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Wendelstedt's career spanned 33 years and included three National League Division Series, seven NL Championship Series, five World Series (two as crew chief) and four All-Star games until his 1998 retirement. He umpired five no-hitters, an NL record shared by Hall of Famer Bill Klem.
Wendelstedt also served four terms as President of the Major League Umpires Association and recently won support for his National Baseball Hall of Fame candidacy, receiving a nomination from baseball writer Dr. John McCollister and a second from Hall of Fame manager and Dodgers great Tommy Lasorda, who today declared, "He deserves it."
Harry Wendelstedt worked with his son Hunter (Harry Hunter III) in the National League during the senior Wendelstedt's final big league season in 1998. When the two leagues merged in 1999, Hunter honored his father by selecting uniform No. 21, which he still wears to this day.
The two Wendelstedts additionally have operated the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School—formerly the Al Somers Umpire School—since the 1970s.
Accordingly, Harry was trained by Somers and lived baseball until the very end. According to Hunter, his father, "lived for baseball. He lived for umpiring. When we were getting him into the ambulance [Friday morning], he had MLB [Network] on. That's all he would watch."
Former big league catcher Jim Campanis described Harry as "fair," while Lasorda reflected on a famous sequence between Wendelstedt and Dick Dietz on May 31, 1968 in Los Angeles.
With the bases loaded and Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale's then-record 58.2 scoreless innings streak on the line, San Francisco's Dick Dietz took a 2-2 pitch on the elbow and headed down to first base for the hit by pitch.
Not so fast, said Wendelstedt, who ruled Dietz didn't try to get out of the way and after stepping back to the plate, flied out, preserving the Drysdale streak and shutout. "I'd never seen that call before in the big leagues," said Lasorda, "Never had seen anyone make it."
Father Harry and son Hunter were on the field together for, as Hunter described it, "a couple of different situations that were amazing."
On Aug. 29, 1998, home plate umpire Sam Holbrook called a strike against slugger Mark McGwire—a call McGwire did not like one bit during his pursuit of what would become a then-record 70 home run season.
Holbrook and Hunter were both new to the MLB stage at that time and had both been assigned to the veteran Wendelstedt's crew.
Sensing trouble, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa ran out of the dugout and was ejected. Next up was the pitching coach who was also tossed and finally, having failed to take the hint, McGwire was kicked out.
While fans littered the field with bottles and other debris, the senior Wendelstedt gathered his crew and refocused his fellow umpires: "'Listen. I'm going to handle everything else. I need a couple of things ... Rich [Rieker], Hunter, after every half inning, you're going to meet me right behind second base. No one has that good of an arm. If they want to throw stuff at us, they're not going to reach us beyond second.'"
Turning his attention to Holbrook—who had just ejected three prominent Cardinals personnel—Wendelstedt said, "'Sammy, I've worked with you all year. You’re one of the better young umpires in the big leagues. I need you to bear down now for the next eight innings and do the job that I’ve seen all year long. Block it out. Every pitch that you call, right or wrong, they’re going to scream at you. Don’t worry, go out there and do the job I know you can.'"
Now that's a crew chief.
As is customary upon the passing of an esteemed fellow umpire, MLB umpires are expected to wear a patch or symbol in Harry Wendelstedt's honor early this season.
News: Ex-umpire Harry Wendelstedt dies