It has been recently announced that Harry Wendelstedt will be an foundational member of the Florida State League Hall of Fame for his contributions to baseball and umpiring. His formal induction will be held on November 9, 2009, at the Plaza Resort in Daytona Beach, FL.
This wonderful tribute brings up another question: When will he be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? He has recently been nominated for such an honor by Dr. John McCollister, an experienced baseball author and speaker, and supported by his close friend and on field, Tommy Lasorda. The reasons for this great umpire's successful induction are almost endless. Some would argue that his career statistics alone should be enough for this.
Working over 33 years in the Major Leagues, he worked 5 All-Star games and 5 World Series. His career was also filled with a number of Division and Championship Series as well. He was consistently considered one of the best ball and strike umpires in all of baseball, and was well-respected by everyone on the field.
His command and ability to handle situations with both poise and control was one of the reasons so many new Major League umpires were placed on his crew to start their careers. He was known for having a firm hand, but also for listening to reasonable questions and concerns of field staffs. His career as a Major League umpire is one of the greatest, and certainly one of the most recognized.
However, it is his contributions to baseball off of the field that are probably his greatest. As the owner of the Wendelstedt Umpire School, he has trained and placed thousands of amateur and professional umpires. His school has produced well over 100 Major League umpires, more than all of the school's competitors in history, combined! His influence on their careers is obvious when you watch current Major Leaguers like Randy Marsh, Charlie Reliford, and of course, his son Hunter.
He has always been accessible outside of the lines as well. Whenever someone needs a helping hand, Harry has given that assistance. The list goes on and on, and includes former students to children in his local community. One project that he took some 17 years ago was the construction of baseball and soccer fields in his hometown of Ormond Beach, FL. His desire to help was apparent in his persistence in securing the project location, and in providing enormous amounts of time, money, and supplies to the cause. When no one else was willing to help, Harry borrowed a front loader and backhoe and began clearing trees himself for hours each day during the off-season. Because of these contributions, Harry is a hero to thousands of children who have had the privilege to use the fields created as a result of his hard work. This is evident by the hundreds of people that showed up for the dedication of those fields as "The Harry Wendelstedt, Jr. Athletic Complex" in his honor.
To the people that are close to him, he is our "Chief." He is respected by his peers and subordinates alike. This is obvious by the number of Major League umpires that remain on his staff even as their careers progress to their pinnacles. His dedication and loyalty to his staff is the ultimate guide as to how to act as a professional umpire. He is the epitome of "Professional," and his career is a book that represents just that.
It has become increasingly difficult for umpires to enter the Hall, and many people agree that there may only be a few umpires that will ever again qualify for such an honor. One thing is for sure, Harry Wendelstedt is one of those. His induction into this great arena will be with the help of his supporters, both in and outside of professional baseball. Make your support known to the committee that Harry Wendelstedt is a Hall of Fame umpire.