On April 1, 1996, the Cincinnati Reds opened the Major League Baseball season by hosting the Montreal Expos. Seven pitches into the game, 51-year-old umpire John McSherry staggered away from home plate on unsteady legs and collapsed face-first to the ground. He likely died immediately of a massive heart attack, but he was officially pronounced dead an hour later. Another umpire, Tom Hallion, accompanied McSherry to a Cincinnati hospital. The remaining two umpires, after consulting with the Reds and Expos, decided to postpone the game. The decision did not sit well with outspoken Reds’ owner Marge Schott who was unhappy about having to issue rainchecks to the 50,000 spectators. (She later sent flowers to McSherry’s funeral, but reports claimed they were second-hand flowers she herself had received on Opening Day from a local TV station.) McSherry, who tipped the scales at over 300 pounds, was a stereotypical out-of-shape MLB umpire. Beginning in 1997, MLB insisted on tough new physical fitness standards for its arbiters.
Alex October 9, 2019