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John McSherry

John McSherry
Born John Patrick McSherry
(1944-09-11)September 11, 1944
New York, New York
Died April 1, 1996(1996-04-01) (aged 51)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Occupation Baseball umpire

John Patrick McSherry (September 11, 1944 – April 1, 1996) was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the National League from 1971 to 1996. McSherry wore uniform number 9 when he entered the National League, then wore number 10 from 1979 through the rest of his career. A respected arbiter, he was one of several umpires who were noticeably overweight. McSherry was officially listed at 6'2" (188 cm) and 328 pounds (149 kg), but some sources placed his true weight close to 400 pounds (180 kg). His weight may have been a major factor in causing his sudden cardiac death, which occurred behind home plate during the opening game of the 1996 major league season in Cincinnati on April 1, 1996.


  • Umpiring career 1
    • Post-season games 1.1
    • All-Star Games 1.2
    • Other notable games 1.3
  • Death 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Umpiring career

Post-season games

Born in New York City, McSherry umpired in the World Series in 1977 and 1987. He also officiated in the National League Championship Series in 1974, 1978, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, and 1992, and in the National League Division Series in 1981 and 1995.

All-Star Games

McSherry worked the 1975, 1982, and 1991 All-Star Games, for which the umpiring crew consisted of three American League umpires and three National League umpires during the years 1949 to 1999.

Other notable games


The headstone of McSherry in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

As Cincinnati was the home of baseball's first professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the Reds traditionally played the first game of the major league season at home. On April 1, 1996, the Reds were playing the Montreal Expos, and McSherry was assigned to work home plate. Seven pitches into the game, McSherry called a timeout, spoke briefly to Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee, and walked slowly towards the Reds' dugout. Moments after signaling for the second base umpire to come in and replace him, McSherry stumbled and collapsed. Resuscitative efforts were begun on McSherry and he was taken to University Hospital in Cincinnati, but he was pronounced dead within the hour. He was 51 years old.

Third-base umpire Tom Hallion had followed the ambulance to the hospital, leaving umpires Steve Rippley and Jerry Crawford to decide whether to proceed with the game. Shaken and tearful players on both teams consoled the grieving umpires, and ultimately it was decided that it would be best to postpone the game. Reds manager Ray Knight recalled a comment from shortstop Barry Larkin: "Barry told me very quietly and with very much emotion: 'Ray, I've had a lot of deaths in my family. In good conscience, out of respect for life, I can't go out there.'"[2]

Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was quoted as having said, "Snow this morning and now this. I don't believe it. I feel cheated. This isn't supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati. This is our history, our tradition, our team. Nobody feels worse than me." Schott's statement was criticized as a public gaffe, though supporters contended that she was thinking of the some 50,000 fans who had expected to see a baseball game and might be unable to attend a makeup game. Schott sent flowers to the umpire dressing room, but a story in the Dayton Daily News later said that the flowers had been given to Schott on Opening Day by Reds television affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati. According to the story, Schott hastily wrote a sympathy note and attached it to the flowers.[3]

The next day, the Reds defeated the Expos 4-1. Rich Rieker joined the umpiring crew as an emergency replacement at third base. McSherry's funeral was held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Catholic Church in the Bronx, and he was interred in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery.[4]


It was later revealed that McSherry had a doctor's appointment for the day after his death; McSherry had been diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia.[5] After the incident, Major League Baseball compelled its umpires to be more physically fit. NL umpire Eric Gregg, who was likely as heavy as McSherry, made an effort to lose excess weight via exercise and diet, but he resigned after the 1999 season in a dispute with the MLB. Any weight that Gregg lost was gained back in his retirement. He died at age 55 on June 5, 2006 after suffering a stroke.

The New York Mets honored McSherry's memory by embroidering "J.M. N.L. Umpire 10" in a home plate crossed by two baseball bats on the right sleeves of their 1996 game jerseys.[6] In memory of McSherry, the Reds dedicated Riverfront Stadium's umpires' dressing room to him, and the National League retired his number 10.

See also


  1. ^ Lowitt, Bruce (May 4, 1975). "It's Watson by a flash for baseball's millionth run".  
  2. ^ Obituary of John McSherry
  3. ^ NYTimes
  4. ^
  5. ^ Anderson, Dave (4 April 1996). "SPORTS OF THE TIMES;Will Baseball Make the Call For Umpires?".  
  6. ^ Henderson, W.F. (2007). "New York Mets: Patches". MLB Jersey Lettering & Style Guide: The Double-Knit Era Collectors's Reference (4.0 ed.). 

External links

  • Retrosheet
  • - career highlights
  • "He was a fan - death of baseball umpire John McSherry" - tribute by Jerome Holtzman in The Sporting News
  • Baseball Almanac - Cincinnati Enquirer article on his final game
  • Find-A-GraveMcSherry's grave at
  • , a training video McSherry made in 1990. It's now a tribute videoBehind the Plate with John McSherry
  • : "Umpire's tragic death raises medical issue"USA Today
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