Nestor Chylak
Hall of Fame Opens Door for Nestor Chylak

'And, If I look really hard in the background, I can still see him standing
back there smiling.' Bob Chylak

Bob Chylak gives HOF induction speech an behalf of his father Nestor Chylak Jr.

Nestor:
The Man

The Birth
Of a Nickname

When his brother Joseph was born, Nestor - the oldest of the Chylak children - was 2 years old and went around trying to say "We have a sonny," his brother Eugene remembers.  It came out "nunny."

* * *

One of Five
Children

Nestor, who died in 1982, is survived by his wife, the former Sophie Shemet, nicknamed Sue; sons Robert, 41, and William, 33; brother Eugene; sisters Juel Dudrich and Maria Constance (Mae) Burgess.   Brother Joseph died at age 2.

* * *

Nestor Chylak

Dentist's Favorite

Just before his last season started, Nestor admitted to having at least 15 teeth damaged by foul tips during his career.

* * *

Favorite Foods

Ukrainian cuisine such as holubki and pirohi.  Also, matzo ball soup, snacks, anything.  Loved the Carnegie Deli in New York City, a favorite of filmmaker Woody Allen.

* * *

Favorite Drink

Utica Club beer.  Drank it because buddy Jake Hyder sold it.

* * *

Favorite Passtime

Long walks in the morning, golf, handball, card games, especially pinochle, poker and gin.  Got so angry playing golf , he tossed his club and it got stuck in a tree.  You couldn't print what he said, a friend said.

* * *

Nestor the
Barbershopper

Sometimes, when he spoke at local banquets, Nestor, a baritone, would bring along his brother Eugene, Ed Condel, Patrick Kelly and Billy Crotti, and they would harmonize like the barbershop quartets at his dad's bar.

* * *

Nestor On The Road

Washed glasses, mopped floors and cleared tables of the restaurants and bars in the hotels he stayed in and had fellow umps do the same.

* * *

His Eyesight

Almost lost it during World War II, but never wore glasses, the only one in his family who never did, Sue Chylak said.

* * *

First Son

Bob was born in 1958 while Nestor was umpiring a game.  The birth was announced during the game.  Nestor jumped for joy and rushed home after the game.

* * *

Bilinguist

Grew up in Ukrainian household and spoke the language a little.  Knew English too.

* * *

Motto

Play fair and play hard.

* * *

A Friend Has
The Last Word

"Boy, I wish he was here," Butch York said.

   Text of the Hall of Fame Induction speech given by Bob Chylak

* * *

   I'd like to say that I'm honored and overwhelmed by the opportunity to represent my dad here at Cooperstown.  That's a real understatement, actually.

   When I look at the remarkable list of inductees, it gives me goose bumps.  To think that in over 100 years of professional baseball Nestor's only the eight umpire is incredible.

   I only have a few minutes, but I'd like to take this opportunity to speak about Nestor's life, his career and his values.  But before I start I'd like to say something to my mom, Sue Chylak.   Stand up, Mom.  For years, she would say, "When Dad's elected to the Hall of Fame." and the emphasis was always on the word when.  And I'd sit down and I'd say, "Mom, the Hall of Fame is Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams and legends like that.  Even though Dad was a great umpire, I don't know.  They really don't elect very many."  She would say, "Don't worry, when it happens you'll see."

   I'd like to talk briefly about my dad's life.  Nestor was a Ukrainian-American born in Olyphant, Pa., which is a small town near Scranton.  He grew up in a close-knit family; his brother Gene and his sisters Mae and Jule.  He graduated from Olyphant High, and he attended Rutgers.  He was going to go for his engineering degree, and then World War II interrupted.  He soon found himself as a sergeant in one of the Army's elite Ranger battalions, assigned to the 106th Infantry Division.  His unit was thrown into the Battle of the Bulge, and it must have been really terrible.  The casualty rate in his unit was over 20 percent.  He survived, and he was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded by shrapnel and the Silver Star for bravery under fire.

   After he returned from the war, by chance he was given an opportunity to make a few dollars to umpire college baseball games.  He found that he had a knack for it.  Someone saw him and offered him a job in the PONY League, and from there he rapidly advanced through the minor leagues, making his American League debut in 1954.  He married my mom, Sue, a couple years later, and he had two sons, myself and my brother, Bill.  Incidentally, the story is that Nestor found out about my birth on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium.

   If you look back at his career, the stats were over 25 years in the majors, five World Series, six All-Star Games and three League Championship Series.  He was crew chief for 14 years, mentoring young and rookie umpires.  But I think the stats don't really tell you the whole story.  The umpires were on a rotation system for the Series games, and I think that if they weren't he would have been in many more.  After a questionable call in one World Series game between the Red Sox and the Reds, I opened up the newspaper the next morning and read a quote from Ted Williams saying that he thought that Nestor should be in every World Series.

   He was always assigned the toughest series at the end of the season.  Dad used to say that his job was the only one where they expect you to be perfect on opening day and improve from then on.  Few umpires clearly stood out as being at the top, but clearly he did.   The question I get is: why?  One reason was his on-field demeanor.  He was decisive, consistent, authoritative and unflappable.  He let the managers or players have their say, and then he moved on.  In fact, he was proud of the fact that he never threw Earl Weaver out of a game.  I guess that after surviving the Battle of the Bulge confronting Billy Martin in front of 50,000 fans doesn't seem that scary.

