Wally Bell, a veteran umpire who has spent the past two decades working in Major League Baseball, died Monday as the result of a heart attack.
He was 48.
The Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator first reported Bell's passing, though details on what happened are still developing. WFMJ noted that a source close to the situation said Bell was in Youngstown over the weekend for a celebration before suffering a massive heart attack at a local hospital.
Bell previously underwent open heart surgery in 1999.
He was most recently a part of the umpiring crew for the National League Division Series matchup between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, working behind the plate in Game 2. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports noted that the umpires in charge of the NLCS series between St. Louis and the Los Angeles Dodgers were notified only an hour before the first pitch:
Umpiring crew calling the game with a heavy heart. Found out only an hour beforehand fellow ump and friend Wally Bell, just 48, died today.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 15, 2013
Umpire John Hirschbeck likely represented the attitudes of colleagues around MLB when speaking of his heartbreak at Bell's passing.
"One on my dearest friends," Hirschbeck said. "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."
Bell was hired by MLB in 1993 after years of serving in the minor leagues and independent baseball. One of the sport's most respected umpires, Bell avoided major controversies throughout his career and was awarded numerous top assignments. He officiated the 2006 World Series, four league championship series, seven division series and two All-Star games.
The Ohio native also worked as a 2013 World Baseball Classic umpire, serving behind the plate for the Dominican Republic's victory over the Netherlands in the semifinals.
Bell is survived by his two children, Lindsey and Jason, two brothers and a sister.
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