Out at Home
As the game began, McSherry joked with Reds' catcher Eddie Taubensee, who recalled his saying, "Eddie, you can call the first two innings." Sadly, the first game of McSherry's 26th major-league season never got that far. After the seventh pitch, Taubensee heard McSherry say, "Hold on, time out for a second." With that, McSherry turned, began to walk toward the backstop, staggered and collapsed, stricken with a fatal heart attack. Fellow umpires, ballplayers and 53,000 fans looked on in shock as efforts to restart his heart failed. It was believed to be the first time in major-league history that anyone had died on the field, and the game was canceled. The Hamilton County coroner later found that McSherry had an enlarged heart and severe coronary artery disease that doctors said was aggravated by his poor physical condition and job pressures. (In fact, he had planned to see a doctor the following day.) "He was very intense," says Richie Phillips, of the Major League Umpires' Association. "He'd bring a great deal of stress to an already stressful situation." Adding to the problem was his weight, which often reached nearly 400 pounds despite visits to a weight-loss clinic. "It was a struggle for him to get out on the field," Phillips says, noting that McSherry was fatalistic: "He'd say, 'If I'm going to go, I'd rather go on a baseball diamond.' "
Growing up in the Bronx, McSherry, whose father, Owen, was a transit worker, rode the subway to Brooklyn with his mother, Anastasia, to cheer for the Dodgers. He began umpiring sandlot baseball as a teen and turned pro in 1968. He joined the National League in 1971 and quickly won players' respect. "He's one of the few umpires who will tell you, 'I missed one,' " said the Reds' Hal Morris. "He was a sweet man," said Mark Grace of the Chicago Cubs. "I had to fight back the tears." Doyle says that, off the field, McSherry was "a second father" to her two children by a previous marriage—Brian, 21, and Jean, 19. "They're devastated," says Doyle, a construction company secretary. "He was the most gentle and giving man you would ever meet."