   Another reason that Nestor stood out was his great skill at calling balls and strikes.  Ted Williams once named him the best ever, and he was really proud of that.  He wasn't flamboyant.   He didn't think it was right.  He earned the respect of his peers, the players and the fans through competence.  Dad loved baseball.  Yogi (Berra) recently called Nestor a baseball guy.  I think that would have been the ultimate compliment for him.  Yet he was proud of his ability.  He used to say, "I'm not the best but there are none better."  I know that I'm really blessed, but I truly believe he was the best umpire ever.

   I admired more for the way he lived his life that for his career as an umpire.  He was my hero.  He cared about people and not things.  He was a very generous man, especially with children.  I still meet people who tell me stories of how my dad gave them something or went out of his way to be nice to them.  During the off-season, he would make regular, weekly visits to the veterans hospital in Wilkes-Barre.  I'd go with him once in a while, and he would spend hours there, leaving everybody with a smile on his face.  He was very outgoing, and everybody liked him.  I remember one trip I took him to Baltimore.  As we checked into the hotel, Dad was saying hello to everybody at the desk by name.  Then he went to the park, he was asking the parking attendant about his son, and as we walked through the stadium about six people yelled "Hi, Nestor" to him.  I finally had to ask him if he knew everybody in Baltimore.

   He just laughed.   But it was the same in New York, Boston, Kansas City, Minneapolis.  People really loved him.  If I have one regret, its that he never met his grandchildren, my 8-year old, Matt, and my brother Bill's four kids, Beth, Billy, Sarah and Daniel.  He would have spoiled them endlessly.

   Finally I was thinking about what Nestor would have thought of this and who he would have thanked.   He would have been very proud.  He would have said this could only happen in America.  He was constantly saying to me, "What a country."  First and foremost, I'm sure he would have thanked my mom for the love and support she gave him.   It's difficult being an umpire's wife.  There are really no home games, so my mom was on her own raising us for seven or eight months every year.  Special thanks to the Veterans Committee, especially Mr. Berra and Mr. Williams and all the others for recognizing my dad's contributions to baseball.  The fact that Dad was recognized by this assemblage of prestigious baseball legends would have really meant something special to him.  I'm sure he would have mentioned his coach, his friend, his brother Gene who was his constant road companion; Jake Hyder, Chet Zielinski and the former colleagues who made it here today, Richie Garcia and Don Denkinger, all the supporters from the committee in Scranton who jump-started this, especially Phil Goldstein, Joe Butash and Don Boyle; everyone from the entire Scranton area here today who came to celebrate Nestor's induction.  The list is too long to even start.

   Finally, just one last story.  I was, I think, 18.  My dad had been selected to the Scranton-area Hall of Fame.  He asked me to give the speech if he wasn't able to make it on time from a game that he had in Cleveland that day.  It was a Sunday night.  I prepared, but I was really nervous.  But I was sure he was going to show up on time.   As the dinner progressed, he still wasn't there.  I looked around, and finally I had to go up and give the speech.  Three-quarters of the way through the speech, I saw my dad standing in the doorway with a  big grin on his face.  And if I look really hard in the background, I can still see him standing back there smiling.  So, on behalf of my family, I want to say thank you.

Nestor:
The Ump

First Game
in Majors

Opening Day, April 14, 1954.  The Yankees vs Senators in Washington.  The Senators won , 5-3.

* * *

His First
Umpiring Crew

Bill McGowan, Jim Honochick and Joe Paparella.  Paparella was from Peckville.  McGowan is in the Hall of Fame.  Honochick is famous for a beer commercial with Baltimore Orioles first baseman Boog Powell.

* * *

His Favorite
Ballplayer

Mickey Mantle.   Not just because of his ability, but because Mantle played bandaged and in pain.   Mantle thought Nestor was the best ump.

* * *

Best Hitter
He Ever Saw

Ted Williams

* * *

Best Pitcher

Whitey Ford

* * *

The DH Rule

He thought it was good for the game because it would spark offense, and he wished the National League adopted it, too.

HOF Logo

Umpires
In The Hall

Today (July 25, 1999), Nestor becomes the eight umpire inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.  The others: Bill Klem and Tommy Connolly (1953); Billy Evans (1973); Jocko Conlan (1974); Cal Hubbard (1976); Al Barlick (1989); and Bill McGowan (1992).

* * *

Nestor On
Earl Weaver

Never threw him out of a game.

* * *

On the Push
For His Election

He would have put the kibosh on it.   "My father wasn't a glory seeker, " Bill Chylak said.

* * *

Historic
Nestor Games

1) Stroh's 10-cent beer night in Cleveland on June 4, 1974.
2) Umping first base during Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pirates and Yankees.
3) The 1972 playoff when Oakland A's shortstop Bert Campaneris hurled a bat at Detroit Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.
4) The 1977 World Series when Reggie Jackson hit five homers.

* * *

Last Game
in Majors

July 23, 1978.  Oakland A's vs Toronto Blue Jays.  Oakland won, 5-3.

Nestor Chylak's HOF plaque

Bud Selig (Commissioner of Major League Baseball), Bob Chylak (son of Nestor Chylak), and Edward Stack (Chairman of the Hall of Fame) at the Induction Ceremony, Sunday, July 25, 1999
The Induction Speech is also on the HOF Web site

Baseball bat

MORE FROM A TRIBUTE TO NESTOR CHYLAK
Inductee Stats and Biographies

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"A Tribute to Nestor Chylak"