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
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
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
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
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
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
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.