Harry Wendelstedt, who was an umpire in five World Series during a 33-year major league career and who taught hundreds of aspiring professional umpires at his Florida school, died on Friday in Daytona Beach, not far from Ormond Beach, where the school is based and where he lived. He was 73.
On May 31, 1968 he made one of baseball’s most remarkable calls. In the ninth inning of a game in Los Angeles between the Giants and the Dodgers, Don Drysdale was working on his fifth straight shutout when, with the bases loaded, he hit the Giants’ Dick Dietz on the elbow. The pitch would have sent Dietz to first and forced in a run, ending Drysdale’s scoreless-innings streak, but Wendelstedt, invoking a rarely applied rule, declared that Dietz had not tried to avoid the pitch and that he must remain at bat. Drysdale retired Dietz and completed the shutout. The call allowed Drysdale’s streak to continue, and he went on to pass Walter Johnson’s record, 552/3 innings, set in 1913. Drysdale ended with 582/3, a mark broken by Orel Hershiser 20 years later.
How memorable was the call? In an interview Friday, Winters recalled working with Wendelstedt as a young umpire in 1994. “We’re in Candlestick Park in San Francisco, going on the field,” Winters said, “and Harry goes, ‘Oh, God, these people have been chewing me out for a call I made in the 1960s, and I’m going, ‘Yeah, right.’ But we weren’t on the field two seconds before somebody yelled, ‘Wendelstedt, you blew that call with Dietz!’ ”