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Baseball notes: Former umpire Ken Kaiser, who moonlighted as a pro wrestler, dies at 72

Ken Kaiser and Rangers manager Johnny Oates chat before a game on June 8, 1997.
(Orlin Wagner / Associated Press)

Former major league umpire Ken Kaiser, a colorful figure between the lines who briefly moonlighted as a professional wrestler to make ends meet while working in the minor leagues, has died. He was 72.

The World Umpires Association said Thursday he died in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., on Tuesday. Kaiser had diabetes for years.

An American League umpire from 1977-99, Kaiser umpired two World Series, one All-Star Game and several playoff series.

The 6-foot-3 Kaiser, who wrote in his book, “Planet of the Umps: A Baseball Life from behind the Plate,” that when he graduated from high school in 1964 his “long-range plan was lunch.” He weighed just under 300 pounds and often was criticized for that portly physique during the more than 3,000 big-league games he umpired.

Former Chicago White Sox announcer Jimmy Piersall once called him “a gutless, lazy whale,” while fellow former umpire and mentor Ron Luciano described him as “like a barrel on which two arms had been stuck on backwards.”

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In his book, published in 2003, Kaiser wrote of his decade in the minor leagues and off-season jobs that included bar bouncer, bank teller, and that short stint as the wrestler dubbed “Hatchet Man.”

In 1986, Kaiser was voted most colorful umpire in the American League in a poll conducted by The Sporting News.

Kaiser’s umpiring career ended when he joined a group of umpires who submitted their resignations in 1999 during labor negotiations, a gamble by the Major League Umpires Association that failed. He was not rehired. He is survived by two adult children. Funeral plans are incomplete.

Etc.

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday there’s “a really good possibility” that rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery will be recalled from triple-A to start against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night. Montgomery, 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 21 starts, would start in place of left-hander CC Sabathia, who left Tuesday’s loss at Toronto after three innings because of soreness in his arthritic right knee. …

The Texas Rangers have received right-handed reliever Jhan Marinez on a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Texas will have to make a corresponding roster move before its game Friday against AL West-leading Houston to add Marinez to the active roster. The Rangers were off Thursday. Marinez, who turns 29 on Saturday, has gone 0-3 with a 3.91 ERA over 39 relief appearances this season with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.


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