RIP to Chuck Meriwether, who was an MLB umpire for 23 years and a supervisor for 9 more. He died on October 26 from cancer. He was 63 years old.
“Chuck Meriwether was an accomplished umpire on the field, a role model for our staff and a true gentleman in life,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. “He made a significant impact in his nine years as an Umpire Supervisor. Chuck will be remembered for his genial manner and the outstanding example he set for others, particularly for African American umpires who followed him. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his wife Rita, his sons Jeremy and Christopher, the Major League Umpires and his many friends throughout our game.”
Julius Edward “Chuck” Meriwether was born on June 30, 1956, in Nashville, Tenn. He graduated from Athens State College in 1978 in Alabama, with a degree in physical education and health. He then attended Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School and started his umpiring career in the Midwest League in 1979.
“I just love the game,” he told the Hartford Courant in 1980, while he was umpiring in the Eastern League. “Can you think of a better place to watch it?”
After working in the minors as an umpire, Meriwether made it to the majors in 1987. His first game was a 6-2 Toronto win in Seattle on May 23, 1987. He was the second base umpire in that game. He was promoted to the majors full-time in 1993 and worked through the 2009 season. The website Close Call Sports said that wear and tear on his knees led to him leaving the field to become an umpire supervisor.
In Meriwether’s MLB career, he worked the 1996 and 2002 All-Star Games, the eight Division Series, two League Championship Series and two World Series. Both of those World Series, in 2004 and 2007, were 4-game sweeps by the Boston Red Sox.
Nashville honored its native son multiple times after his retirement. The umpires dressing room at First Tennessee Park was named after him in 2016. He was the recipient of the second annual SOAR Award by Martin Methodist College in 2017, which is given to an alum who had demonstrated persistence in his or her profession. Meriwether graduated from Martin in 1976. He was also inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in June of that year.
Meriwether spoke with The Tennessean in 2011 about his career and recalled his first All-Star Game in 2002 in Philadelphia. He attended the Home Run Derby with his sons, Jeremy and Chris, who were 10 and 8 at the time. He noticed that the boys weren’t watching the field during the Derby. When they got back to their hotel room, he asked them why.
“[T]hey said, ‘This is the first time we ever sat with you up in the stands, Dad,'” he said. “That was something special. Working an All-Star game is almost like Christmas.”