Nestor Chylak
Hall of Fame Opens Door for Nestor Chylak

Nestor was ump players wanted on the field

By Mike Crist
Tribune Staff Writer

July 26, 1999

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. A power hitter with 500 home runs holds the keys to Cooperstown.

   A line-drive hitter who collects 3,000 career hits has his ticket punched.

   A pitcher who wins 300 games can expect the call from the Hall.

   But the criteria for an umpire to be inducted into the Hall of Fame are not nearly so well defined.

   He must rely on word of mouth.  What did the players and managers of his era think about him?  Who was the umpire they most wanted to see take the field for a big game?

   For many members of the Hall of Fame who assembled here Sunday, the answer was Nestor Chylak.

Harmon Killebrew

   "He was one of the best umpires in the American League for years and years," said Harmon Killebrew, who broke into the AL the same year as Mr. Chylak (1954) and hit 573 home runs during a 25-year career.  "I think he had a great rapport with the players.  He was a good ball-and-strike umpire, and he was always on top of every play."

   Mr. Chylak, a native of Olyphant who umpired for 25 years, was one of seven people inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday.

   Nobody appreciated Mr. Chylak's knowledge of the strike zone more than the pitchers of his day.

Rollie Fingers

   "If it was off the plate, it was a ball," said Rollie Fingers, who saved 341 games and won 114 from 1968-85.  "If it was on the plate, it was a strike.  He was a real good umpire with balls and strikes.

   "I think that's the biggest problems today with the game," Mr. Fingers said.  "A lot of umpires don't know the strike zone."

   While making the right calls and being in the proper position are the two most obvious duties of an umpire, they do not represent a complete job description.

   Mr. Chylak was able to distinguish himself in other ways.

Jim Palmer

   "I think anybody who ever played while Nestor umpired understood how much he loved the game and how much he loved people," said former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who won 268 games in 20 big-league seasons.

   "Whether you're Nestor Chylak or Jim Palmer or anyone else, if you can go through life and enjoy what you're doing, get pleasure out of it and give pleasure to others, do your job and do it at a high level, what more is there to do?  When I think of Nestor, that's how I remember him, "Mr. Palmer said.

   "I just thought he was an excellent umpire and he was a good guy," added Mr. Killebrew, who played for the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.  "If you treated him right he respected that, and I respected the way Nestor Chylak umpired."

   All three Hall-of-Fame players said they believe Mr. Chylak belongs in their company.

   The only problem, Mr. Palmer said, was that the honor came 17 years too late.  Mr. Chylak died in 1982.

   "I wish he was here in person," Mr Palmer said, "It's great to be nominated.  It's great to be elected.  Here's a guy that really deserved a chance to be here to realize that umpires are getting the respect they deserved."

Cheering an Umpire

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"A Tribute to Nestor Chylak"