The Obit For Ed Sudol

Famed NL umpire dies

Staff Writer

Last update: December 11, 2004

DAYTONA BEACH -- In death as in life, former major-league umpire Ed Sudol left the playing field with dignity and grace.

His daughter, Darla Mixon of Holly Hill, was by Sudol's side when he died Friday in the wee hours of the morning at the Daytona Beach Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Sudol, 84, had suffered in recent years from Alzheimer's disease.

"He passed quietly," she said.

Sudol was a commanding presence at nearly 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, umpiring for 20 years on major-league diamonds from Atlanta to Los Angeles to New York City.

Maybe it was luck or good fortune, but many of baseball's biggest moments involved Sudol.

He was behind home plate in 1974 when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home-run record, called the pitches in Jim Bunning's 1964 perfect game and worked three World Series.

"You can't discuss the history of baseball without discussing Ed," said Mixon, who took care of Sudol in recent years as his health failed.

Sudol had lived in the Daytona Beach area since 1959. His wife, Debbie, died in 1996.

Born in Passaic, N.J., Sudol spent 12 years playing first base in the minor leagues. Realizing the end as a player was near at age 32, he enrolled in a Daytona Beach umpiring school. He impressed instructors and landed a minor-league job.

Sudol quickly rose through the ranks. After four years, he got the call to report to Chicago's Wrigley Field for a Cubs game on June 27, 1957.

Marty Springstead, now a supervisor of major league umpires, said Sudol was a role model.

"When I was going through the minors, I looked up to him, the way he conducted himself," said Springstead, who umpired his last big-league game in 1985. "He didn't take any (bull)."

While Sudol was firm, he let players and managers have their say during arguments. He was considered a gentle force of reason.

"He was very much in control on the field," fellow retired umpire Harry Wendelstedt of Ormond Beach said last September, when Sudol was profiled for a story in The Daytona Beach News-Journal. "He was respected by managers and players because of his demeanor. He understood the game because he played the game."

Mixon, his daughter, added: "I think he is going to be remembered as a gentleman in his umpiring. Even in the nursing home, with Alzheimer's, he was a gentleman."

But for her, Sudol will be remembered for much more than his accomplishments in baseball.

"He really loved a good laugh. He didn't like to be around morose or negative people," she said. "He changed me a lot the last 10 years. He taught me patience. That calm demeanor came from baseball."

Mixon said those qualities are disappearing in today's world of professional sports, where fights between players and fans are making headlines.

"He was patient and tolerant. He didn't get aggravated by little things," she said. "He treated people with dignity, and he behaved that way, with dignity."

Additional survivors include a brother, Fred Sudol, Orlando. Cardwell and Maloney Funeral Home, Port Orange, is in charge. Mixon said a private service will be scheduled later.