MLB umpire Wally Bell dead at 48

ESPN staff
October 15, 2013
Wally Bell had quintuple heart bypass surgery in February 1999 before returning to umpiring © Getty Images

Major League Baseball umpire Wally Bell died of an apparent heart attack on Monday, a week after working the National League play-off series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.

He was 48.

The commissioner's office said Bell died in his home state of Ohio.

Bell had not been feeling well over the weekend and had been scheduled to see doctors later on Monday at the Cleveland Clinic.

Bell had quintuple bypass surgery on February 18, 1999, that left him with an eight-inch scar down the middle of his chest. His father survived two heart attacks before he died.

"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 was the first active MLB umpire to die since John McSherry died of a heart attack on the field in Cincinnati on Opening Day in 1996.

Bell worked the 2006 World Series and three All-Star Games, including this year's event at Citi Field, where he was stationed at first base. A veteran of 21 big league seasons, he also had worked four league championship series and seven division series since joining the major league staff in 1993.

"It was a devastating loss for us. Wally was a true umpire's umpire," Gerry Davis, crew chief for the NL Championship Series, said. "I think if you'll check with the players and teams, they felt the same way because Wally always gave 110% on the field."

The umpires for Game Three at Dodger Stadium heard about Bell's death an hour before they took the field.

"We had to regroup rather quickly and put our concentration where it needed to be," Davis said after Los Angeles beat St Louis 3-0.

"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."

According to Bell's biography on MLB.com, his proudest moment as a big league umpire was returning to the field after having open heart surgery. Two of his arteries had been 100% blocked, two more had been 80% blocked and another 70%.

Bell came back 11 weeks after his heart problem was detected for a game in San Diego. That night, plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck took the first ball out of play and kept it as a souvenir for Bell.

"I am deeply saddened and shocked at the loss of umpire Wally Bell," Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations, said. "Umpiring was his life, and he touched so many people within the game of baseball. Aside from being an accomplished, All-Star-calibre umpire, Wally was a loving dad to his two teenage children. I extend my deepest condolences to them, his girlfriend Renee, the rest of his family and his admirers across Major League Baseball."

During the 2013 regular season, Bell was a member of Tim McClelland's crew.

"Wally was a great umpire, a great partner and a great friend. The umpiring community is deeply saddened by this tragic loss. He will be sorely missed by many," major league umpire Joe West, president of the World Umpires Association, said.

Bell is survived by his son, Jason, and daughter, Lindsey.

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This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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