Wally Bell stands between innings of a game between the Houston Astros and the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park. (Photo: Troy Taormina)
Wally Bell, a Major League Baseball umpire since 1993, died Monday at a Youngstown, Ohio, hospital after suffering a massive heart attack last weekend. He was 48.
Last week, Bell was part of the umpiring crew in the National League Division Series as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games.
"All of us at Major League Baseball are in mourning tonight regarding the sudden passing of Wally Bell," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "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."
Fellow umpire John Hirschbeck told WFJM-TV in Youngstown that Bell was one on his dearest friends.
"We worked together for 11 years," Hirschbeck said. "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 executive vice president Joe Torre said in a statement: "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."
Bell was on the World Series umpiring crew in 2006, and he worked the 1997, 2000 and 2013 All-Star Games. In 11 other seasons, including 2013, he worked in a league championship series or a division series.
He had open-heart surgery in 1999 and subsequently volunteered for the American Heart Association, according to multiple media reports.