Former umpire Eric Gregg suffers massive stroke

Updated: June 5, 2006, 12:50 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former major league umpire Eric Gregg, known for his wide strike zone and well-documented weight problems, suffered a massive stroke Sunday and was unconscious, his son Kevin told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark. Gregg was hospitalized at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia.

Eric Gregg
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesGregg, whose battle with weight problems became quite public, was one of baseball's most recognizable umpires.

Gregg's outlook, according to his son, does not look promising, regardless of whether he survives.

"There's no sure sign how much better he can get from here," he said. "He has a large amount of blood in the brain right now."

Kevin Gregg said his father complained to family members on Sunday morning at his home in Ardmore, Pa., that he couldn't feel anything on his left side.

"It became apparent to them that it was a stroke and he was rushed to the hospital," he said.

In early March, the former umpire had his right knee replaced. Kevin Gregg said his father was taking blood thinners to prevent clots.

"They think that triggered a leak in the vessels in the head," he said.

Gregg, 55, was one of 22 umpires who lost their jobs in 1999 as a result of a failed labor strategy. In an attempt to force an early start to contract negotiations, union head Richie Phillips called for mass resignations. Surprisingly, the league accepted the resignations, leaving the 22 men jobless.

In 2001, a judge ordered baseball to rehire nine of the 22 umpires, but Gregg was not one of them.

Three years before losing his job, Gregg was given a leave of absence to begin a weight-loss program. Gregg's decision, through consultation with the National League, came one week after umpire John McSherry collapsed in a game in Cincinnati on Opening Day 1996 and died.

When he took leave, Gregg was listed by the league at 325 pounds. The only umpire at the time heavier than Gregg was the 51-year-old McSherry, who weighed 380 pounds when he died of heart disease.

"In light of recent events," Gregg said then, "I feel this is the right time to take a serious look at my weight and conditioning. My goal is to be a major league umpire for many years to come, and to accomplish that I need to take a closer look at my overall health."

At one point in the late 1980s, Gregg lost 53 pounds after the league office ordered its heavier umpires to drop weight.

Gregg called his first game in 1975 and became a member of the NL staff in 1978. He worked the 1989 World Series, four league championship series, two division series and one All-Star Game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.