24 November 2014

umpire black armbands for lee weyer and perhaps dick stello, but definitely for augie donatelli and bill kunkel

just a few weeks before the 1988 all-star game, national league umpire lee weyer died of a heart attack. at the midsummer classic, the umpires wore black armbands in his honor.  this 1989 t&m umpires card of the all-star crew
shows the armband on the right sleeves of the nl umps, as well as one of the american league umpires.  here's a posthumous card of weyer from the same set,
with the ump holding court in dodger stadium.  the back of the card tells his story
i believe that the national league umpires wore the armbands for the remainder of the season, and that the reason that they wore them on their right sleeve was because they already had a black armband on their left sleeves.  here's a card, also from the 1989 t&m umpires set, of nl ump greg bonin that shows the dual armbands.
and here's a getty images photo that shows one of the umpires (randy marsh, i believe) at the 1988 all-star game
with an armband on each sleeve.  the fact that the american league umpires only had the black armband on their right sleeve, along with the fact that gary darling is wearing only one armband on his 1989 t&m umpires card (and it's on his left sleeve)
tells me that it was the one added for weyer.

so, for whom were the umpires wearing the armband on their left sleeves for?  well, national league umpire dick stello had been killed in november, 1987 in a car accident.  he was standing between two cars on the side of a road in florida when the rear car was hit by another vehicle, crushing stello to death.  yikes.  stello, who was once married to chesty morgan, had been an umpire in the senior circuit since 1968, and i would expect that the umpires would have worn an armband in his honor.

here's another card from the 1989 t&m umpires set, featuring tom hallion
the card only shows the armband on the left sleeve, but he would also be wearing the one on the right since this photo comes from a game played on august 18, 1988.  kevin gross is walking off the field in the background, as the dodgers beat the phillies 2-1 that day with hallion calling balls and strikes.

i found another card that shows the armband on the right sleeve - this 1989 upper deck ron gant card has a play at third base on the back, complete with an umpire present
with the armband.  that photo comes from a game in september of 1988, since that was the month that the braves moved gant to third, and that also comes after the all-star game when the armbands were added to the right sleeve.

now that we've got the memorial armbands for weyer and stello figured out, i am a bit perplexed by john kibler's 1990 t&m umpires card
he's wearing an armband on his right sleeve.  sure, this could be a photo from 1988 post-all star break, but the stadium in the background looks kind of spring training-ish.  any ideas?

a couple of years later, in may of 1990, former umpire augie donatelli died at the age of 76.  in august, national league umpires began wearing black armbands in his honor, as seen on the back of todd hundley's 1991 upper deck card
that photo comes from either august 25 or 26, 1990, and features either bob davidson or charlie williams crouched behind mike scioscia.  i'd guess it's from the 26th with williams behind the plate, because the only time hundley hit with scioscia catching on the 25th was in the top of the 14th inning, and it would have been dark(er) by that time, with a likely smaller crowd on hand.

anyway, donatelli had been a national league umpire for 24 years, and was the founder of the major league baseball umpires association.  he officiated in five world series and four all-star games, and may be best remembered for his penchant for ejecting managers and also for absconding with a couple of cardinal hats following their 1967 world series win.

i'll finish this post with a note regarding another umpire honored with black armbands.  following his death in may of 1985 after a long bout with cancer, american league umpire bill kunkel was honored by his fellow umpires who wore a black armband during the 1985 all-star game (and perhaps during the regular season).  i've found a getty images photo of one of the umpires during the 1985 all-star game with the armband visible on the left sleeve
kunkel had been a pitcher in the major leagues for a short time before turning to umpiring.  he began his big league umpiring gig in 1968, and also served as a referee in the nba for a time.  he was 48 when he passed.

in recent years, the umpires have gone to wearing initials as memorials (as they did for a. bartlett giamatti in the 1989 world series) which makes it a bit easier to dissect.

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