Summary

Birth:
03 Sep 1936 1
Imlay City, MI 1
Death:
04 Jul 1988 1
San Mateo California 1
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Full Name:
Lee Howard Weyer 1
Also known as:
Lee Weyer Big Lee 1
Birth:
03 Sep 1936 1
Imlay City, MI 1
Male 1
Death:
04 Jul 1988 1
San Mateo California 1
Cause: Heart Attack 1
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Occupation:
Umpire 1

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Lee Weyer, NL Umpire, Dead at 51 : He Suffers Apparent Heart Attack at Home of Fellow Umpire

Lee Weyer, a National League umpire for 26 years, died of what appeared to be a heart attack Monday night while visiting the home of fellow umpire Ed Montague in the San Francisco suburb of San Mateo.

Weyer, 51, had worked Monday afternoon's game between the Giants and Chicago Cubs at Candlestick Park and had been playing basketball with Montague's children when he complained of shortness of breath and went into the house to make a phone call.

Montague found him on a bedroom floor, according to Hugh Swaney of the San Mateo County coroner's office.

Weyer was taken to Mills Hospital in San Mateo and pronounced dead at 9:35 p.m.

"The loss of Lee Weyer is a terrible shock to his innumerable friends and admirers both in and out of baseball, " said Bart Giamatti, NL president. "He was a gregarious and outgoing man, possessed of integrity and great good humor. He was also an outstanding umpire, one of the best in the National League."

Weyer, who was 6 feet 6 inches, umpired in the Midwest League, Southern Assn. and International League before working his first National League game in September, 1961. He became a regular member of the league's staff the next year and was second to Doug Harvey in seniority among league umpires, as well as being one of six crew chiefs.

Weyer umpired in four All-Star games, five league championship series and four World Series. He was on the field when two of baseball's most celebrated records were broken.

He was the third base umpire in 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th homer, passing Babe Ruth, and he was behind the plate in 1985 when Pete Rose collected his 4,192nd hit, breaking Ty Cobb's record.

"I told (Rose) three, four, five years ago that I was going to be behind the plate when he broke it," Weyer said. "This was a great thrill. A lot of people from all over the world would have loved to see it, and it's just part of our job."

Weyer was also involved in a controversy in last year's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins. He was the first base umpire in Game 7 and made a questionable call in the top of the sixth inning.

With the score tied, 2-2, and the Cardinals' Tom Herr on first base with one out, Minnesota left-hander Frank Viola picked Herr off, initiating a rundown in which Viola, covering first base, tagged the retreating Herr.

Weyer called him out, but replays showed that Herr was clearly safe. The Twins went on to win, 4-2.

"I missed it," Weyer admitted. "I allowed myself to get blocked out of the play."

It didn't happen often.

"He was a good man and a good umpire," said Don Drysdale, former Dodger pitcher and now a broadcaster for the team. "The thing I'll always remember about him is that I would be out there struggling, thinking I was throwing hard as the batter fouled off pitch after pitch, and he'd throw the ball back harder than I was throwing it.

"He was as big as I was, and I often said to him, 'Lee, the way you throw, let me trade places with you.' We used to laugh about that."

Weyer's death is the fourth involving an active major league umpire in recent years. NL umpire Dick Stello was killed shortly before spring training in a car accident. American League umpire Lou DiMuro was killed when struck by a car while crossing a street in Arlington, Tex., in 1982. AL umpire Bill Kunkel died of cancer in 1985.

Weyer will be replaced by a minor league umpire now under option to the NL, a league spokeswoman said, but she refused to reveal the name.

Larry Poncino of San Clemente, a Pacific Coast League umpire, was called to San Francisco to replace Weyer for Tuesday's game. He did not know, however, whether he would be a permanent replacement, said his mother, Ann Marie.

Born in Imlay City, Mich., Sept. 3, 1936, Weyer was a bachelor who lived in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. He is survived by two sisters. Funeral arrangements were pending.

Sports of the Times; Lee Weyer's Eyeglasses

IT started to rain that first game in Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo. Pete Rose recalled that Lee Weyer, the umpire, was going to get wet. Weyer had accompanied the Cincinnati Reds on this exhibition tour to Japan after the 1978 season, and now the Japanese umpires slipped on raincoats. They handed one to Weyer. ''Remember, Lee was 6-6 and this was before he lost some of his weight, so he was around 280,'' said Rose, now the Reds' manager. ''The raincoat they gave him was a Japanese raincoat. He put it on and it was about three times too small. The sleeves came up to about his elbows.''

