Shocking and tragic news broke late last night, when it was learned that active MLB umpire Wally Bell passed away unexpectedly after an apparent heart attack. He was only 48.
Bell had last worked just one week ago as part of the crew for the Pirates-Cardinals NLDS 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.”
Bell had a quintuple bypass in 1999, an operation that left an 8-inch scar down the middle of his chest. Two of his arteries had been 100 percent blocked, two more had been 80 percent blocked and another 70 percent. According to his biography on MLB.com, Bell’s proudest moment as a Major League umpire was returning to the field after the operation.
Bell’s passing was the first of an active Major League umpire since John McSherry died of a heart attack on the field in Cincinnati on Opening Day in 1996.
The umpires for the Dodgers-Cardinals NLCS found out about Bell’s death just an hour before taking the field in Los Angeles.
“It was a devastating loss for us. Wally was a true umpire’s umpire,” said Gerry Davis, crew chief for the group working the series. “I think if you’ll check with the players and teams, they felt the same way because Wally always gave 110 percent on the field.”
“We had to regroup rather quickly and put our concentration where it needed to be,” Davis said.
“We kept telling each other that that’s the way Wally would have wanted it, and we know that that’s really true. One of the things that we shared in the locker room afterwards is that I’m sure he’s very proud right now,” he said.