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Umpire John McSherry Collapses During Game

April 1, 1996 GMT

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Umpire John McSherry, who planned to see doctors the next day about an irregular heart beat, collapsed on the field seven pitches into Cincinnati’s opener Monday and died at a hospital about an hour later.

The devastated Reds and Montreal Expos postponed the game about an hour after McSherry collapsed. It will be replayed in its entirety Tuesday.

University Hospital said McSherry died of ``sudden cardiac death,″ a condition in which the heart beats out of control.

McSherry, 51, was listed at 328 pounds and had a history of medical problems. He had told the other umpires that he was going to be treated Tuesday for arrhythmia, or abnormal heart beat.

``I wish he would have done it sooner,″ Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee said.

McSherry, the crew chief and home plate umpire, turned away two minutes into the top of the first inning and headed for the tunnel behind the plate that leads to the umpires’ dressing room. He fell face-first when he reached the warning track.

The other umpires covered their faces and players gathered around while the crowd of roughly 53,000 fans went silent. Doctors in the crowd rushed onto the field to try to help revive McSherry, who never regained consciousness.

He was declared dead at 3:04 p.m. EST at University Hospital. A spokeswoman said McSherry’s heart had stopped beating properly.

McSherry was believed to be the first major league umpire to be fatally stricken during a game. Ray Chapman is the only player to die after an on-field accident _ he was beaned by Carl Mays in 1920 and died shortly thereafter.

College basketball star Hank Gathers died about two hours after collapsing on the court during a game for Loyola Marymount in 1990. Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes collapsed on the field in the final minute of a game against Chicago in 1971 and died later that day.

The Expos-Reds postponement was believed to be the first major league game called off because of a death.

Reds manager Ray Knight put his arm around umpire Tom Hallion as they watched doctors try to revive McSherry.

``He said John was supposed to go get his arrhythmia (treated) earlier and he didn’t want to do that,″ Knight said. ``He made the statement that, `I’m going to be here opening day with them and then go get that tomorrow.‴

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McSherry was named a crew chief in July 1988, replacing Lee Weyer, who died of a heart attack two weeks earlier.

Last August, he was forced to leave a game between Atlanta and Chicago because of heat exhaustion. In 1993, he left a game in Cincinnati against Los Angeles after becoming ill in 87-degree heat.

McSherry was forced to leave Game 7 of the 1992 NL playoffs between Pittsburgh and Atlanta in the second inning because of dizziness. A year earlier, he collapsed because of dehydration during a game between St. Louis and Atlanta.

``John was superb human being, an excellent umpire,″ NL president Len Coleman said. ``He had the respect of everyone in baseball and his death is a great loss.″

Umpires are given annual physical checkups. McSherry was examined in February, the NL said.

McSherry looked fine before the game Monday, as horse-drawn wagons circled the field and former Reds manager Sparky Anderson threw out a ceremonial first pitch to Knight, who was managing his first game.

``He was joking around with me before the game,″ Taubensee said. ``In fact, he said, `Eddie, you can call the first two innings.′ He seemed to be in good spirits.″

Mark Grudzielanek flied out to open the game and Mike Lansing struck out against Pete Schourek. After the second pitch to Rondell White, McSherry backed away from the plate, waved to second-base umpire Steve Rippley with his right hand, and started toward the dressing room.

``After the second pitch to Rondell White, he just said, `Hold on, time out for a second,″ Taubensee said. ``I turned around and said, `Are you all right, John?′ He didn’t say anything. I thought maybe he pulled something (a muscle) by the way he was walking. After he collapsed, I lost it.″

The other umpires were consoled by players as doctors worked on McSherry for 15 minutes before he was taken to the hospital.

``Once we rolled John over, he never regained consciousness,″ umpire Jerry Crawford said. ``I don’t think he heard me talking to him.″

``When he stepped back, I knew he was in trouble,″ Expos manager Felipe Alou said. ``I felt like running over to stop him from falling.″

Knight, Alou, Reds general manager Jim Bowden and owner Marge Schott met with the umpires after McSherry was taken away. They initially considered resuming the game with two umpires _ Hallion left for the hospital.

``The players, both managers and myself with Steve consulted and felt this is best to do with the emotion involved and the way things are going,″ Crawford said.

The players met, decided they were too broken up to continue, then talked to the umpires. The game was then called off.

``The team is rattled, really rattled,″ Knight said. ``Nobody wanted to play after seeing something like that happen.″