Durwood Merrill dies at age 64
By JOHNNY GREEN Sports Director
For nearly a week Durwood Merrill had been fighting off that inevitable third strike, but the former major league umpire went down swinging Saturday morning.
Merrill, 64, died at about 8:30 a.m. in the Intensive Care Unit at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System, where he had defied the odds for more than five days after suffering a massive heart attack Sunday night.
Doctors did not expect Merrill, who umpired 23 years in the big leagues before retiring after the 1999 season, to survive the night after four hours of surgery. He reportedly "flat-lined" 11 times between Sunday night and Monday morning, but each time was resuscitated, according to family members.
For the next five days Merrill doggedly clung to life. His condition, always at the very critical stage, would worsen, then improve, giving hope to the family members and friends who kept a constant vigil during his hospitalization.
There was always hope because he had defied big odds before, including making the major leagues as an umpire at age 39, an almost-unheard-of accomplishment. The former high school coach/teacher reached that goal in just five years after deciding to change careers in 1972.
During his baseball career, Merrill worked more than 3,600 major league games, the majority in the American League. His post-season highlights included the 1988 World Series, the 1981, 83, 87, 92 and 97 American League Championship Series, the 1996 AL Division Series and the 1984, 1995 and 1999 All-Star games. He was behind the plate for the latter, the first played at the Ball Park at Arlington.
Known for his showmanship on the field, Merrill was given the "Best Hustler" award by The Sporting News in 1985. Six years later USA Today tabbed him as the game's "most colorful" umpire.
But perhaps his biggest honor came two years ago when he was elected to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in a class that also included major league notables Will Clark and Ruben Sierra.
His popularity with the players and his experiences on the diamond led Merrill to co-author a book with journalist Jim Dent. He entitled the book "You're Out and You're Ugly, Too--Confessions of an Umpire with Attitude." The publication did very well and can still be found in paperback at bookstores.
During the off-season, Merrill would return to his home in Hooks, Texas, where he and his wife, Carolyn, resided on a ranch he appropriately named "Field of Dreams." The Merrills had settled in Hooks where he had once served as head football coach and athletic director in the mid-1960s.
In 1979, Merrill learned of a Hooks woman and her three children who were starving and would receive no gifts for Christmas. After helping that family, the charity grew by almost five families per year until it became the Hooks Christian Service a few years later. The service now provides help to needy people year-round in East Texas.
"A lot of times I'll walk into one of those homes and the mama will be bawling and she'll say to me, 'I just told the kids we wouldn't be having Christmas and then you show up.' That's the stuff you never forget. I truly believe that this work is my ministry."
Two years ago the Merrills relocated to New Boston, where Durwood was able to watch three of his grandsons compete in athletics. He still had umpiring in his blood, as evidenced by his participation with the local high school chapter.
Edwin Durwood Merrill was born March 12, 1938, in Oklahoma, the son of a Baptist minister. He was an outstanding athlete at DeKalb High School and went on to play football at Texarkana College and East Texas State University (now Texas A&M at Commerce). He's also a member of the ETSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Bates-Rolf Funeral Home in DeKalb.
Umpire Durwood Merrill dies at 64
.c The Associated Press
01/11/03 22:42 EST
TEXARKANA, Texas (AP) - Durwood Merrill, an American League umpire for 23 years who worked the 1988 World Series, died Saturday at 64.
He died of complications from a heart attack last Sunday. He had been taken to a Texarkana hospital.
Merrill retired after the 1999 season. He umpired several AL championship series and the 1996 AL division series. He also worked All-Star games in 1984 and 1995.
Merrill lived in New Boston, Texas.
He is survived by wife Carolyn, son Mickey, daughter Maria and several grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
DeKALB, Texas--Durwood Merrill, 64, of New Boston, Texas, died Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003, in a Texarkana, Texas, hospital.
Mr. Merrill was born March 12, 1938, in Cloud Chief, Okla. He was a retired American League umpire for major league baseball and a member of Austin Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
Survivors include his wife, Carolyn Carter Merrill of New Boston; one daughter and son-in-law, Maria and Bob Hughes of Azle, Texas; one son and daughter, Mickey and Donna Merrill of Carrollton, Texas; three brothers, Gailon Merrill of New Boston, Larry J. Merrill of Lubbock, Texas, and Ted Merrill of Azle; and eight grandchildren.
Services will be 2:30 p.m. today at Moores Lane First Baptist Church with the Revs. Ronnie Pipes and Wayne Stringer, and Rocky Roe and Ronnie Bickham officiating. Burial will be in Woodmen Cemetery under direction of Bates-Rolf Funeral Home.
Memorials may be made to the Durwood Merrill Memorial Scholarship Fund at New Boston High School.