Chylak Gets Call to Cooperstown
By Mike Crist
In an era when players spit on umpires and get away with a slap on the wrist, and when the umps themselves have come under fire for failing to walk away from a fight, Yogie Berra has the solution. Hire more umpires like Nestor Chylak.
"He was and umpire's umpire," the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher said Tuesday after Mr. Chylak, a native of Olyphant, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. "He kept the game under control, but he would also listen to you when you had a beef.
"They have umpires today who give you the heave-ho when you open your mouth. Nestor would let you talk your piece, and then he'd say, 'Fine, let's play.' "
Mr. Chylak, who umpired in the American League for 25 years, was elected to the Hall by the Veterans Committee along with 1967 AL MVP Orlando Cepeda, turn-of-the-century manager Frank Selee and Negro League pitcher Smokey Joe Williams.
They will be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer along with Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount. The ceremony will be July 25, nearly 21 years to the day after Chylak umpired his last game.
"Sometimes he'd ask me, 'Did I miss that pitch?' " said Mr. Berra, a member of the Veterans Committee who spoke to the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. "I'd say, 'Yes, you did,' and he'd say, 'Sorry, I'll get you next time.' "
Bill White, an ex-player and former president of the National League who also serves on the Veterans Committee, remembered Chylak from the time when Mr. White served as a broadcaster for the Yankees.
"When our caravan would stop in Scranton, Nestor was always there," Mr. White said from his hotel room in Tampa, Fla. "He loved baseball. He was a baseball guy all the way. He loved to talk baseball."
Mr. Chylak, the eight umpire elected to the Hall, worked in the American League from 1954-78 and called five World Series and six All-Star Games. He died of a heart attack on Feb. 17, 1982, while he slept at his home in Dunmore.
He was the umpire at first base when Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit the home run that beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. Ironically, Mr. Mazeroski was one of the players who received consideration from the Veterans Committee but was not elected to the Hall [this year].
"[Chylak] was a good umpire," Mr. White said simply. "That's what we talked about today, how he called a game, how he controlled a game. He was a disciplinarian, and he didn't have too many problems because the players respected that."
Mr. Chylak's widow, Sue who still lives in Dunmore, said she has kept her husband's mask, chest protector, hat and shoes just in case the Hall of Fame wants to display them.
"We made a lot of visits to the Hall of Fame," she said, "but Nestor never indicated that he even thought about being in there. He was in awe of it."
Mr. Chylak's selection comes just 14 months after a local committee began lobbying the Veterans group on behalf of the former ump. Letters of endorsement and thousands of signatures were collected and sent to the Veterans Committee.
"What a way to be out of a job," said Don Boyle, a member of the Nestor Chylak committee. "When they called, I was crying. I knew Nestor personally for a long time."
Phil Goldstein of Clarks Summit, the chairman of the committee said he always wanted to repay Mr. Chylak for helping him realize a dream. The umpire arranged a meeting between Mickey Mantle and a 16-year-old Goldstein at Yankee Stadium in 1962.
Mr. Goldstein said he had a feeling that this could be the year. He also felt sure Mr. Chylak eventually would be elected.
"I felt that it would happen because I truly believe Nestor belonged there," Mr. Goldstein said.
The work is not over, though. The local committee now must organize a trip to Cooperstown for the induction ceremonies.
Sue Chylak said she doesn't know who will make the induction speech for her late husband.
"It will be probably one of my sons or myself or his brother," she said. "I guess I could."