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.