league umpire.
“Wally was a tremendous, tremendous umpire, but a tremendous person as well,” Boston pitcher Jake Peavy said before the game at Comerica Park. “We're here today, I think everybody, man for man in that clubhouse, I know I speak for our guys, we're devastated by the news last night and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
There was also a moment of silence before the National League Championship Series Game 4 between the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night. Bell, whose photo was shown on the Dodger Stadium video boards during the tribute, had worked the NL division series between the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates that ended last Wednesday.
“Deepest regrets to his family,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said before the game. “Wally was a class individual and a very, very good umpire. I always had a lot of respect for how he went about his business. That was bad news for all of us, but our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Bell had quintuple bypass surgery at age 34 back in 1999 but was back on the diamond 11 weeks later, an accomplishment he named as his proudest moment in his MLB.com bio. He umpired three All-Star games, seven division series, four league championship series and the 2006 World Series.
"All of us at Major League Baseball are in mourning tonight regarding the sudden passing of Wally Bell," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "I always enjoyed seeing Wally, who was a terrific umpire and such an impressive young man. On behalf of our 30 Clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Wally's family, fellow Umpires and his many friends throughout the game."
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