A week ago, Wally Bell was part of the umpiring crew during the NLDS series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Now he's gone.
Bell, a 21-year veteran of MLB, has died of a heart attack according a report from the Youngstown Vindicator, a newspaper near Bell's hometown of Austintown, Ohio. Radio station WFMJ confirms the report. Bell was 48.
His umpiring résumé is highlighted by the 2006 World Series. He was also a part of three All-Star Games (1997, 2000 and 2013).
In addition to this year's NLDS — when Bell was behind the plate during a tense Gerrit Cole/Carlos Beltran at-bat — he worked in 10 different MLB postseasons. Recently, Bell was also a part of the 2013 World Baseball Classic umpiring crew.
Bell had open-heart surgery in 1999. According to his bio on MLB.com, he considered returning to baseball afterward one of the highlights of his career.
Fellow MLB umpire John Hirschbeck told WFMJ:
"One on my dearest friends. We worked together for 11 years. He was like to a son to me, my wife Denise, very dear friend. It's devastating. Wally was one of the first to call me and congratulate me on working the World Series."
MLB issued a statement Monday night about Bell's death and his career:
Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said: “All of us at Major League Baseball are in mourning tonight regarding the sudden passing of Wally Bell. 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.”
MLB Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre said: “I am deeply saddened and shocked at the loss of Umpire Wally Bell. Umpiring was his life, and he touched so many people within the game of baseball. Aside from being an accomplished, All-Star-caliber umpire, Wally was a loving dad to his two teenage children. I extend my deepest condolences to them, his girlfriend Renee, the rest of his family and his admirers across Major League Baseball.”
Major League Umpire Joe West, President of the World Umpires Association, said: “Wally was a great umpire, a great partner and a great friend. The umpiring community is deeply saddened by this tragic loss. He will be sorely missed by many.”
A number of current and former players tweeted about Bell's death:
R.I.P. Wally Bell. Was one of my favorite umpires in the game.
— Jeremy Affeldt (@JeremyAffeldt) October 15, 2013
Sad to hear about the passing of MLB umpire Wally Bell. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends... — Brad Ziegler (@BradZiegler) October 15, 2013
Sad hearing news bout Wally Bell. My prayers to his family. Great guy!
— Aaron Boone (@AaronBoone_ESPN) October 15, 2013
Bell is survived by two children.