Harry Wendelstedt spent 33 years as a National League umpire, including five stints to the World Series.
He is perhaps best known for making one of the most disputed calls in baseball. It happened in 1968. Dodger’s pitcher Don Drysdale was on his way to setting a major league record of 58 2-3 scoreless innings. The bases were full and the Giants’ Dick Dietz was up to bat with a 2-2 count, when he was hit by a pitch. As he jogged to first base, Wendelstedt called him back, saying he didn’t attempt to move. The Giants disputed the call, Dietz eventually hit a fly ball out and Drysdale got his record.
Wendelstedt died this morning after a battle with brain cancer. He was 73.
“He also was widely known for his ownership and operation of the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex, where the cloverleaf baseball diamonds are named in his honor. One of the many umpires to graduate from the Wendelstedt school is his son, Hunter, a major league umpire since 1999.
“‘There’s been no one ever who has loved the game of baseball and respected it more than him,’ Hunter Wendelstedt said this morning. ‘He lived for baseball. He lived for umpiring. When we were getting him into the ambulance (this morning) he had MLB (Network) TV on. That’s all he would watch.'”
Former major league catcher Jim Campanis told ESPN that Wendestedt was fair and honest.
“If he missed a pitch, he would tell you,” he said. “If he didn’t think he missed it, he’d tell you, ‘shut up and let’s get back to the game here. If he missed it, he didn’t react if you said bad words or called him bad names. He took the punishment, took the heat. But if he didn’t think he missed it, you had better not say anything or he’d run you.”
As for that 1968 call: In an 2005 interview, one of Dietz’s teammates, Ron Hunt, said Wendelstedt was right.
“[Dietz] stood there like a post,” Hunt told the AP. “It was a high slider, and he didn’t make an attempt.”