By Bruce Weber / New York Times News Service
Published: March 10. 2012 4:00AM PST
Harry Wendelstedt, who was an umpire in five World Series during a 33-year major league career and who taught hundreds of aspiring professional umpires at his Florida school, died Friday in Daytona Beach, Fla., not far from Ormond Beach, Fla., where the school is based and where he lived. He was 73.
His son, Hunter, in confirming the death, said his father had been treated for a brain tumor.
Since 1960, Wendelstedt was one of only a handful of umpires to have worked as many as five World Series, and his resume includes two of the most memorable. In 1986, he was at third base in the sixth game when the New York Mets staged their scintillating two-out 10th-inning rally to tie the Series with the Boston Red Sox, and he was at second when they won it in Game 7. In 1991, he was at first base in the 10th inning of the seventh game when the Minnesota Twins scored the only run of the game to defeat the Atlanta Braves.
Wendelstedt also umpired in four All-Star games, seven NL Championship Series and three divisional series.
Only one umpire, Silk O’Loughlin, who worked in the early 20th century, was behind the plate for more no-hitters than Wendelstedt.
Wendelstedt spent his entire big league career in the National League, retiring in 1998, two seasons before umpires began working in both leagues. He arrived in 1966, when the National League staff was supervised by Cal Hubbard, a former football lineman who preferred his umpires to be over 6 feet and burly. Wendelstedt was. He was also one of the game’s most unassailable on-field authorities.
“He was a take-no-guff guy,” said Mike Winters, a major league crew chief who worked with Wendelstedt in 1994. “He had, like, 30 years in at that point, and he had that larger-than-life persona. If there was ever a big disagreement on the field and Harry showed up, it would be taken care of. That would be it. It was like the cops: ‘Nothing to see here. Move along.’”
Bruce Froemming, a retired umpire and now an umpire supervisor who knew Wendelstedt for nearly 50 years, added: “I think he was intimidating. He was a big guy, really knowledgeable about the game, really knew the rules, and he really loved umpiring.”
Harry Hunter Wendelstedt Jr. was born in Baltimore on July 27, 1938; his father was a truck driver, his mother, Elizabeth, a homemaker. He attended Baltimore public schools and had two years of college before joining the Marines. In 1962, he was mulling whether to re-enlist when he attended the Al Somers Umpire School in Ormond Beach, and his career path was sealed. He was elevated to the major leagues after only four minor league seasons, and he returned to teach at the Somers school every year.
In 1977, he took over the school from Somers, who died in 1997. Several major league umpires, including Dana DeMuth, Ron Kulpa and Greg Gibson, are graduates of the Wendelstedt school, which is now run by Harry’s son Hunter, who is also a big-league umpire.
Wendelstedt’s marriage to the former Cheryl Maher ended in divorce. In addition to his son, whose full name is Harry Hunter Wendelstedt III, he is survived by a daughter, Amy Murad; three sisters; two brothers; and three granddaughters.