The Major League Baseball (MLB) community is in mourning after the devastating loss of umpire Wally Bell who passed away just days after working the National League Division Series (NLDS) between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bell, 48, died from an apparent heart attack on Monday in his home state of Ohio. The All-Star umpire was the first active umpire to die since John McSherry, who passed away of a heart attack on the field in Cincinnati on opening day in 1996. The heart issues ran in the family: Bell's father survived two heart attacks before he died.
Bell had not been feeling well over the weekend and was scheduled to see the doctors later on Monday at the Cleveland Clinic, ABC News reports. He first began to experience heart problems during spring training in 1999, when, at the age of 34, Bell had two arteries that were 100 percent blocked, while two more had been 80 percent blocked, and another 70 percent. The umpire underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery on February 18, 1990 which left him with an 8-inch scar down the middle of his chest, according to the Fox News.
According to the Mayo Clinic, quintuple bypass surgery — a form of artery surgery — is used to relieve angina in the heart. The surgery is performed by putting the patient under anesthesia and opening up the heart to relieve the angina. The procedure is done to restore blood flow to the heart muscle by having the blood flow around a section of the blocked artery in the heart. After the procedure, blood flow to the heart is normally improved.
After only 11 weeks of heart surgery recovery, Bell returned back to work in San Diego for a game between the Padres and Atlanta Braves. According to The Daily News reports, umpire Mark Hirschbeck took the first ball out of play and had all the umpires sign it before presenting the souvenir to Bell on his first night back post-surgery. This night marked to be one of Bell’s proudest moments as a big league umpire, according to his biography on mlb.com.
The loss of Bell has sent reactions all across the MLB community. "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,” said Bud Selig, MLB commission in a statement. Players from the 2013 MLB postseason playoff teams have expressed their condolences on Twitter:
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis wrote:
Boston pitcher Jake Peavy wrote:
Bell’s career resume since joining the major league staff in 1993. His work included the 2006 World Series and three All-Star games, including this year's event at Citi Field, where he was stationed at first base, says mlb.com. As a MLB umpire veteran of 21 big league seasons, working four league championship series and seven division series.