Rather than hurt the hosts' feelings, Rose recalled, Weyer, with a smile on his broad face, umpired the rest of the moist game in his tight little coat.

People were recalling Lee Weyer again this week. Weyer died of a heart attack Monday night, a few hours after having umpired at first base in the Giants-Cubs game in San Francisco. He was 51 years old, and had been a National League umpire for 26 years.

 

''I rate him one of the top,'' said Rose. ''If not the top.''

So did Dave Johnson of the Mets, in the other clubhouse in Shea Stadium. So did the players. Weyer umpired four All-Star Games and four World Series and was behind the plate when Rose got the hit that passed Cobb on the career list. When Henry Aaron passed Babe Ruth with his 715th career homer, he also passed Lee Weyer, who was umpiring at third base.

Those were thrills for him, he once said. Besides being fair and aware, he was big, and confident - confident enough, the players say, ''to let a guy beef without runnin' him right away,'' unlike some of the newer umpires.

And self-assured enough that when he blew a call in the seventh game of last year's World Series, he faced up to it. ''I got blocked out on the play,'' he said.

Others, though, like Doug Harvey, the only National League umpire with seniority over Weyer, recalled something else.

''I remember when Lee came back from that illness and few thought he would,'' said Harvey. IN the spring of 1980, Weyer was stricken with a mysterious illness.

His vision blurred, his arms and legs shook and his hands shook so badly he could hardly squeeze toothpaste on a toothbrush.

He had been afflicted with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that generally affects motor control and can also cause blindness.

For a while, his life hung in the balance. When that threat passed, a doctor told him, ''I don't know if you'll ever be able to work a baseball game again.''

''Why not?'' Weyer said. ''Being blind never stopped me from umpiring before.''

He went to watch the Dodgers play in Los Angeles and when a foul ball was hit in his direction, he ducked. He was embarrassed to find that the ball landed about 100 feet away from him. ''My depth perception was terrible,'' he said.

Miraculously, with nature taking a positive turn and Weyer industriously embarking on a program of physical therapy and jogging to regain coordination, he improved. But his eyesight was still faulty. Umpires, as is commonly known, are allowed to be short or fat or bald or ill-tempered, but one thing the league insists on is that they be able to see.

Weyer began wearing glasses, and when he returned to the field, he would sneak the glasses on just as play was about to start, and sneak them off and into his pocket when the inning ended, as if no one would see. BUT they did. Some kidded him. ''Hey, Clark Kent!'' And one time, when the umpires stepped onto a field, he heard someone in the stands begin to sing ''Three Blind Mice.'' By then, though, said Weyer, ''I was so glad to be back that it was music to my ears.''

A few other umpires had worn glasses, too. ''But, really,'' said Weyer, ''what difference does it make? Ballplayers hit .300 with 'em.''

Weyer was back and as good as ever, as happy as ever, as voluble as ever. ''He had this kind of high voice, I mean, if you didn't see him, and you heard his voice, you'd think he was a frail guy,'' said Johnny Bench, the former Reds catcher. ''When he was behind the plate, he always called out not just the balls and strikes, but the number of outs, too. Two balls, two strikes, two outs. I think he did it because he just loved being in the game.''

In Tuesday night's game at Shea, there was a close play at first base, and Doug Harvey, who umpired in the crew when Weyer broke into the majors in 1961, called out Chris Sabo, the Cincinnati runner. Manager Rose came hustling out of the dugout, obviously to argue the call. Shortly, he returned to the dugout.

Doug Harvey later recalled that scene as he stood in the doorway to the umpires' room under the stands at Shea: ''Pete came out and said, 'You called it right, Doug, but I just wanted say that it was tough about Lee.'

''I said, 'Yeah, Pete, it was, and I'm having a tough time with it.'

''I looked at him and said, 'Well, if you're going to stand out here and talk, you might as well flap your arms, for heaven's sakes, so people will think you're doing something.' ''

At the umpires' door, Harvey said: ''Lee was my good friend. It was like losing a brother. Really, that's all I can say now.''

And Doug Harvey, with his distinctive shock of snow-white hair and his eyes now rimmed with red, quietly disappeared behind the closing door

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