Umpire, Home Plate
"I wasn't worried
about style points."
In the second inning, Randy Marsh was throwing everything out of his neatly packed equipment bag and onto the floor in the umpire room. There was no time to think, no time to prepare for the change. He had to find his gear quickly so he could work the plate in place of John McSherry.
"We thought he was having a heart attack," said Marsh, who is now the director of umpiring for Major League Baseball. "We got [McSherry] to sit down on the ball boy's chair. He was white as a sheet and he was hyperventilating."
The crew of umpires, a tight-knit family, gathered around McSherry and told him they needed to get him to a hospital.
"Bill White, the league president, was super," Marsh said. "He was unbelievable. He got down there right away and was leaning over the rail talking to him and he said, 'John, don't worry about this game. We've got to get you taken care of. These games are going to go on.'"
"Any of us will work it. Who do you want?" Marsh said the umpires asked McSherry.
Marsh, who began the game as the first-base ump, was the choice. And now, after 27 years as a major league umpire, he says Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS was "the most exciting game I've ever worked."
In the back of his mind, he was worried about McSherry; but he knew he had a very important job to do. As Barry Bonds fielded Francisco Cabrera's base hit to left in the bottom of the ninth, Marsh had two priorities: Make sure everything happened right in front of him, and keep calm.
"All I was trying to do was put myself in an ideal situation to make the call," he said. "All I was worried about was getting the call right. I wasn't worried about style points making the call at home plate. I just wanted to get it right."
Marsh remembers Sid Bream's slide as a very close play -- "inches, it was probably inches."
Although Pirates catcher Mike LaValliere jokes these days and says Bream was out, the call at home was never disputed. It was close, but Marsh got it right. So a night filled with twists and turns ended well for him. McSherry, too, was OK after his illness forced him out of the game. (On April 1, 1996, McSherry suffered a fatal heart attack on the field in Cincinnati as he umpired behind the plate for an Opening Day game between the Reds and the Expos.)
"It was a heck of a series," Marsh said. "It went to seven games; both teams were just playing their hearts out.
All [the umpires] could do was just stay away from the fray and stay in the middle and do our job and let them deal with all the emotions."
This summer, Marsh received an unexpected bonus from his fill-in role behind the plate 20 years ago. A package from the Atlanta Braves arrived on his doorstep.
"Did you know they made a bobblehead out of the whole thing?" Marsh said, laughing. "It's pretty cool. I've never been a bobblehead before, but I was this year."
-- Anna McDonald, ESPN.com
Randy Marsh, Mike LaValliere, David Justice, Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Ron Gant, Brian Hunter, John Smoltz, Andy Van Slyke, Bud Selig
"I thought we'd have
[Bream] by a mile."
"Sid was barely safe.
a matter of inches."
"I didn't go to sleep 'til
7:00 the next morning."
"At that point in time,
it was up to me."
"You always have
that one out left."
"We knew Bonds didn't
have a good arm."
"I was pouting
in the clubhouse."
"I just knew that
it was the end."
Major League Baseball
The celebration began with Sid Bream and David
Justice at the plate as Mike LaValliere's tag was late.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Jim Gund